Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Iran ''moving in the wrong direction'': US


LONDON, April 12 (IranMania) - Iran is moving in the "wrong direction," the White House said, adding that the UN Security Council and Germany should consider further measures if the Islamic republic presses on with uranium enrichment, AFP reported.

Iran's move "only further underscores why the international community has serious concerns about the regime's nuclear ambitions," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, speaking to journalists during a trip by President George W. Bush to Missouri.

"This is a regime that needs to be building confidence with the international community. Instead, they're moving in the wrong direction."

And if Iran "continues to move in the direction it is currently, then we will be talking about the way forward with the other members of the Security Council and Germany about how to address this going forward," McClellan said.

Western powers insist that Iran must be prevented from mastering this sensitive process, which would deliver the country the technical know-how needed to make a nuclear weapon.

Iran's announcement came just 15 days before the expiration of a UN Security Council deadline for it to freeze its enrichment program, a process that can lead to production of the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

Iran insists it only wants to generate nuclear power, and has rejected the ultimatum. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed as "fantasyland" reports that the Pentagon is planning military strikes against Iran, possibly with nuclear weapons.

Rumsfeld refused to discuss the issue, and joined President George W. Bush, who on Monday dismissed the reports as "wild speculation," in downplaying the reports.

"It is just simply not useful to get into fantasyland," said Rumsfeld, speaking at a press conference.

The New Yorker magazine reported over the weekend that the Bush administration was considering the use of bunker-busting tactical nuclear weapons against alleged Iranian underground nuclear sites.

"We have, I do not know how many, various contingency plans in this department," Rumsfeld said.

"And the last thing I am going to do is to start telling you or anyone else in the press or the world at what point we refresh a plan or do not refresh a plan and why," he said.

Concerning Iran, "We are on a diplomatic track. The president has said exactly what he wants said. And we support the president."

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack described the move as "another step by the Iranian regime in defiance of the international community," but appeared to play down its significance.

"One of the critical pathways to development of a nuclear weapon is the ability to enrich uranium to high levels. That is not the announcement that the Iranians made today," he said. "It's a fairly low enrichment level."

McCormack indicated no change in the timing of the response by the United States and the rest of the UN Security Council, which last month gave Iran until April 28 to abandon uranium enrichment.

McCormack said Iran's announcement "gives more weight to the international community to act in a concerted fashion".

But he would not predict its effect on Russia and China and their opposition to a tough UN stance, including the threat of sanctions, that Washington and its European allies have been advocating.

McCormack added that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke Monday with Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who was to travel Wednesday to Tehran for talks. The US spokesman gave no details.


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