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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

IAEA chief optimistic about US-led settlement of Iran nuclear dispute

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Vienna, Dec 6, IRNA
Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei said he felt optimistic about an eventual US-led settlement between Tehran and the West.

He told The Los Angeles Times that the US President-elect Barack Obama gave him "lots of hope" after he inserted a proposal to abolish all nuclear weapons in the Democratic Party platform and advocated opening diplomatic dialogue with rivals.

"He is ready to talk to his adversaries, enemies, if you like, including Iran, also North Korea," he said, adding that the Bush administration was reluctant to do so.

"To continue to pound the table and say, 'I am not going to talk to you,' and act in a sort of a very condescending way -- that exaggerates problems."

During 11 years as head of the agency, ElBaradei has sparred frequently with the Bush administration, which sought unsuccessfully to deny him a third term in 2005.

That move was the result of the bitter dispute he had with Washington over its insistence that Iraq had a nuclear program. Its nonexistence vindicated him and earned him and his agency the Nobel.

ElBaradei has received accolades for getting Iraq right even in the face of U.S. criticism.

The sanctions imposed on Iran have led to "more hardening of the position of Iran," ElBaradei said.

"Many Iranians are gathering around the government because they feel that country is under siege."

One hope of a diplomatic solution, he said, was for U.S. and Iran to meet to begin talking not just about nuclear technology but also about grievances that stretch from the 1950s, when the U.S. helped overthrow a democratically elected government, to this decade, when Iranian and American surrogates vie for supremacy in several Middle East battlegrounds.

ElBaradei argued for a "grand bargain" between the West and Iran that recognizes Tehran's role in the region and gives it "the power, the prestige, the influence" it craves.

As an Egyptian who has spent the bulk of his tenure as IAEA chief grappling with the nuclear programs of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya, he has had a unique understanding of the "psychoses" of Middle Easterners, he said.

"I am able to communicate to them in their own language," he said.

"I understand some of their myths, like the conspiracy theories, like a sense of being victims."

The LA Times said that he brushed aside the argument of some U.S.

analysts who describe Iran as a messianic state determined to obtain nuclear weapons to launch a war against its arch nemesis, Israel.

"When I go to Iran I see . . . that there are all different shades and colors in Iran, from atheist to religious zealots," he said.

"So, Iran is no different than any other country. I mean, they are connected with the rest of the world."
ElBaradei contended that the best route to avoiding the spread of nuclear weapons is building international trust.


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