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U.S. Suspicions About Iran's Nuclear Policies

March 17, 2003

Re "Watch Iran's Nuclear Moves," editorial, March 11: It appears that Iran cannot win in the debate over its intentions for its nuclear program. Even when President Mohammad Khatami announced the existence of the Natanz and Arak nuclear facilities and invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect them, it was still looked upon suspiciously.

Though it is true that Iran has vast oil and gas resources, it is also true that for the past 15 years Iran's domestic consumption of energy, more than 95% of which is supplied by oil and gas, has been increasing at an alarming annual rate of more than 8% (a trend that, if continued, will make Iran a net importer of oil by 2010); the consumption of fossil energy has created catastrophic pollution in Iran's air, soil and ground water resources; and most of Iran's oil fields are old and, due to lack of investment caused by U.S. sanctions, their production is in decline.

Because oil provides more than 80% of Iran's foreign currency, and given the above facts, it is only prudent to seek alternative sources of energy. As a longtime member of, and contributor to, the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization dedicated to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, I surely hope that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. But can we give Iran the benefit of the doubt, given its openness?

Muhammad Sahimi

Professor and Chairman

Chemical and Petroleum

Engineering, USC

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