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. IAEA chief warns against military strike on Iran in nuclear row
OSLO (AFP) Dec 09, 2005
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, on Friday said the international community was losing patience with Iran over its nuclear programme but cautioned against using military action.

"The international community after three years is losing patience" with Iran, ElBaradei told reporters in Oslo, where he is to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday.

He insisted however that "I don't believe there is a military solution to the issue."

"I think that a military solution would be completely counterproductive," he said, pointing out that diplomacy and cooperation tend to yield "better results than the stick".

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its director, who will share the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize and an accompanying cheque worth 1.3 million dollars (1.1 million euros), have been instrumental in thorny nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The agency has threatened to take the country before the United Nations Security Council for violating nuclear non-proliferation rules.

Iran has meanwhile insisted that its nuclear program is merely designed to meet domestic energy needs, while the United States, Israel and others have charged it is a cover for a programme to develop an atom bomb.

Washington has said no option is off the table in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, and Israel has made it clear it will not allow its neighbour in the Middle East to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz stated Friday that while diplomatic channels remained the best way to deal with the Iran issue, "it is necessary to also prepare the other means."

On Friday, ElBaradei insisted that there was still a chance to find a diplomatic solution.

"But this window of opportunity is not forever," he said, adding that "the next couple of months are going to be very crucial."

By next March, he said he hoped "things will have moved in the right direction and that we're not talking about the Security Council".

The European Union, with Britain, France and Germany in the lead and with US backing, has argued that the only way to ensure that Tehran does not develop nuclear bombs under the mantle of its civil nuclear energy programme is for Iran to forego the ability to enrich uranium.

"As long as we are moving forward, as long as we haven't seen an imminent threat, a smoking gun," it should not be necessary to use "the stick", ElBaradei said, adding however that "I'm not excluding any option in the future."

"The ball is in Iran's court. It is up to Iran to show the kind of transparency they need to show."

The IAEA and ElBaradei will receive the Nobel Prize at a ceremony in Oslo's city hall on Saturday, just over 60 years after the US dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on August 6 and 9, 1945, the world's only nuclear attacks to date.

International reactions have been divided over this year's peace prize choice.

Environmental activists, who congratulated the Nobel Committee last year for awarding the prestigious prize to an environmentalist, Kenyan Wangari Maathai, for the first time, were far from pleased this year.

Criticizing the IAEA for promoting the civilian use of nuclear energy at the same time as it works to eliminate the spread of nuclear weapons, about a dozen demonstrators dressed as bright yellow missiles stood outside the Nobel Institute holding banners reading "Nuclear power = Nuclear bombs".

Some critics have also bashed the IAEA for not doing enough to banish the nuclear threat.

On Friday, ElBaradei admitted that "we need to do more" to rid the world of the nuclear threat and criticized the US and other nuclear powers for not working harder to address the problem.

"If you really want to stop the threat of nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons states should lead by example," he said, insisting that the eight or nine countries known to have nuclear arms "are eight or nine countries too many".

"We continue to rely on the so-called 'mutual assured destruction'. The time has come for us to start working on 'mutual assured security'. Humanity I think, in my view, deserves no less," he insisted.

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