Financial Times: The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has suggested that Iran’s nuclear technology represents an effective deterrent that should be dealt with through a security dialogue as well as inspections.
By Roula Khalaf in London
The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has suggested that Iran’s nuclear technology represents an effective deterrent that should be dealt with through a security dialogue as well as inspections.
Nuclear inspectors have found no evidence so far of an Iranian weapons programme. But Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned in an interview with the Financial Times that acquiring nuclear expertise, even for peaceful purposes, gave countries the core element of a deterrent.
The fundamental issue is that countries look at know-how as a deterrent. Once you get into areas of deterrence, you get into security and insecurity, he said. If you have nuclear material, the weapon part is not far away.
Mr ElBaradei’s comments come before next week’s first round of talks between Tehran and three European governments Britain, France and Germany on nuclear, economic and security co-operation. The so-called EU3 persuaded Iran last month to suspend its uranium enrichment in return for the dialogue.
But the talks are threatened by a key difference between the two sides: Iran considers the suspension of enrichment, which it says is for peaceful use, as a temporary measure. The EU3 are looking for a permanent freeze.
In nearly two years of inspections, the IAEA has uncovered a sophisticated Iranian programme to master the fuel cycle. So far, it has not found evidence to support US suspicions that Iran has a weapons programme.
Mr ElBaradei, however, argued that the Iran controversy was part of a broader problem in nuclear non-proliferation: countries that master the technology needed for a peaceful enrichment programme and comply with the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty can develop a nuclear deterrent.
I hope that in discussions [between Tehran and the EU3″> everyone puts their cards on the table. This is not just a technical issue, it’s a security issue.
Experts say persuading Iran permanently to give up its pursuit of a fuel cycle would require a normalisation of relations with the US which the Europeans cannot deliver.
But Mr ElBaradei insisted the diplomatic track and inspections remained the best option. The US has been advocating a tougher approach and wants Tehran referred to the UN for possible sanctions. As long as the process is working I don’t want to see it scuppered. I don’t see any alternative to it, he said.
The IAEA investigation has now moved on to inspectors looking into intelligence claims of nuclear experiments at military facilities which could indicate an undeclared weapons programme. Inspectors are following the trail of enrichment-related equipment and material procured by Iran and have asked to visit the Parchin military complex south of Tehran a request that has not yet been granted.
Mr ElBaradei sought, however, to reassure Tehran that he would not act as an instrument of harassment in his investigations. But he expected co-operation from Tehran. Iran tried to cheat the system. Now they would have second thoughts . . . because we’ve called their bluff, he said.