U.S. points to failed inspections, wants tougher IAEA

Thursday, April 10, 2003

The United States, concerned over what it regards as failed inspections of nuclear facilities in Iran and Iraq, wants to reform the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Officials and experts said IAEA inspections in both Iran and Iraq have been inadequate and limited. They said the agency has failed to achieve access to suspicious facilities in North Korea as well as in the two Middle East states.

"We count on IAEA to be forthright and forceful in identifying problems and safeguards violations, and we expect it to insist on immediate action by Iran to end its clandestine nuclear weapons programs," Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf said.

The officials and experts cited an IAEA report that failed to find evidence of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the March report to the United Nations Security Council, submitted by IAEA director-general Mohammed El Baredei, ignored major elements of Iraq's nuclear activities as well as Baghdad's previous efforts to conceal weapons of mass destruction from international inspectors.

"The IAEA has misled the public into believing that Iraq no longer constitutes a nuclear threat," Paul Leventhal, president emeritus of the Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute, said. "Given the IAEA's past failures to detect a nuclear weapons program in Iraq, El Baradei would serve both the interests of his agency and of the world by demonstrating more humility and candor in his reporting on Iraq."

U.S. experts and officials said the IAEA's failure in Iraq could extend to Iran. They said the agency has failed to use intelligence information on Iran's nuclear program to press for greater access to such facilities as Natanz, where Iran is constructing gas centrifuges for the production of enriched uranium.

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton said the IAEA has not been tough with countries that sign nonproliferation treaties and then fail to comply. He cited the examples of Iran, Iraq and North Korea and suggested that the agency and its UN sponsor do not maintain uniform standards of compliance.

"There's a heavy burden on the United Nations to show that it can be effective in this area and to show that statements, documents, declarations, resolutions and treaties that come out of the UN system in fact are observed by everybody who signs up to them, because if they’re not, then obviously the entire UN system will be less effective," Bolton said.

The Bush administration plans to focus on nonproliferation in the aftermath of the war in Iraq. Officials said this would include recruitment of international cooperation to stop the flow of illicit nuclear material as well as a review of the IAEA.

"Once we have a better atmosphere after Iraq, one of the things we're going to have to look at is how the world gets itself better organized to deal with issues concerning weapons of mass destruction," U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said.

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