AP Diplomatic WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- A senior State Department official said Wednesday he was convinced if the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in New York had possessed nuclear weapons they would have used them.
"Had these people had ballistic missile technology, there's not the slightest doubt in my mind that they would have used it," John R. Bolton said.
And "if they could couple that with a weapon of mass destruction, nuclear or whatever, and dropped it on lower Manhattan, as tragic as the destruction of the World Trade Center was, the loss of lower Manhattan or any comparable place would obviously be a lot worse," he said.
The undersecretary of state for arms control and international security said the Sept. 11 attacks underscored a need to deter the spread of nuclear technology and a need for an American defense against missile attack.
"It is obviously a national priority," Bolton said. But, he said, "it's hard to see how people with that belief system could be deterred."
Describing himself as deeply concerned, Bolton said the pursuit of ways to avert terrorists' use of nuclear or other devastating weapons was "a national priority."
"Had these people had ballistic missile technology and nuclear weapons there isn't the slightest doubt they would have used it," he said.
President Bush will try again next month to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to cut off the spread of sophisticated technology and conventional weapons to Iran when they meet next month in Washington and at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bolton said.
"It would go a long way to improve the strategic structure if Russia's behavior was more like ours," he said.
Senior Israeli officials raised their concerns about Iran in talks last week at the White House and State Department, he said.
The issue is likely to be on the agenda for talks Secretary of State Colin Powell will hold in Washington on Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Bolton said in a breakfast meeting with military and diplomatic reporters that the anthrax breakout has already put the United States under terrorist attack with a weapon of mass destruction. Bolton said he could not shed any light on the source of the anthrax.