November 17th, 2006 10:08 EST
State's Jeffrey says nuclear dispute does not override need for greater freedom
Washington -- U.S. policy toward Iran has twin goals: ending Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and encouraging its government to institute democratic reforms, says Ambassador James Jeffrey, principal deputy assistant secretary at the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
Jeffrey made his remarks November 16 in an interactive USINFO Webchat question-and-answer session with participants logging in from around the world.
He said the current Iranian government, led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "is not in our view fully democratic," and cited as an example the exclusion of many candidates from the country's parliament and other key positions "in a nontransparent, undemocratic fashion."
The United States believes that the Iranian people "thirst for democracy," Jeffrey said, and "we are seeking ways to support them." He added that although the Bush administration is not seeking regime change in Iran, it does hope for a "fundamental change in many of its behaviors."
Despite the international attention now focused on Iran's nuclear activities, Jeffrey said the United States "will not prioritize between democratic reforms and nuclear issues."
He said the United States is positioned "on the side of democracy and freedom -- anywhere in the world. We do not negotiate away our principles with any state."
Among President Bush's "very top priorities" is the end of Iran's nuclear weapons program, as well as "reaching out to the Iranian people, with whom we have no issues or complaints."
Even if the United States and the international community are able to reach agreement with the Iranian government on the nuclear issue, "we will continue to press for democratic reforms," he added.
In fact, Jeffrey said Iran's nuclear activities cannot be separated from the need for democratic reforms and pointed to France and the United Kingdom as examples of nations possessing nuclear weapons that are also free and democratic and "do not threaten the security of their entire region."
Under the current regime, however, "Iran currently is a very different sort of state," he said. The ambassador went on to say that here is a difference between "a bomb in the hands of a reliable, stable state supporting international order, and a state that does not meet this criterion." (See related article.)
IRANIAN SUPPORT FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITIES
The Iranian regime has supported or been directly involved in terrorist activities that have produced innocent civilian casualties, such as the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina, and Jeffrey said the United States is not able to rule out future threats from Iran, including nuclear terrorism.
Iran has also repeatedly threatened to destroy a U.N. member state, Israel. In reality, Jeffrey said, "the entire world is menaced" by Iran's nuclear weapons program.
"The purpose of our efforts in the U.N. is thus to remove the capability of the regime of carrying out such actions. Only then can we be sure that they will not occur," he said.
Working in the United Nations with China, Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, the United States is seeking an Iranian nuclear program that is "restricted to civilian, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and in compliance with international norms," Jeffrey said. "Unfortunately, the current program is neither." (See related article.)
The United States relies upon the judgments of the International Atomic Energy Association in these matters, and Jeffrey said IAEA reports have "repeatedly documented suspicious findings consistent with a nuclear weapons program."
The ambassador called on Iran to cease "suspicious activities" and "submit fully to international inspection" as a "reliable indicator of what is actually happening on the program."
The United States does not want to impose sanctions on Iran, but Jeffrey said it is prepared to do so "with the support of the U.N." if Tehran's nuclear weapons program continue. Such action, however, would target only those "deeply involved in or profiting from" the nuclear problem," he said, "and not average Iranians.
A transcript of the webchat and information about upcoming webchats is available on USINFO's Webchat Station.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Source:Dept. of State