Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bush: Iran has right to civilian nuclear program

Reuters reports:

President George W. Bush on Tuesday said Iran had a right to a civilian nuclear program if it did not gain expertise or materials to build an atomic weapon.

The United States is concerned that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons, and Bush said he would be "speaking candidly about Iran" with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who are gathering in New York for a United Nations world summit.

Iran says it has every right to develop nuclear technology to generate electricity, while the United States and the European Union want the U.N. Security Council to take up Iran's case after it resumed uranium processing last month.

"They have insisted that they have a civilian nuclear program, and I thought a rational approach to that would be to allow them to receive enriched uranium from a third party under the guise of international inspections that will enable them to have civilian nuclear power without learning how to make a bomb," Bush said at a press conference with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

The United States last month explicitly accepted for the first time that Iran could develop civilian nuclear programs, backing an EU proposal to allow Tehran to pursue atomic power in exchange for giving up fuel work.

That reflected a gradual shift in U.S. policy because Washington believes the EU offer has enough safeguards to prevent Iran from diverting its civilian work into making nuclear bombs.
"Some of us are wondering why they need civilian nuclear power anyway. They're awash with hydrocarbons," Bush said. "Nevertheless, it's a right of a government to want to have a civilian nuclear program."

But he said there ought to be guidelines. "And one such guideline would be in such a way that they don't gain the expertise necessary to be able to enrich," Bush said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected in June, will attend this week's U.N. world summit and will make his case to avert referral to the Security Council.

Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and has been lobbying Russia, China, India and others to fight against any referral to the Security Council which has the power to impose economic sanctions.

"It is very important for the world to understand that Iran with a nuclear weapon will be incredibly destabilizing," Bush said. "And therefore we must work together to prevent them from having the wherewithal to develop a nuclear weapon."