U.N. watchdog: Iran not an immediate nuclear threat


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

ElBaradei: Iran not an immediate nuclear threat

By Thom Akeman
Tue May 30, 9:19 PM ET

Iran does not pose an immediate nuclear threat 
and the world must act cautiously to avoid 
repeating mistakes made with Iraq and North 
Korea, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog 
agency said on Tuesday.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International 
Atomic Energy Agency, said the world shouldn't 
"jump the gun" with erroneous information as he 
said the U.S.-led coalition did in Iraq in 2003, 
nor should it push the country into retaliation 
as international sanctions did in North Korea.

"Our assessment is that there is no immediate 
threat," the winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize 
told a forum organized by the Monterey Institute 
of International Studies south of San Francisco. 
"We still have lots of time to investigate."

"You look around in the Middle East right now and 
it's a total mess," he said. "You can not add oil 
to that fire."

The recent violent history in Iraq bears an 
important lesson for diplomacy with neighboring 
Iran, the diplomat said. "We should not jump the 
gun. We should be very careful about assessing 
the information available to us," he said.

The Bush administration led a coalition into Iraq 
in 2003 saying President Saddam Hussein was 
developing weapons of mass destruction. No such 
weapons were found.

"I ask myself every day if that's the way we want 
to go in getting rid of every single dictator," 
ElBaradei said.

While it was unclear whether Iran ultimately 
intended to redirect its development of nuclear 
power into a weapons system, it was clear there 
was no danger of that right now, he said.

The five U.N. Security Council permanent powers 
and Germany, trying to curb Tehran's nuclear 
program, are planning to meet in Vienna on 
Thursday to try to finalize a package of 
incentives for Iran to halt uranium enrichment 
along with penalties if it keeps defying 
international pressure.

ElBaradei said he believed a majority in the 
Iranian leadership was still interested in a 
negotiated solution and normal relations with the 
world. The United States is pressing for tough 
U.N. sanctions if Iran does not comply.

"It would be terrible" to try to strengthen 
sanctions, which could force Iran to retaliate, 
he said.

"We have learned some lessons from North Korea," 
he said. "When you push a country into a corner, 
you are giving the driver's seat to the 
hard-liners there."

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited.
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