Bush Tells Iran to Disclose Nuclear Activities
Thursday, December 6, 2007
OMAHA, Dec. 5 -- President Bush called on Iran to "come clean" about the scope of its nuclear activities Wednesday, as the White House made it clear there will be no change in its policy toward Tehran despite new intelligence questioning his claims about the country's nuclear ambitions.
Traveling here for a political fundraiser, Bush indicated that he still sees Iran as a serious threat. He demanded that its leaders fully disclose details of its nuclear weapons program, which the intelligence community said Monday was shut down in the fall of 2003.
"The Iranians have a strategic choice to make," Bush told reporters. "They can come clean with the international community about the scope of their nuclear activities and fully accept" the U.S. offer to negotiate if they suspend their nuclear enrichment program -- "or they can continue on a path of isolation."
"The choice is up to the Iranian regime," the president said.
Bush and his advisers said they are heartened by continued support from Britain, Germany and France for more pressure on Iran. A draft resolution for new sanctions is circulating among the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council as a result of negotiations over the weekend in Paris and telephone diplomacy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns.
The White House remained anxious to contain the fallout from this week's new intelligence report, which contradicts recent statements by Bush and Vice President Cheney that Iran intends to try to acquire a nuclear weapon. U.S. analysts judged that Iran is continuing to develop technologies that could be used for a bomb, but they believe with "moderate confidence" that, as of the middle of this year, Tehran had not restarted the nuclear weapons program.
The disclosure took U.S. allies by surprise and has complicated the U.S. drive to win a third round of sanctions against Iran. Wednesday's comments from Bush, Rice and other officials appeared aimed at reassuring these allies, as well as providing cover for Republicans who have strongly backed the president's campaign to increase the pressure on Iran -- and may now be exposed politically.
"There's no reason to stop the policy of carrots and sticks. The most striking thing about this week's diplomacy is the unity on [pressing for] another resolution," said one senior official, describing diplomatic deliberations on the condition of anonymity.
Administration officials offered no contrition or apologies for past rhetoric about Iran and said there will be no change in policy, such as relaxing its insistence that Tehran abandon nuclear enrichment as a precondition to negotiations with the United States. While the intelligence analysts said they do not know whether Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons, White House officials are emphasizing that Tehran maintains the know-how and is acquiring the material and missile systems that could create such weapons in the future.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said aboard Air Force One that "anyone who thinks that the threat from Iran has receded or diminished is naive and is not paying attention to the facts."
The White House also sought to clarify Bush's ambiguous remarks Tuesday about how much he learned when Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, first told him in August of new information that might alter the U.S. assessment of Iran's nuclear activities that was being prepared for delivery to Congress.
Press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement that McConnell told Bush "that if the new information turns out to be true, what we thought we knew for sure is right. Iran does in fact have a covert nuclear weapons program, but it may be suspended."