Spokesman Adam Ereli dismissed a tour, led Tuesday by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, of an underground nuclear facility at Natanz, Iran, as a "staged media event" far short of real openness about Iran's nuclear program, which the United States suspects is dedicated to making atomic weapons.
Instead, Ereli said, the Iranians should be answering questions of the International Atomic Energy Agency about what they are doing at Natanz and elsewhere.
"If Iran were really serious about allaying the concerns of the international community, they would stop denying IAEA full and unrestricted access to suspicious sites like the Parchin high-explosive facility," he said at a department briefing.
"They would stop refusing IAEA requests to interview key officials associated with Iran's nuclear facilities. They would tell the truth about the history of their advance P-2 centrifuge program. They would tell the truth about their Lavasan facility before they bulldozed it to the ground. They would talk openly or answer openly questions about past plutonium separation experiments."
Lavasan is a posh suburb north of Tehran where outside experts say equipment was shipped to a suspected nuclear plant that could be put to either military or civilian use.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for generation of electricity only, not weapons. Khatami led 30 reporters to the Natanz site, which is surrounded by anti-aircraft systems at the base of a mountain. The journalists were denied access to the plant's string of centrifuges, the core of the process of enriching radioactive material, which can result in fuel for either power generation or weapons.
CIA Director Porter J. Goss told Congress two weeks ago that dual-use technology that has gone to the Iranians has the United States worried about the equipment's diversion to weapons development.
"The point here," Ereli said Tuesday, "is that if there is a commitment to transparency, there are real, effective, meaningful ways to demonstrate that commitment, beyond a staged media event like is being reported."
Tehran radio reported that Khatami took reporters to the 1,100-acre complex about 150 miles south of Tehran to dispel rumors that limited work is being carried out at the site despite an announcement under international pressure that work had been suspended.
The United States and the European Union have taken diverging paths to get to the truth about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Until recently, President George W. Bush's policy was to press for sanctions rather than trust inspections from the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA. Bush now has agreed to give inspections a chance, with a lack of results to spark sanctions legislation at the U.N. Security Council.
"From the U.S. perspective, there is a — we're on the same page with the Europeans in terms of where we want these talks to lead, and what we hope these talks will achieve," Ereli said. "That is a cessation of Iran's enrichment programs.
"We want to achieve that because we all agree that Iran shouldn't have a nuclear weapon, and we're concerned that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon."
Ereli said the common U.S.-EU approach and coordinated diplomacy "put the choice before Iran very clearly: Either make decisions that are characteristic of a responsible member of the international community, or find yourself further isolated and further ostracized."