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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN nuclear chief meets with US Secretary Rice; calls for talks with DPR Korea, Iran

23 October 2006 The head of the United Nations atomic watchdog met today with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington to discuss the nuclear programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran, shortly after calling for talks with both countries.

“If I look at the problems that we are facing right now – the Korean situation, the Iran situation – these problems hinge, in my view, on the parties sitting together,” UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview published in Newsweek magazine ahead of the meeting.

“We need to move away from the idea that dialogue is a “reward” for good behaviour. You need dialogue when you have bad behaviour, because the purpose of the dialogue is to change the behaviour. As former [US] secretary of State James Baker said recently, talking to your enemy is not appeasement,” he added.

Asked about US assertions that Iran, despite its repeated denials, has a nuclear weapons programme, Mr. ElBaradei reiterated his previous statements that the jury is still out, adding that it was difficult to determine whether the Iranians intend to pursue a nuclear weapon, or are simply hedging their bet by developing their enrichment capability.

“But one of the lessons we learned from Iraq (where a current nuclear weapons programme was not found after the US-led invasion of 2003) is that we really need to be very, very careful coming to conclusions because these issues make the difference between war and peace,” he declared.

“And as long as I know, and I am supported by all intelligence agencies in this, that Iran in the worst-case scenario is still a few years away, I have ample time to talk to them, I have ample time to negotiate with them, and I need to encourage them to cooperate with me.”

Asked whether he thought the IAEA would be blamed for the DPRK’s development of atomic weapons, Mr. ElBaradei noted that the agency was “kicked out” in 2003 when the country withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“We lost jurisdiction. But I have been saying for the last two or three years that North Korea is the No. 1 security challenge to the NPT. I saw North Korea out of the [treaty] regime; I saw North Korea having plutonium; I saw North Korea feeling more and more isolated. I saw this coming,” he said.

As he has in other recent statements, he stressed that the IAEA’s annual budget of $120 million was insufficient and should be at least doubled to enable it to have independent satellite-monitoring and a state-of-the-art laboratory for particle analysis.

“There is a difference between us and the [UN] Universal Postal Union. You can postpone issuing commemorative stamps or improving the efficiency of mail delivery,” he stressed. “But in our areas there are certain things that we have to do yesterday, because otherwise we are going to face a colossal danger. And people do not understand that. They do not prioritize.”

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