Nations Should Be Cautious in Dealings With Iran, Gates Says

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia, Nov. 21, 2010 — Though sov­er­eign nations can have rela­tion­ships with any oth­er nations they choose, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today, coun­tries that choose to have a rela­tion­ship with Iran should do so care­ful­ly, in light of its track record of ignor­ing U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tions.
Gates, who arrived here today to par­tic­i­pate in a con­fer­ence of West­ern Hemi­sphere defense min­is­ters, met with U.S. and South Amer­i­can reporters and was asked for his views on rela­tion­ships Bolivia and Venezuela have with Iran.

Bolivia and Iran have agreed to work togeth­er in devel­op­ing nation reser­voirs of ura­ni­um, and Venezuela and Iran recent­ly signed 11 agree­ments for coop­er­a­tion in var­i­ous areas. Iran’s stat­ed pur­pose in acquir­ing ura­ni­um is for civ­il pow­er generation. 

“Bolivia, obvi­ous­ly, can have rela­tion­ships with any coun­try in the world that it wish­es to,” Gates said. “But I think Bolivia needs to be mind­ful of the num­ber of Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions that have been passed with respect to Iran’s behavior.” 

The sec­re­tary said the Unit­ed States has no prob­lem with Iran hav­ing civ­il nuclear capa­bil­i­ty, as long as it’s in accord with Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency stan­dards and all safe­guards are in place to pre­vent devel­op­ment or pro­lif­er­a­tion of nuclear weapons. 

As to whether Iran might use its rela­tion­ship with Venezuela to advance its nuclear pro­gram, Gates said any nation con­sid­er­ing a rela­tion­ship with Iran in that are­na should be cau­tious about “what the Iran­ian motives may be and what they are try­ing to do,” giv­en its his­to­ry of ignor­ing U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions con­cern­ing its nuclear program. 

“If they’re talk­ing about civ­il nuclear pow­er, and it’s all safe­guard­ed and under the IAEA, then we would have no rea­son to object,” the sec­re­tary said. “I would add one oth­er thing, though: I’m not sure that the Ira­ni­ans have an inde­pen­dent capa­bil­i­ty to help some­body build a civ­il nuclear capa­bil­i­ty. Their own capa­bil­i­ty, at Bushehr, has been done under con­tract by the Rus­sians, going back almost 20 years.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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