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Bush blasts Iran’s nuclear program

WASHINGTON — President Bush turned the screws on Iran on Thursday, saying the Islamic Republic faces “universal condemnation if they continue with a nuclear weapons program.”

Iran has insisted its nuclear program is only for peaceful energy purposes. But the Bush administration earlier this month succeeded in persuading the International Atomic Energy Agency to demand that Iran provide an explanation of its nuclear program by Oct. 31.

The president said he had raised his concerns about Iran’s nuclear program this week with world leaders attending the United Nations General Assembly.

“I’ll tell you, the response was very positive,” Bush said. “People understand the danger of the Iranians having a nuclear weapons program.”

He added that he planned to discuss Iran with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrives today at Camp David for two days of talks. Russia is helping to build a nuclear reactor in Iran, and U.S. officials are concerned the Russian help is aiding Iran in a possible weapons program.

Bush’s harsh remarks were made on the same day that the Iranian foreign minister, in an interview published in The Washington Post, signaled a willingness to cooperate on the nuclear issue. “We don’t have anything to hide because we do not have a program for producing nuclear weapons,” Kamal Kharrazi said. “Therefore we are ready to be quite transparent.”

Asked about Kharrazi’s comments, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “I can be nothing but pleased if that’s what they intend to be and if that’s what they actually do.”

Meanwhile, diplomats reported yesterday that U.N. atomic experts have found traces of weapons-grade uranium at a second site in Iran. Experts for the IAEA, which earlier had discovered the substance at a plant in Natanz, found the substance at Kalay-e Electric Co., just west of Tehran.

A source familiar with the Sept. 18 report from the inspectors said the samples found at Kalay-e Electric were consistent with those found at Natanz.

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said the discovery could bolster the Iranian claim that the enriched uranium must have come into the country on imported components, since the materials were assembled in Kalay-e and then shipped to Natanz. But he noted the Iranians had already changed their story about the components, having earlier claimed they were produced in Iran without foreign assistance.

“It would have been very shocking of they had not found (highly enriched uranium) there,” Albright said. “But Iran has to prove its point that it did not enrich uranium at all.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the discovery was “part of a long-standing pattern of evasions and deception to disguise the true nature and purpose of Iran’s nuclear activities.”


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