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Rice Says Nuclear Material Headed to Iran Intercepted

Bloomberg | May 31, 2005

The U.S. and its allies in a program to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction prevented Iran from obtaining material for its nuclear weapons program within the past nine months, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

``The trans-shipment of material and equipment bound for ballistic missile programs in countries of concern, including Iran'' was blocked as was the transfer of ``equipment used to produce propellant'' to a ``ballistic missile program in another region'' of the world, Rice said.

Rice disclosed the intercepts in a speech celebrating the second anniversary of the Proliferation Security Initiative, a global effort started by President George W. Bush to stop trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

Rice gave no details but said that the U.S. and 10 of its partners in the initiative have cooperated on 11 successful interdiction efforts over the past nine months. Iran was the only nation interdicted that she cited by name.

``PSI partners, working at times with others, have prevented Iran from procuring goods to support its missile and WMD programs, including its nuclear program,'' she said at the State Department in Washington.

Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker said the U.S. is withholding details of the interdictions to ensure continued cooperation from countries that do not want their participation made public.

`Not Being Coy'

``I know it probably looks like we're playing coy,'' Rademaker said after Rice's remarks. ``The point is some governments just prefer to keep these things quiet. And that's part of the reason the PSI works effectively.''

Rice's comments came just minutes after Bush renewed U.S. support for European-led negotiations designed to persuade Iran to permanently abandon uranium enrichment, a capability that would allow it to produce nuclear weapons.

``Our policy is to prevent them from having the capacity to develop enriched uranium to the point where they're able to make a nuclear weapon,'' Bush said at a news conference. ``Therefore we're working with the EU-3 to hopefully convince the Iranians to abandon their pursuits of such a program,'' Bush added referring to France, Germany and the U.K.


Efforts to curb nuclear proliferation worldwide suffered a setback last week when a United Nations review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty ended in failure, with no new agreement on how to block nuclear programs in either Iran or North Korea.

Sixty countries have expressed their support for the PSI network, according to the State Department.

Rice credited the initiative for the 2003 interdiction of the ship BBC China, saying the intercept played a ``major role'' in the unraveling of the global nuclear network of Pakistan's former chief nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and in Libya's decision to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction programs.

The German-owned ship bound for Libya contained thousands of centrifuges that could have been used in the production of a nuclear device.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte said the Proliferation Security Initiative ``makes intelligence actionable.''

``Through PSI, intelligence can be coupled to government actions in whatever way is judged to be maximally effective by the responsible authorities,'' Negroponte said in remarks at the anniversary ceremony. Ambassadors from Singapore, Denmark and Japan, all participants in the initiative, also described PSI as an important part of the global effort to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Noticeably absent from the PSI event was John Bolton, Bush's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. As undersecretary for arms control and international security, Bolton has led the U.S. drive to win endorsement for the nonproliferation initiative, negotiating cooperation agreements with worldwide.

Senate Democrats blocked a vote on his nomination to the UN post last week. The earliest the Senate could vote again is June 7.

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