Tue, May 20, 2003 - Page 6 News List

International law too weak: IAEA chief


The war in Iraq should serve as warning to the world community that the rule of international law needs strengthening, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Sunday.

Mohamed ElBaradei, who headed UN nuclear inspections teams in Iraq before the war, also said he had been "frustrated" by the US government's lack of response to his demands to let the teams return.

Washington argued bitterly with ElBaradei and chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix over whether Iraq has chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and has sent its own weapons teams to Iraq instead.

"The war in Iraq is a wake-up call that we need to stick together ... and we need to move forward and build a better society," ElBaradei said before speaking at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

"We need to continue to see and learn that we are best served by solving our problems through dialogue and interaction. I don't think that resorting to war every time we have a dispute is going to solve our problems," he said.

ElBaradei, who had said before the conflict there was no evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program in Iraq, insisted UN inspectors would be able to add legitimacy to an investigation of Iraq's nuclear capabilities.

"The longer that file remains open, the longer that file remains with a question mark in the world for everyone," he said.

The IAEA is under pressure from Washington to declare that Iran has violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. With the agency scheduled to deliver a report on Iran next month, ElBaradei remained tightlipped.

"This is a program that we need to make sure that we verify, that we need to make sure is dedicated to peaceful purposes," he said.

ElBaradei also reiterated his agency's criticism of North Korea, which expelled IAEA inspectors last year and, in recent talks with US officials, said it would give up its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees.

"While the international community should be sympathetic to Korea's security concerns, sense of insecurity and humanitarian needs, it should not be subjected to blackmail," he said.

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