U.S. Seeks U.N. Response to Iran Nuke Plan
WASHINGTON – U.N. sanctions may be the appropriate response to Iran (search), after the government in Tehran announced Sunday that it plans to continue its centrifuge construction for a nuclear program opposed by the international community, U.S. officials said.
"Iran needs to come clean and fully cooperate with its international obligations," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters travelling with President George W. Bush to a NATO summit in Istanbul.
"We have expressed concern within the IAEA about the need to consider sending this matter to the Security Council of the United Nations and I think this latest move may only serve to convince others of the need to seriously consider that step," he added.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said Iran will not begin enriching uranium, the process of injecting gas into centrifuges, but it has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (search), Britain, France and Germany of the country's intention to resume construction on the centrifuges -- a move critical to building a nuclear bomb.
"We declared to IAEA and the three countries that we are prepared to resume work as of June 29th," Asefi said at a news conference.
Asefi said Iran's program is aimed at generating nuclear power, not creating weapons.
"We have been very clear about this so there is nothing to worry about. What we are looking for is the peaceful use of atomic technology, which is in fact our basic right," he said.
The United States says Iran has spent years hiding a military program. Satellite photos of Iran's nuclear sites, recently obtained by Fox News, have raised serious questions about Iran's intentions.
On "Fox News Sunday," National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (search) said Iran is a dangerous state that has been trying to "acquire military uses for nuclear power, maybe nuclear weapons" for a long time.
"The Iranians demonstrate every day why the United States has been so hard on them and why the president has put them in the 'axis of evil,' (search) when he talked about Iraq, North Korea and Iran back in his State of the Union address in January 2002. We have been very clear that these rogue states that seek weapons of mass destruction are a danger," Rice said.
Rice added that the United States has been working with the IAEA and European nations to make certain the Iranians know" they only have two choices — to cooperate or face isolation.
Just days ago, the IAEA accepted a draft resolution crafted by European powers that criticized Iran for not cooperating with U.N. inspectors. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani said Iran has cooperated, but Britain, France and Germany did not live up to promises they made in February to close Iran's nuclear dossier at the IAEA and help it obtain advanced nuclear technology if the country stopped enriching uranium (search).
Iran suspended uranium enrichment last year under international pressure. Asefi said Iran will remain committed to that suspension, though Rowhani suggested that Iran was reconsidering its suspension in response to Europe's neglect.
Asefi and Rice both said that a dialogue could continue despite the change in Iran's plans.
"Concerning building and assembling centrifuges, we declared to the IAEA and Europeans that we will do that according to regulations, under IAEA supervision," he said, adding that Iranian and European experts plan to discuss Iran's program in the coming days.
Rice said the United States is working to get other nations, particularly Russia, to stop transferring technology to the Iranians.
"It is a very tough situation, but we believe it is one that still has a diplomatic solution within site," she said.
Foreign policy analyst John Loftus told Fox News that the "diplomatic solution" could involve preventing trade out of Iran and North Korea, which intelligence sources say has been sending enriched uranium to Iran.
"We're going to use a little persuasion. In the last week, virtually every carrier group in the United States Navy has been ordered to put to sea and they're heading in two directions — one for the Arabian peninsula and the other into the Pacific. Now, just by coincidence, the largest maritime exercise in military history, RIMPAC, Operation Pacific Rim, will take place off the coast of Hawaii in August. There will be ships from eight countries involved," he said.
"In August, they will have finished their exercise and they'll be within easy sailng distance of the Korean peninsula. So, we're not going to invade Iran. We're not going to invade North Korea, but we may blockade them. Think of it as Cuba light, where our ships will stand far off from shore."
Fox News' Julie Kirtz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.