For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 21, 2003
Remarks by the Press Secretary on Iran
11:29 P.M. (Local)
Q What's America's position on the news today out of Iran that it's going to agree with the IAEA protocol?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have been in close contact with the Europeans all along, so we very much welcome today's efforts by the Europeans to obtain a commitment from Iran. What is essential now is that Iran needs to fully comply by signing and implementing additional protocol, cooperating fully with the IAEA, and taking steps to end its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.
Q So it seems to me as though you're looking at this with some skepticism. A little bit of optimism, a lot of skepticism.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the British Foreign Secretary summed it up well when he said -- he essentially said, what is important now is that -- not only the words by the Iranians, but the action to fully implement what their international obligations are.
Q Based on Iran's past behavior, do you have reason to be skeptical?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've always raised serious concerns about the Iranians, and this is certainly one that is at the top of the list. And like I said, we've been in close contact with the Europeans all along, so we very much welcome their efforts to obtain this commitment today. Now what is essential is for Iran to fully comply with the IAEA and its non-proliferation obligations.
Q Now, the agreement also stipulates that should Iran fully comply, or sign the agreement, comply, end its enrichment program, that it would be open to assistance with a civilian nuclear program. The White House has always been skeptical of Iran's need to have a civilian nuclear program. Would you agree to those terms, or are you still of the mind that Iran shouldn't have a nuclear program if it's sitting on so much oil?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we've previously expressed our concerns about Iran's claims that it needs a nuclear energy program. But again, what's important here today is that Iran has made a commitment to fully comply with the IAEA. But what's most important is the implementation and the action, the follow-through on this.
Q So if it does sign the arrangement, if it does comply and it does end its enrichment program, would the United States be comfortable with Iran having a civilian nuclear program?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, we very much welcome the efforts by the Europeans because we've been in close contact with them on this issue all along. The President was the one who urged the international community to address this serious concern. Now we are seeing Iran committing to ending its efforts, and we need to see the action now.
Q What was the President's reaction when he heard the news from the Foreign Ministers? We only have a few days now until the IAEA deadline. Was he relieved that they seemed to have struck some agreement? Was he relieved that he doesn't have to take this to the U.N.?
MR. McCLELLAN: You actually brought up a good point -- Iran does need to meet its October deadline, which is the end of this month. And they do need to follow through on the three steps that I just mentioned. That's a very important step that needs to be taken.
Q But, again, he sees this as -- if they do this, he sees it as progress, or he sees today's announcement as progress?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, today's announcement is progress. It was the President who originally urged action by the international community to address this issue. The President has made proliferation of weapons of mass destruction a top priority. It's a serious matter. And now we're are seeing the fruits borne of our efforts.
Q The President was looking at having to take this to the U.N. Security Council. Is there some sense of relief at the White House that you may not need to go through that process now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, we welcome the action by the Europeans to obtain this commitment today. Now we need to see Iran fully comply and implement its obligation.
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Q So you know what happened -- the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Britain went to Iran. They got a commitment from Iran to sign the IAEA protocol. It would avert -- if they make it an October 31st deadline, the issue might go to the United Nations Security Council. Crisis averted would you say?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, it will depend on the action by Iran now. Iran needs to fully comply and implement its international obligations. It needs to commit to comply with the IAEA fully. And it needs to abide by its nonproliferation obligations.
END 11:33 P.M. (Local)