New York Times: Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned Iran on Friday
to stop hindering an investigation into the country’s nuclear energy program, which the United States and many other observers suspect is a cover to develop nuclear weapons. The New York Times
By WALTER GIBBS
OSLO, Dec. 9 – Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned Iran on Friday to stop hindering an investigation into the country’s nuclear energy program, which the United States and many other observers suspect is a cover to develop nuclear weapons.
“The international community has begun to lose its patience,” he told reporters here before a ceremony on Saturday at which he is to be awarded the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize.
While denouncing Iran’s repeated delays in accommodating inspectors from his agency, Dr. ElBaradei also said that forcing a showdown on the matter now could backfire. The United States has urged the agency to report Iran’s history of concealment and sluggish cooperation to the United Nations Security Council for possible punitive measures.
“Let us not think we should jump the gun and use enforcement,” said Dr. ElBaradei, adding that no “smoking gun” had emerged to prove that Iran’s intent was hostile. “If you can wiggle your way to cooperation, that is better than the alternative.”
He took a similar approach before the invasion of Iraq, when, he said, inspectors had turned up no evidence to support the Bush administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein had revived an old nuclear weapons program. The subsequent failure of American troops to find such evidence seemed to vindicate Dr. ElBaradei, while burnishing his Nobel credentials.
According to scientists and policy analysts, the case against Iran’s openly belligerent regime is harder to dismiss because the existence of its uranium-enrichment program, ostensibly to produce energy, is not in doubt. The question is whether the program will be modified out of view of the atomic energy agency to make bombs.
“ElBaradei needs a touch of Churchill now,” said Paul Leventhal, founder and now president emeritus of the Nuclear Control Institute, a nonprofit research center based in Washington. “He must acknowledge the unique danger of this regime, which is comparable to the rise of Hitler in the 1930’s. The Nobel will give him a bully pulpit if he’s prepared to use it. But so far he has put a rosy picture on things in order to avoid a crisis.”
The perception that Dr. ElBaradei has obstructed the United States’ plans for Iraq and Iran was possibly behind a yearlong push by members of the Bush administration to deny him a third term as director general of the atomic energy agency. When Washington found itself isolated on the matter, it joined the agency’s 35-nation board in re-electing him by acclamation in September.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee divided this year’s Peace Prize in equal measures between Dr. ElBaradei and the agency itself. The duties of the I.A.E.A. include monitoring adherence to the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and promoting the safe use of nuclear technology for energy and medicine.
Steve Fetter, a nonproliferation specialist and dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, praised the choice of winners and said Dr. ElBaradei had few options in Iran apart from continued negotiation.
“What do people mean by ‘enforcement?’ ” asked Professor Fetter. “I think they mean something like what we just did in Iraq. The stakes are that high.”
At his news conference on Friday, Dr. ElBaradei said: “I don’t believe there is a military solution to the problem. I believe that would be counterproductive.”
He said the Middle East, including Iran, was one of three “hotbeds” in the world where nuclear-tinged political conflict endangered many people. The others are the Korean Peninsula, where North Korea claims to have built nuclear weapons, and South Asia, where Pakistan and India face off with nuclear weapons.
Dr. ElBaradei took the established nuclear powers to task, saying they had neglected their treaty obligations to reduce weapon stockpiles. A world of nuclear “haves and have-nots,” he said, is unsustainable. He criticized the Bush administration in particular for considering the development of a new generation of small tactical nuclear weapons.
“Whether you call them mini-nukes or bunker-busters, it’s sending the wrong message,” he said.
The Nobel Peace Prize includes a cash prize of 10 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.3 million, which Dr. ElBaradei and the agency will split evenly. He said he would donate his prize money to orphanages in Egypt, his native country. Yukiya Amano, chairman of the agency’s board, said its share would go toward cancer treatment and nutrition in the developing world.