U.S. official to visit Israel for talks on Iran's nuclear program
Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton is set to arrive Saturday and hold talks with FM Silvan Shalom and other senior Israeli officials.
U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton will arrive in Israel on Saturday for consultations on the state of Iran's nuclear program and on an upcoming International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting.
Bolton is scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and other senior officials, as part of an effort to give priority to the Iranian nuclear issue at the upcoming meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
Bolton attended two days of meetings with senior disarmament officials from the Group of Eight industrial countries in Geneva.
Washington wants the backing of the G-8 for its attempts to have the UN watchdog agency declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty because of its program of enriching uranium that the U.S. suspects is part of a nuclear weapons program.
Such a vote by the IAEA board at its three-day meeting in Vienna, Austria, starting Monday, could lead to UN Security Council sanctions.
The European allies have indicated they want to hold off such a vote until the next meeting in November so they can let diplomacy work.
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem assess that no compromise will be reached by Security Council members, and that a decision will be delayed until the group's next meeting in November.
Iran insists it only is interested in nuclear power, which can be created with lower levels of enrichment than the levels necessary for nuclear weapons. Iran is hoping the matter of its nuclear program will not top the IAEA's agenda, and that it will be able to continue with plans to enrich uranium.
Bolton said the U.S. would use "persuasive arguments" over the weekend in hopes of winning European support for UN Security Council action to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
"There's no disagreement on our broad objective," Bolton said after two days of meetings with senior disarmament officials from the Group of Eight industrial countries.
The goal is "to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapons capability and that is an objective shared by all of the G-8 countries," Bolton told reporters.
He said the U.S. has been narrowing differences with Britain, France and Germany on the tactic of bringing the issue before the Security Council, which the United States hopes to precipitate next week in a vote of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"We have a ways to go," Bolton said. "We're going to keep our persuasive arguments running and we'll see what happens."
Bolton maintains that Iran "has concealed a large-scale, covert nuclear weapons program for over 18 years" but could avert any action by stopping suspect programs and opening up to inspection.
"If they have nothing to hide it's very easy to demonstrate," he said.
Russia has said it will continue to work with Iran on building its nuclear power program, but says it will ensure that its cooperation cannot contribute to a nuclear weapons program. Russia's position has been criticized by the United States.
Also attending the Geneva meeting were officials from the other G-8 countries: Italy, Japan and Canada.
Bolton said the officials also discussed efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear program and expressed concern about South Korea's disclosures it had in the past developed small amounts of plutonium and enriched uranium.
"Many governments in the G-8 in our discussions today indicated that they had told the South Koreans that it was very unfortunate that this had been uncovered and that the timing couldn't be helpful" with the pressure on North Korea.
But Bolton said it was a mistake to think that the United States and other countries would try to excuse South Korea.
"We need to learn more about it and when we do we will consider appropriate action," he said, adding that he expected an initial brief report from the IAEA next week and more later.
South Korea cannot expect favoritism just because it is a U.S. ally, Bolton pledged.
"We will not allow a double standard about how we treat violations of safeguards agreements," Bolton said. "There are a variety of steps we might take."
But he noted that it was in South Korea's favor that it was being forthcoming and cooperative.
South Korea said last week that it conducted a secret enrichment experiment in 2000, and said Thursday that it extracted a tiny amount of plutonium in a nuclear experiment in 1982.
The U.S. ally acknowledged "differences" with the IAEA over its activities. The UN agency is charged with verifying compliance with the nonproliferation treaty, which permits only peaceful uses of the atom.
North Korea should not use the South Korean disclosure to postpone the next round of talks on halting the North Korean nuclear program scheduled for the end of this month, Bolton said.
"The North Koreans are trying to avoid another round before the U.S. election," he said. "We've told them that we think that's a mistake."