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Sunday, August 08, 2004

New York Times > Diplomacy Fails to Slow Advance of Nuclear Arms

August 8, 2004
By DAVID E. SANGER
KENNEBUNKPORT, Me., Aug. 7 - American intelligence officials and outside nuclear experts have concluded that the Bush administration's diplomatic efforts with European and Asian allies have barely slowed the nuclear weapons programs in Iran and North Korea over the past year, and that both have made significant progress.
In a tacit acknowledgment that the diplomatic initiatives with European and Asian allies have failed to curtail the programs, senior administration and intelligence officials say they are seeking ways to step up unspecified covert actions intended, in the words of one official, "to disrupt or delay as long as we can" Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.
But other experts, including former Clinton administration officials, caution that while covert efforts have been tried in the past, both the Iranian and North Korean programs are increasingly self-sufficient, largely thanks to the aid they received from the network built by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the former leader of the Pakistani bomb program. "It's a much harder thing to accomplish today," said one senior American intelligence official, "than it would have been in the 90's."
Mr. Khan's sales have also complicated the Bush administration's efforts to disarm North Korea. A new assessment of the country has come in one of three classified reports commissioned by the Bush administration earlier this year from the American intelligence community. Circulated last month, the report concluded that nearly 20 months of toughened sanctions, including ending major energy aid, and several rounds of negotiations involving four of North Korea's neighbors have not slowed the North's efforts to develop plutonium weapons, and that a separate, parallel program to make weapons from highly enriched uranium was also moving forward, though more slowly.
The desire to pursue a broader strategy against Iran's nuclear ambitions is driven in part, officials say, by increasingly strong private statements by Israeli officials that they will not tolerate the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and may be forced to consider military action similar to the attack against a nuclear reactor in Iraq two decades ago if Tehran is judged to be on the verge of deploying a weapon. (In contrast, North Korea's neighbors, especially South Korea and China, are seeking stability first, and disarmament as a longer-term goal, diplomats from the region say.)
"The evidence suggests that Iran is tryin


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