'US policy is to prevent Iran nuclear capability'

Hillary Clinton says US policy is to prevent Iran from achieving capability to build nukes, not just final product.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
March 1, 2012 01:02
3 minute read.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 390 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton clarified Wednesday that Washington is committed to preventing Iran from having the capability to make nuclear weapons, not only from their actual construction.

“It’s absolutely clear that the president’s policy is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons capability,” she told the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, when asked whether the US would allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state, short of actually building nuclear weapons.

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The drawing of a red line with Iran, particularly between having a nuclear weapons capability and having an actual nuclear weapon, is a significant point of discussion between the US and Israel.

Israel would like to see a red line drawn sooner in the nuclear weapons process than many have perceived the US has been willing to do.

that Israel would seek the more explicit and public drawing of such red lines when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama this Monday, coinciding with their participation in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Washington conference.

When Clinton was asked Wednesday about America’s willingness to make such a public declaration, she responded, “It’s probably smarter for us to be pressing on the sanctions and the negotiations while we keep our objective of no nuclear capability absolutely clear, instead of setting other benchmarks at this time publicly.”

The US and Israel have been involved in intensive discussions in preparation for the two leaders’ parley next week, which is expected to focus largely on Iran.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has been in Washington this week meeting with his counterpart Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as well as Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and other top military and intelligence officials in consultations ahead of Netanyahu’s trip.

Clinton said the sanctions are having an impact in Iran as the regime becomes “increasingly desperate.” She stressed the US commitment to continue to strengthen sanctions even as it explores the possibility of fresh talks with Tehran.

“Discussion hasn’t gone anywhere but pressure has been ratcheted up,” she said, also speaking of “aggressive” implementation of sanctions on the part of the Obama administration.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

Some members of Congress, however, feel that the administration could do more on sanctions and are also looking to take action themselves. A new bill is making its way through the capitol right now and is expected to be a major focus of the lobbying effort that will accompany the AIPAC conference, to be attended by some 13,000 people.

Clinton demurred on several questions at the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing and an earlier appearance Tuesday before the foreign operations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which asked her to spell out what the likely ramifications of an Israeli attack on Iran would be.

But she pushed back against the suggestion made by other members, including Republican presidential candidate Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas), that there was scant evidence of Iran’s interest in acquiring nuclear weapons by pointing to the “suspicions” raised by the country’s treatment of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

“If there is no weapons program, what does Iran have to hide? If there is no nuclear weapons program, why are they putting their centrifuges deep underground?” she asked, pointing as well to its increased enrichment of uranium.

Clinton also declined to comment on the reports that the American NGO workers held by Egypt would be released, saying the State Department was awaiting final confirmation of their release.

The detentions provoked a major outcry among members of Congress, who have threatened to withhold aid to Egypt unless they were released.

Clinton did note the turmoil and change in the country, and said the US was carefully monitoring the emerging government.

Despite the uncertainties, she said she did not see Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt currently at risk.

“It is my assessment as of now that there is no threat to the Camp David Accords, to the existing peace agreement with Israel,” she said.


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