Der Spiegel ElBaradei Interview

The “interview”:,1518,428788,00.html is short, but covers a fair amount of ground.

Here’s what he said about Iran:

SPIEGEL: Iran is Hezbollah’s main source of funding. Many Middle East experts believe that Tehran’s mullah-led regime is behind the current escalation, hoping to use the situation to deflect attention from its nuclear program.

ElBaradei: I don’t know, but one thing is certain: Iran is an important regional power. And like it or not, it will be difficult to find a solution without entering into a dialogue with Tehran.

SPIEGEL: This is precisely what US President Bush wants to avoid.

ElBaradei: That is a problem. One cannot always negotiate through middlemen. This makes it all the more significant that the United States has decided to join in nuclear talks with Tehran. It’s an important breakthrough.

SPIEGEL: Most of the world is dismayed over Iran’s delaying tactics in the dispute over its nuclear program. You also stated, in January, that you were losing patience with Tehran.

ElBaradei: That’s true.

SPIEGEL: It’s now July, and Tehran is still showing no willingness to cooperate. The international community is getting impatient waiting for a response to the offer that was drafted by the five nuclear powers and Germany. It includes both political and economic incentives, such as supplying Tehran with a light-water reactor. In return, Tehran is being asked to stop its uranium enrichment activities, one of the key conditions for building a nuclear bomb.

ElBaradei: It’s a good offer, and I expect an answer soon. The Iranians tell me that they need a few more weeks to take a close look at everything. Last week’s announcement from Tehran — that they are “seriously considering” the package and that they view it as a positive approach to finding a diplomatic solution is encouraging…

SPIEGEL: …or just the usual cat-and-mouse game…

ElBaradei: …but there is mutual mistrust between Iran and the West. It will take time to get past this.

SPIEGEL: But it was the Iranian regime that clearly lied and deceived the West in recent years when it came to its nuclear program. Doesn’t Tehran have to accept the offer without conditions and stop its uranium enrichment activities?

ElBaradei: There is no other choice. To our knowledge, however, the Iranians have not accelerated their nuclear research program, which would be a sign of their developing a nuclear program for military use. There are apparently competing political directions in Tehran. And there are many shades of gray.

SPIEGEL: Is the threat of UN sanctions effective?

ElBaradei: We must be patient. A few weeks won’t make a difference. The issue is not Iran’s nuclear program, but regional security.

SPIEGEL: You sound optimistic. But isn’t it likely that Tehran will insist on uranium enrichment and respond to the offer with an unacceptable counteroffer?

ElBaradei: It would be fatal if the Iranians were to miss this great opportunity. It would lead to a spiral of escalation. Sanctions would be unavoidable but wouldn’t eliminate the problem, and if the situation deteriorates, we risk losing our last inspection opportunities.

SPIEGEL: Tehran recently complained about your chief inspector for Iran, Chris Charlier, a Belgian. Is there anything to reports in the press that you removed him from his position in response to Iranian pressure?

ElBaradei: That isn’t quite the way it was. Our statutes give any state being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) the right to reject an inspector who is not to their liking. It’s the same thing in diplomacy, where a state can reject a proposed ambassador as a persona non grata.

SPIEGEL: So he was suspended at the request of the mullah regime?

ElBaradei: No, he continues to work in a key position relating to the Iran issue. But he will not be traveling to Tehran until further notice. We have 200 inspectors who can conduct inspections in Iran. Individual employees aren’t the issue.

The issue is getting the job done. I will denounce the policy the minute we are no longer able to do so in Iran.

SPIEGEL: Are you worried that Tehran will terminate the agreements and expel the IAEA?

ElBaradei: This threat has been mentioned.

SPIEGEL: There have not been any UN inspectors in North Korea since the end of 2002. Does Pyongyang pose a more dramatic threat to humanity?

ElBaradei: Most specialists and intelligence experts, including the Americans, believe that Iran is still five to ten years away from building nuclear weapons. In this respect, North Korea is much further along than Iran. Indeed, a nightmare scenario has already developed in North Korea.

Unfortunately, he also called the US-India nuclear goat rodeo a “win-win situation.”

“Here’s an open letter”: to ElBaradei expressing an alternate viewpoint.

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