US issues more threats

Campaign News | Tuesday, 2 December 2003

All options open, US warns 'rogue' countries

All options open, US warns 'rogue' countries

By Guy Dinmore in Washington and Mohsen Asgare in Tehran

From FT London

The Bush administration on Tuesday defended its strategy of pre-emptive action against Iraq - even while admitting that US intelligence had been imperfect - and warned that the US was ready to use all options against five other "rogue states".

John Bolton, under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, singled out Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya and Cuba as being "hostile to US interests" during a speech in Washington. Mr Bolton, known as a hardliner, also cautioned negotiating partners in Asia and Europe that the US remained sceptical over efforts to induce North Korea and Iran to abide by nuclear safeguard commitments, amid reluctance to take firmer action.

Focusing on Iran and North Korea, the remaining members of what President George W. Bush has dubbed the "axis of evil", Mr Bolton questioned Tehran's commitment to the agreement it reached last month with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Hassan Rohani, an Iranian official who negotiated Iran's acceptance of comprehensive UN inspections, made clear on Saturday that Tehran intended to resume its uranium enrichment programme. He said Iran would provide its own fuel for at least one of the eight reactors it intended to build. A resolution passed by the IAEA last week - a compromise between European carrots and the US stick - "requests" Iran to adhere to its voluntary suspension of all enrichment and reprocessing activities, two routes that can lead to building a nuclear weapon. A senior Iranian official told the Financial Times that hardline clerics had warned they would pull out of its commitments to the IAEA if Iran was not allowed to pursue uranium enrichment, under supervision, as entitled to do so under international agreements.

Mr Bolton expressed doubt over Pyongyang's readiness to resume six-party talks in Beijing this month. He defended Japan's insistence that it raise the issue of its abducted citizens at the talks and said attempts by North Korea to delay the negotiations "should be rejected". In general, he said, the US would pursue diplomatic solutions when possible, while also deploying more robust methods such as the interdiction and seizure of illicit goods.

"If rogue states are not willing to follow the logic of non-proliferation norms, they must be prepared to face the logic of adverse consequences," Mr Bolton said. "It is why we repeatedly caution that no option is off the table."

He acknowledged that US intelligence over covert weapons of mass destruction programmes was "not perfect", and noted that no such weapons had yet been found in Iraq. Still, he insisted the US invasion was justified.

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