DPA: IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday urged countries to refrain from talking about an escalation of the Iran nuclear crisis. Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Vienna (dpa) – IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday urged countries to refrain from talking about an escalation of the Iran nuclear crisis.
Speaking at the annual General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, ElBaradei said there was no ‘clear and present danger’ from Iran.
Comments by French Foreign Minister Bernhard Kouchner from Sunday added a more urgent tone to the meeting already overshadowed by the ongoing dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Kouchner warned that the nuclear dispute could lead to war if no negotiated settlement was found. Iran is suspected of pursuing nuclear weapons programme under the guise of a civilian programme.
Speaking of the lessons learnt from Iraq, ElBaradei referred to the ‘daily drama’ unfolding in the country, with hundreds of thousands dying as the result of suspicion of a nuclear weapons programme. ‘Force should only be used as a last resort,’ ElBaradei told reporters.
Iran remained defiant and slammed UN sanctions as ‘deceptive, unjust and illegal.’ Reza Aghazadeh, Iranian vice president and head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, bemoaned the ‘deprivations and discrimination’, Iran suffered over the past years.
Iran would not forget the west’s confrontational path. ‘The Great Nation of Iran has recorded your discriminatory behaviour and performance in its memory and will not forget.’
In his statement to delegates from the IAEA’s 144 member states, ElBaradei defended a deal between Iran and the agency where Iran promised to answer outstanding questions.
ElBaradei is facing criticism from some members for being too soft on Iran, while the permanent members of the UN Security Council consider a new round of sanctions.
In his statement to the General Conference, ElBaradei said the outstanding issues were ‘core’ to the international lack of confidence and called on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.
If Iran fully cooperated and the agency would be able to give credible assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, this would ‘go a long way’ towards creating confidence and finding a long-term peaceful solution, the Egyptian-born IAEA chief said.
US energy secretary Samuel Bodman warned of further sanctions against Iran. ‘Real penalties’ had to be issued against countries who failed to honour UN Sanctions. Japan and the European Union, also speaking on Monday morning, urged Iran to halt uranium enrichment.
At the IAEA’s 51st such gathering, its 144 member states will celebrate the 50th birthday of the UN nuclear watchdog. Diplomatic wrangling over Iran is likely to throw a substantial shadow over the IAEA’s jubilee.