Saturday, July 08, 2006

IAEA: Ample time for diplomatic solution on Iran

The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog Mohamed Elbaradei said that there was still plenty of time to find a diplomatic solution to the the Iranian nuclear crisis and ruled out any military options, AFP reported.

"There is no durable solution to the Iranian issue except through negotiation. There is no military solution, I have to repeat that," Mohamed Elbaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a conference on nuclear power in Ankara.

"You might apply pressure, you might apply sanctions, you might escalate, but at the end of the day people need to sit around the negotiating table... and try to find a solution which is regarded by everybody as fair and equitable," he added.

Recalling that Iran would need five to 10 years to build a nuclear weapon should it choose to do so, El Baradei said: "So we have ample room for negotiation." READ MORE

He underlined that a negotiated solution which paved the way for normalised ties between Iran and the West would have a "tremendous positive impact" on the volatile Middle East.

The UN Security Council is currently awaiting Iran's answer to an offer of economic and political incentives in exchange for a suspension of uranium enrichment which the West suspects is part of a programme to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran could face sanctions if it rejects the proposal.

A senior Iranian official said Thursday no response would be forthcoming at least in the next week, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said a formal response will be given in August.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana held an initial meeting with the Islamic Republic's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in Brussels on Thursday to see whether Tehran might be prepared to discuss the offer put forward last month by the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.

"I hope the Iranians will respond positively to the offer," ElBaradei said. "The solution is to create the conditions to go back to the negoationg table."

The proposal affirms Iran's right to develop nuclear energy, supports its building of light-water reactors, provides for uranium enrichment to take place in Russia and offers a series of economic incentives.

In return, Iran is asked to suspend all enrichment-related activities and accept wider IAEA inspections.

"They (Iranians) need to understand they should go out of their way to be transparent, work with the agency, work with the international community... to demonstrate that their programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes," the IAEA chief said.
The first step in finding a solution is to replace El Baradei.