UN nuclear chief to meet Bush on non-proliferation
WASHINGTON (AFP) Mar 15, 2004
UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei began a four-day visit to Washington Sunday during which he will meet US President George W. Bush to discuss how to improve the fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"What I'm really looking at here is the big picture. The important thing is to try to see how we can move the agenda of the non-proliferation regime forward," ElBaradei told reporters on the plane bringing him to Washington from Vienna, where the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based.

He said he and Bush, who made a major speech on non-proliferation in February, agree on the need for tougher export controls on nuclear technology in the wake of reports of a Pakistani-run nuclear black market that supplied programs in Iran, Libya and North Korea.

The two leaders also want the IAEA to have a mandate for tougher inspections of national atomic programs through an additional protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"The United States is obviously a major player ... and we (the IAEA) are in all modesty representing the international campaign for an improved non-proliferation regime," ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei's visit follows an IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna that passed a resolution condemning Iran for hiding sensitive nuclear activities.

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 that Iran had failed to report possibly weapons-related atomic activities despite promising full disclosure.

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.

ElBaradei wants to eliminate the danger that nuclear fuel declared for peaceful uses could also be used to make atomic bombs by having a multilateral body make the fuel, rather than letting individual states do it.

The United States has however stressed setting a "moratorium or cut-off date" after which countries that have not mastered the fuel cycle would stop trying to do this, ElBaradei said.

He said the the United States should do more for arms control as "if we really want to push for a more vigorous non-proliferation regime, the weapons states (those already possessing nuclear arms) should also show they are implementing that part of the deal" as outlined in the NPT.

But ElBaradei said that despite these differences with the US point of view, "I see more convergence than divergence between the different ideas on the table."

He said he would also discuss Iraq with Bush as he feels the IAEA needs "at one point to go back and finish the job" of verifying Iraq's nuclear program.

The IAEA had said before the war that it did not think Iraq had nuclear weapons capabilities, despite the Bush administration's claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

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

He meets Monday with Senator Richard Lugar, a champion of non-proliferation, who co-sponsored a law to help keep nuclear material from the former Soviet Union under secure control, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.