Monday, June 13, 2005

ElBaradei reappointed head of UN nuclear agency

Louis Charbonneau, Reuters:
The governing board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog unanimously approved a third term for Mohamed ElBaradei as the agency's chief on Monday after Washington gave up its efforts to oust him.

"The board approved the reappointment of Dr. ElBaradei by consensus," Melissa Fleming, an International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman, told reporters gathered outside the closed-door board meeting.

The United States lost the battle to depose ElBaradei, but it has not given up its fight against Iran's nuclear program, which Washington says is a front to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran denies this, insisting its atomic ambitions are limited to the peaceful generation of electricity.

"The U.S. has taken the most graceful way out of this situation," a Western diplomat said before the IAEA board meeting. "It has decided to back ElBaradei in exchange for what it hopes will be a tougher stance on Iran," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Washington had said it opposed the reappointment of the 62-year-old Egyptian, who has run the IAEA since 1997, because it believes U.N. agency heads should have only two terms. But U.N. diplomats say the real reason is that the U.S. believed he was soft on Iraq and Iran.

Diplomats at the Vienna-based IAEA denied ElBaradei had cut a deal with the Americans to win their support for another four-year term when the 35 nations on the IAEA board voted.


The next major item on the agenda of the week-long meeting will be a speech by ElBaradei's deputy, Pierre Goldschmidt, who will inform the board about progress in the IAEA's two-year probe of Iran.

"It's going to be a tough report," a European diplomat familiar with Goldschmidt's draft speech told Reuters. "The Iranians are furious about it." READ MORE

He said Goldschmidt's speech, expected in the middle of the week, was given to the Iranians on Friday. On the positive side, it confirmed that Iran had kept its promise to suspend sensitive nuclear activities, he said.

But it criticized Iran for, among other things, failing to cooperate completely with the IAEA probe, the diplomat said. For example, Iran had failed to provide complete declarations on nuclear-related shipments, he said.

The EU's three big powers -- France, Britain and Germany -- share U.S. suspicions that Iran wants nuclear weapons and are determined to prevent Tehran mastering the science of uranium enrichment, a process of purifying uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants or in weapons.

Iran has frozen its enrichment program temporarily, but has rejected the EU trio's offer of U.S.-backed incentives if it terminates and dismantles all its enrichment-related facilities.

Tehran has said it will maintain the suspension only until the end of July, by when the Europeans have promised to deliver a detailed offer of incentives for the Islamic republic.

The board will also discuss its other major headache -- North Korea -- which expelled IAEA inspectors in late 2002 and later withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

ElBaradei has described North Korea, which says it has already developed nuclear weapons, as the greatest proliferation threat facing the world. He has urged Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks aimed at persuading it to return to the NPT.