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Arms Control Experts Welcome Iran's Latest Move But Caution That Much More Needs to Be Done

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For Immediate Release: December 18, 2003

Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball: (202) 463-8270 x107; Paul Kerr, (202) 463-8270 x 102

(Washington, D.C.): Iran's signature today of an additional nuclear inspections agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is "a significant step toward ensuring that Iran lives up to its commitment under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to forswear nuclear weapons," according to the nonpartisan Arms Control Association (ACA). However, ACA experts point out that the additional inspections agreement, known as the Additional Protocol, is "vital but insufficient."

Over the last year, troubling revelations make it clear that Iran is now closer to a nuclear weapons-making capability than previously believed. An IAEA investigation and inspections earlier this year led the Agency to report Nov. 10 that Iran had for many years pursued nuclear activities in violation of its NPT obligations. Although the IAEA report did not say that Tehran had an illegal nuclear weapons program, it strongly condemned Iran's secret nuclear activities and the IAEA said its investigation would continue. In response, the international community demanded that Iran take steps to redress concerns about its nuclear intentions, which Tehran began to meet today by signing an Additional Protocol. This document provides the IAEA with more measures, such as expanded inspection rights, to make sure that Iran is not cheating on the NPT.

ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball said Iran's signature of the Additional Protocol is "vital but insufficient and Iran must now promptly ratify the agreement and fully cooperate with the IAEA in resolving questions about its past nuclear activities."

"Tehran should also maintain its suspension of uranium enrichment activities until international concerns about its nuclear program are resolved," added Paul Kerr, research analyst at the Arms Control Association. Iran is legally permitted to conduct uranium enrichment but this process can be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Even with greater transparency under the Additional Protocol and strict compliance with the NPT, it is still possible that Iran might someday decide to withdraw from the treaty and pursue nuclear weapons.

"In the long run, turning Iran away from nuclear weapons will require a new and more sophisticated joint U.S.-European-Russian strategy to reduce Iran's incentives to acquire nuclear weapons and increase the benefits of openness and compliance," Kimball noted. "An important element of such a strategy would be for the United States and Israel to reassure Tehran that it does not have to fear an attack by either country if Iran drops its pursuit of nuclear weapons, ends its support of terrorism, and stops threatening the existence of Israel."

"The United States should also make clear that it does not support the possession of nuclear weapons by other countries, including Israel, India, and Pakistan, which are not party to the NPT. Leaders in Tehran cannot be allowed to justify their nuclear weapons ambitions by pointing to the nuclear bomb arsenals and activities of other countries," Kimball said.

Nevertheless, Kimball underscored that it is ultimately up to Iran to abide by its commitments not to develop nuclear weapons and that Tehran should not use the behavior of others as a pretext for activities that go against its own security interests and threaten its neighbors.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.

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