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U.S. official rips Iran's nuclear ambitions

/ Source: The Associated Press

A senior U.S. official said Monday he was consulting Arab states in the Persian Gulf to coordinate policies in light of the perceived threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

John Bolton, the State Department’s top international security official, said countries in the region were “well aware” of the threat posed by Iran, which maintains its nuclear activities are for peaceful energy purposes.

“Their repeated support for terrorism makes it particularly dangerous if they were to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Bolton told reporters.

“Whether they would use it directly as the government of Iran or whether they would transfer it to a terrorist group leaves us very concerned,” said Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

'Iranian problem'
Bolton said he has explained to leaders in the Gulf America’s stance on the “Iranian problem and how we’ve been dealing in the past and how we proposed to deal with in the future.”

The United States alleges that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons. Earlier this month, President Bush reaffirmed his support for a diplomatic settlement of Iran’s nuclear program but said he would not take any option off the table, including a possible military strike.

Bolton, who arrived here from Kuwait, also was scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates.

“There are a series of things that we have discussed in which additional diplomatic pressure can be put on Iran to prevent them from acquiring the necessary material and technology that they need for their nuclear weapons program,” he said.

Bolton stressed that the United States advocated a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and dismissed the possibility of nuclear threats from Israel.

“Israel has a particularly close relationship with the United States and I think that more than anything else is what convinces us that there is no threat from use of Israeli nuclear weapons,” Bolton said.

Israel maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear program, neither confirming nor denying that it has nuclear weapons. It has said its reactor is used only for peaceful purposes.

In 1986 former technician Mordechai Vanunu gave information and pictures of a reactor facility to London’s Sunday Times. On the basis of his revelations, experts concluded that Israel has the world’s sixth-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, consisting of hundreds of warheads.

“We don’t see Israel as a threat to use nuclear weapons anywhere in the region, in part because it’s a democratic state and in part because it’s allied with the United States and we have made it very clear where we stand on their capabilities,” Bolton said.

Europeans in talks
France, Germany and Britain have been in talks with Iran to persuade it to indefinitely suspend or scrap its uranium enrichment program in exchange for technological, financial and political support of Tehran’s efforts to break out of isolation.

Iran has suspended enrichment activities — which can produce both nuclear fuel and the core of atomic weapons — during the talks, but has repeatedly insisted the freeze would be of short duration.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Saturday suggested European efforts to persuade Iran to limit its uranium enrichment program may fail if the United States refuses to get involved in the negotiations.

The U.S. administration has suggested taking Iran to the U.N. Security Council.

“If Iran can ... either acquire weapons or develop them indigenously, it will be a signal that the international community is powerless to stop a very determined country that wants to acquire nuclear weapons,” Bolton said. “That would be a bad lesson indeed.”