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. UN atomic agency marks 2005 with Nobel award and tussles with Iran
VIENNA (AFP) Dec 18, 2005
The UN atomic agency spent much of 2005 campaigning against proliferation risks in Iran and North Korea, but also saw the year marked by the ultimate global recognition of a Nobel Peace Prize for its work.

The Iranian dossier reached a climax of sorts in September, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found Iran in non-compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for almost two decades of hidden nuclear activities.

This conclusion requires eventual referral to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

But the Vienna-based IAEA, which has been investigating Iran for almost three years, put off such a move in November after the European Union agreed to allow more time for diplomacy.

Still, European and Western diplomats fear that a planned meeting year-end meeting between the EU and Iran has little chance of getting Tehran to abandon nuclear fuel work that raises concerns it seeks to make nuclear weapons.

The talks come as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched a series of verbal attacks against Israel, calling for it to be wiped off the map, and also denying the Holocaust.

Diplomats say they hope the impasse will finally convince Russia, which backs Iran's claim that its nuclear program is peaceful, that more pressure is needed on Tehran, namely Security Council action.

Meanwhile, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has insisted there is still time for diplomacy.

ElBaradei, a 63-year-old former Egyptian diplomat, has become a symbol for the world's fight against non-proliferation and a choice of diplomacy over war, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on December 10.

He won a third term as IAEA director general in 2005 despite opposition from the United States which feels he is too soft on Iran, according to diplomats. ElBaradei, who first took the top job in 1997, had overwhelming support from the rest of the world community.

"If we hope to escape self-destruction, then nuclear weapons should have no place in our collective conscience, and no role in our security," he said as he collected the Nobel award.

He and the IAEA were jointly honored for "their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes", the Nobel Committee noted.

After emerging in the run-up to the Iraq war as the leading advocate of diplomacy rather than force to counter nuclear proliferation, ElBaradei spent much of 2005 at the center of crises concerning the other two arms of US President George W. Bush's "axis of evil": Iran and North Korea.

And while the IAEA has pushed hard with Tehran, it has had minimal leverage with North Korea since the country kicked out the agency's inspectors in December 2002.

It withdrew the following month from the NPT, the treaty that gives the nuclear agency a mandate for inspections.

North Korea is ready to return to talks on its nuclear program and would accept a visit by IAEA inspectors, US politician Bill Richardson said in October after four days of talks in the Stalinist state.

But no such visits have been scheduled or are expected soon as North Korea talks continue to be deadlocked.

The standoff with North Korea erupted in October 2002 when the United States said Pyongyang was running a secret uranium enrichment program.

North Korea now claims to have produced atomic bombs.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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