Wed, Nov 05, 2003 - Page 6 News List

ElBaradei wants global nuclear control

NONPROLIFERATION The IAEA head believes uranium and plutonium enrichment facilities in all countries -- including the US -- should be put under multinational control


All weapons-usable uranium and plu-tonium production should come under international control to limit "the increasing threat" posed by countries and by terrorists, the UN nuclear chief says.

Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday cited the "serious and immediate challenge" posed by North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the urgent need to determine the full extent of Iran's nuclear program, lingering questions about Iraq's nuclear efforts and illegal trafficking in radioactive material.

In his annual report to the 191-nation General Assembly, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was time "to pursue whatever actions are required, including new ways of thinking and unconventional approaches, to ensure that nuclear energy remains a source of hope and prosperity, and not a tool for self-destruction."

With information and expertise on how to produce nuclear wea-pons "much more accessible" than when the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was being negotiated in the 1960s, ElBaradei said it has become far more important to control access to highly enriched uranium and plutonium, which are the key ingredients.

Due to "the increasing threat of proliferation, both by states and by terrorists," he said, it would be worth considering an agreement to restrict the processing of weapons-usable material from civilian nuclear power programs and the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium "exclusively to facilities under multinational control."

ElBaradei believes that nuclear enrichment facilities in all countries -- including the nuclear powers like the US -- should be put under multinational control, said IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky.

The IAEA chief has also said these restrictions should be coupled with a treaty that would cut off the production of nuclear material, Gwozdecky said.

Outlining the major nuclear challenges, ElBaradei said the IAEA has not been able to perform any inspections in North Korea since December "and cannot therefore provide any level of assurance about the non-diversion of nuclear material."

"We have continued to emphasize the need for a comprehensive settlement of the Korean crisis through dialogue, and it is my hope that the six-party talks would lead to such a settlement," he said.

North Korea said last week it will consider a US offer of multilateral security assurances for ending its nuclear program, sparking hopes of further negotiations. The North has been insisting on a formal nonaggression treaty with the US, a demand which Washington rejects.

Under pressure from the IAEA board, Iran recently handed over what it said was a complete declaration of its nuclear activities. ElBaradei said inspectors are in the process of verifying the dossier.

He noted that Iran has also expressed its intention to sign an additional protocol to the nonproliferation treaty giving IAEA inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear facilities, "which is a key to our ability to provide comprehensive assurance" that its nuclear program is peaceful.

ElBaradei said he would report to the board later this month "on the status of our implementation of safeguards in Iran."

Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif later told the General Assembly that his government's report would enable the IAEA to verify its activities had been peaceful, but also that "necessary corrective measures" had been taken to meet all requirements under the agency's safeguards system.

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