19 February 2004
White House Seriously Concerned by Reports of Iranian WMD Activity
White House Report, Feb. 19: Iran, Iraq, Haiti, India/Pakistan
The Bush administration is seriously concerned by new reports
that Iran is enriching uranium and possesses advanced centrifuge
designs, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters
The reports "that we are seeing of Iran enriching uranium
and possessing more advanced centrifuge designs" than previously
declared "raise serious concerns," he said.
He noted that President Bush, in recent remarks at the National
Defense University, talked about how Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan
and his associates provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older
centrifuge as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models.
McClellan reminded reporters that a few months ago Iran agreed
to implement an additional protocol to stop enriching and reprocessing
uranium and related activities and to cooperate fully with the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
"The IAEA inspectors have been in Iran looking at these programs,
and we look forward to hearing from the director general of the
IAEA at the March board meeting and discussing the matter further
at that time," he said.
"We have always stated our belief that Iran is developing
a nuclear weapons program under the cover of pursuing nuclear power
for peaceful reasons. A country with the vast oil and gas resources
of Iran has no legitimate need for nuclear energy, and full confidence
about Iran's nuclear program requires Iran to abandon uranium enrichment
and reprocessing activities," he said.
IMPORTANCE OF IRAQI SOVEREIGNTY TRANSFER TIMETABLE STRESSED
McClellan said he thinks "everybody recognizes the importance
of moving forward to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people on
the timetable that was spelled out in the November 15th agreement." There
is wide agreement on moving forward to meet that timetable," he
Noting that the United Nations had sent a team to Iraq to look
at the feasibility of elections by that date, he said, "I
think that there's certainly been wide agreement there, too, that
elections by the date of the transfer of sovereignty is not something
that is feasible at this point."
But McClellan reminded reporters that the agreement between the
U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing
Council "spelled out very clearly the importance of holding
free, fair, and open elections. And it calls for three such elections
moving forward," he said.
It is a complicated matter, he said, "when you talk about
transferring sovereignty to a representative transitional government."
"And that's why we've said we're willing to discuss refinements
and clarifications to the framework that was agreed to on November
15th, but that we should continue to move forward on the timetable
that was spelled out in that agreement," he said.
Regarding the role of the United Nations, McClellan made clear
that the Bush administration has "always said, and the president
believes very strongly, that the United Nations has a vital role
to play in Iraq.
"The United Nations was playing a vital role in Iraq prior
to being attacked by terrorists in Baghdad. And we are hopeful
that they will be able to play a vital role in the future. And
those are discussions we'll continue to have with the United Nations
and the secretary-general."
U.S. CONTINUES WORKING FOR POLITICAL RESOLUTION IN HAITI
The continuing fighting in Haiti between groups supporting and
opposing the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide has caused "a
difficult situation," McClellan told reporters, and the United
States continues to work closely with governments in the Caribbean,
with the Organization of American States, with France and other
countries to bring about a peaceful political resolution to the
In addition, he said, efforts are continuing "to make sure
that those who need humanitarian assistance are getting that assistance."
WHITE HOUSE WELCOMES DECREASE OF TENSIONS IN SOUTH ASIA
"(T)ensions are decreasing" between India and Pakistan,
McClellan said when asked to comment on the situation in the subcontinent.
"(W)e saw the joint statement that was put out at the end
of the initial talks between the foreign secretaries of Pakistan
and India and that lays out a schedule for bilateral discussions.
And we welcome these efforts and applaud the vision and the determination
of the governments of India and Pakistan to seek a peaceful settlement
of all bilateral issues," he said.