UN nuclear watchdog chief likely to meet Bush next week
VIENNA (AFP) Mar 12, 2004
UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei will fly to Washington next week for talks with US officials, "likely including US President (George W). Bush", on strengthening non-proliferation measures, an IAEA spokesman said Friday.

"The director general will fly to Washington next week for working meetings with senior US government officials likely including US President Bush," International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said. "The purpose of the trip is to discuss current efforts to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime."

ElBaradei is to leave Vienna Sunday and is expected to meet with Bush, as well as Bush's national security adviser Condeleeza Rice on Wednesday, sources close to the IAEA said.

A Western diplomat said both ElBaradei and Bush "have recently put forward proposals on how to fix the nuclear non-proliferation systemm."

"They will be looking at areas where their ideas meet and how to work together," the diplomat said.

ElBaradei's Washington trip will follow an IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna this week that has reviewed progress in guaranteeing the peaceful nature of the Libyan and Iranian nuclear programs.

ElBaradei called at the Vienna board meeting for strengthening the international mandate to verify nuclear non-proliferation.

ElBaradei has urged countries to impose tougher export controls in the wake of reports of a Pakistani-run nuclear black market that supplied programs in Iran, Libya and North Korea.

He has also said the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which went into effect in 1970, needs updating in order to keep tighter control on possible atomic weapons development.

Bush said in a speech in February that the NPT regime needs to be strengthened.

Bush sought global support for tighter curbs on nuclear technology, taking aim at North Korea, Iran, and black-market sales by Pakistan's former top atomic expert Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Experts have said Iran is an example of a country which could be developing the technology to make atomic weapons, even while honoring the NPT by claiming its nuclear program is peaceful. Much of sensitive nuclear technology, such as enriching uranium, can have both civilian and military applications.

The IAEA said in a report issued last month ahead of the board meeting that Iran had failed to report possibly weapons-related atomic activities despite promising full disclosure and warned Tehran to make sure this didn't happen again.

Iran had not told the IAEA it had designs for sophisticated "P-2" centrifuges for enriching uranium nor that it had produced polonium-210, an element which could be used as a "neutron initiator (to start the chain reaction) in some designs of nuclear weapons," the report said.

This was despite Iran's claim last October that it had given the IAEA a full picture of its nuclear program.