Tuesday, February 3, 2009

IAEA defends Iran against misinformation

Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei says the world should not hype the issue of Iran's nuclear enrichment.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, ElBaradei ruled out the contention that Iranian nuclear activities pose an immediate threat to stability, saying, "There is ample time to engage the country."

"There is a concern, but don't hype the concern," ElBaradei said, referring mainly to US and Israeli warnings against Iran over its nuclear program.

Citing Japan, Brazil and Argentina, ElBaradei said, "Many other countries are enriching uranium and the world is not making a fuss about it. So why are we making a fuss about Iran and its nuclear enrichment."

He added that concerns surrounding Iranian nuclear activities stem from claims that Tehran is dangerous, suggesting that such contentions are not based in reality.

"They (the Iranians) have been called 'Axis of Evil', there has been money allocated for regime change in the country, they are surrounded by nuclear-armed countries and American troops. So put yourself in their shoes," he explained.

When asked to make a suggestion for a thaw in Iran-US relations, the IAEA boss referred to a plot by the Eisenhower administration that overthrew the democratically-elected government of the then prime minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in order to re-establish control over Iranian oil in 1953, and said Tehran and Washington "need to reconcile their grievances."

Earlier in January, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the new US administration must apologize for the "crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation" before any change in relations can occur.

The director-general of the Vienna-based UN body ruled out suggestions that Iran may be able to develop a nuclear weapon in the near future, arguing that Tehran would have to first drive IAEA inspectors out of the country, leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), reconfigure production to refine uranium to the high degree needed for bomb fuel and fit the material into a warhead before the country could ever have a nuclear bomb.

Washington has long confronted Tehran over its nuclear enrichment program, claiming that it has accumulated enough enriched material "for a bomb".

Tehran insists, however, that it only pursues the civilian applications of the technology.

The UN nuclear watchdog conceded in its November report that Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level "less than 5 percent" -- a rate consistent with the development of a nuclear power plant.

Nuclear arms production requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.

ElBaradei went to urge Iran to further its cooperation with the IAEA in an effort to "build trust" toward its nuclear program in the West.


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