October 12th, 2006 02:42 EST
U.N. Responses to North Korea, Iran Linked, State's Burns Says
New York -- The crisis over North Korea`s reported underground nuclear test is helping to unify the permanent members of the Security Council and the international community in dealing with Iran`s nuclear aspirations, U.S. Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said October 11.
Discussing Iran at the Council on Foreign Relations, Burns said that his talks with senior officials involved in crafting a Security Council resolution on North Korea revealed "a surprising degree of unity and strength of unity on the question of North Korea," and positions that reinforce the U.S. policy on how the two issues are "tied together."
Burns said that the history of the Bush and Clinton administrations` handling of North Korea has shown that "we`re better off probably trying to strike at these problems diplomatically in the beginning phase -- as we are in a relative sense with Iran -- rather than ignore them, let them go, or be insufficiently unified so that we can`t be effective in blunting them."
In contrast to the debates in 2002 and 2003 over Saddam Hussein`s pursuit of nuclear weapons, China, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom "are convinced that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability," he said.
Faced with the fact that Iran has withheld information on its nuclear research programs from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for more than 18 years, and with Iran`s secrecy on its uranium enrichment program, "everyone is assuming that they`re seeking this nuclear weapons capability," Burns said.
Iran`s refusal to accept repeated offers by the United States and other countries to negotiate is further evidence that the enrichment program is important to the government in Tehran.
"We have no alternative now [but] to head back to the Security Council in a couple of days " to begin the process of writing and then passing, we hope, a sanctions resolution that will raise the cost to the Iranians of what they are doing in the nuclear realm," Burns said.
"The Iranians have to understand there has to be a price for essentially being a major international outlaw, and " next to North Korea, the greatest international outlaw in the nuclear realm today," he said.
On October 9, North Korea reported it had conducted a successful underground nuclear test. (See related article.)
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, will be discussing sanctions on Iran with his Security Council counterparts as soon as the council has finished its resolution on North Korea, the under secretary added. (See related article.)
With its support for terrorism and efforts to become a regional power, Iran poses a "serious threat" to the Middle East that "deserves to be confronted, and it will be confronted," Burns also said.
"The combination of Iranian actions -- support for terrorism, specifically for Hezbollah and Hamas; their nuclear actions; and their wider policy to the Arab world -- amount to Iran bursting into the region over the last 13 months in an attempt, in essence, to destabilize the established order and to rearrange the power relationships in the region," he said.
"There`s no question that there is no greater challenge to America`s vital interests in the Middle East than making sure that we`re able to blunt the current diplomatic and military and terroristic and nuclear offensive" of Iran, Burns said.
Iran is "a nexus of terrorism in the Middle East" and a "central banker" for Hamas, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and other terrorist groups in the Middle East, Burns said.
The combination of Iran`s actions and threats amounts to "a considerable challenge" to the United States, Israel and all the Arab States that wish to see a future of relative peace and stability in the Middle East, Burns said.
For further information, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)