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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN nuclear chief plays down Iran threat

RIA Novosti

18:23 02/09/2009 MOSCOW, September 2 (RIA Novosti) - The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has said that the international threat from Iran's controversial nuclear program has been exaggerated.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that there is no proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

"In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped," the bulletin quoted him as saying.

"The idea that we'll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn't supported by the facts as we have seen them so far."

Iran is under a series of UN sanctions over its refusal to freeze its uranium enrichment program, which Western powers is suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the allegation, saying its nuclear program is for electricity production only.

The IAEA chief also cautioned against further sanctions against Iran.

"Another lesson is to use sanctions only as a last resort and to avoid sanctions that hurt innocent civilians. As we saw in Iraq, sanctions only denied vulnerable, innocent civilians food and medicine," he said.

In July, the G8 countries urged Tehran to discuss by September trade benefits that could be offered in exchange for abandoning nuclear enrichment, to avoid harsher sanctions.

Iran said earlier in August it was ready to hold talks with the West on its nuclear program, but without any preliminary conditions.

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