Countryman: U.S. concerned about Iran and Syria challenging NPT

Developments in the Middle East, particularly in Iran and Syria, are presenting troubling challenges to the Nonproliferation Treaty, a high-ranking U.S. official said on Monday in Geneva.

Thomas Countryman, the assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, delivered a statement on NPT regional issues to the second session of the NPT Preparatory Committee. Countryman expressed the concern of the U.S. about chemical weapons held by Syria and the challenge posed by Iran's attempt to acquire a nuclear weapon.

"With regard to Syria, it has been nearly two years since [International Atomic Energy Agency] Director General [Yukiya] Amano reported that the facility destroyed in 2007 at Dair Alzour was 'very likely' a nuclear reactor that should have been declared to the agency pursuant to Syria's safeguards agreement," Countryman said. "Consequently, in June 2011 the IAEA Board of Governors found Syria in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement and, in accordance with the IAEA Statute, referred the matter to the U.N. Security Council. To date, Syria has not taken any concrete steps to address the outstanding serious questions about its clandestine nuclear activities."

Countryman said the conflict in Syria cannot be an excuse for failure to cooperate with the IAEA and Syria must be held accountable for its noncompliance immediately.

He also said that Iran has yet to cooperate fully with the IAEA since undeclared elements of its nuclear program became public in 2002.

"As detailed in numerous reports by the IAEA director general, the IAEA has credible information that raises serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program, including activities by Iran related to the development of a nuclear payload for delivery by a ballistic missile," Countryman said. "The IAEA's findings, compounded by Iran's longstanding noncompliance with its international nuclear obligations, call into question Iran's stated claims that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. We are disappointed that Iran has missed numerous opportunities to address the international community's concerns."

Countryman said Iran has persistently failed to respect various Security Council resolutions compelling the country to cooperate with the IAEA. He quoted President Obama, who said that Iran can enjoy the benefits of peaceful nuclear power while it meets its international obligations.

Countryman also addressed challenges in North Korea, India and Pakistan to prevent proliferation. He said that the U.S. would work with all nations to enforce the NPT.

"The United States remains committed to working with all countries in a concerted effort to resolve these important regional challenges, in order to uphold the integrity and credibility of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime," Countryman said.