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. UN nuclear inspection deal with Iran is necessary: ElBaradei
VIENNA, Sept 7 (AFP) Sep 07, 2007
The UN atomic agency's deal for inspections in Iran is necessary in trying to defuse a confrontation that could lead to war, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Friday while answering critics of the plan.

ElBaradei has been criticized for a timetable the IAEA agreed to in August for Tehran to answer lingering questions about its past nuclear activities, including its possession of documents on making the inner core of atom bombs.

The Washington Post on Wednesday said ElBaradei was failing to crack down on Iran for enriching uranium, which can be used to make fuel for nuclear bombs.

ElBaradei said there was a "coordinated, orchestrated campaign" in some US newspapers "to undermine the process, undermine the agency, undermine me."

US officials have criticized ElBaradei for being soft on Iran, with concessions allowing it to effectively delay sanctions, diplomats said.

Two UN Security Council resolutions have called on Tehran to stop enriching uranium.

"On the one hand, I see Iran is moving with its (uranium) enrichment without us doing the robust verification required . . . on the other hand I see wardrums (from those) who are basically saying the solution is to bomb Iran," ElBaradei told reporters in Vienna.

The United States accuses Iran of using a civilian energy programme as a front for a covert nuclear weapons programme. It stresses diplomacy to resolve the crisis but has not ruled out military action.

ElBaradei said the talk of bombing made him "shudder" because the rhetoric was reminiscent of the period before the Iraq war, when he had pleaded for time to let his International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors verify claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

ElBaradei said it was "bonkers" to think he was acting independently of either the Security Council or his 35-nation executive board, which is responsible for policy decisions.

ElBaradei said the IAEA's deal with Iran was for cooperation as mandated by the Security Council.

Once Iran had offered to answer the IAEA's questions, "we have to accept yes as an answer. We can not afford to say no," he argued.

Diplomats have criticized the agreement, saying it would allow Iran to refuse to answer future IAEA questions and to honor the IAEA and Security Council demands for wider inspections under an additional protocol.

ElBaradei said the IAEA has made clear "privately and publicly that we will continue and have the right to give any questions in the future.

"The Iranians can never get a pass (on their nuclear work) until we decide they get a pass," he insisted.

Despite "suspicions about Iran's future intentions," ElBaradei said the IAEA had not seen "any undeclared for example facilities, enrichment activities or any weaponization of their program nor have we received any information to that effect," from intelligence agencies.

"We haven't received any smoking gun," ElBaradei said.

He said that while the IAEA was still unable to say whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful or military "we do not see based on the evidence we have that this is a clear and present danger that requires that you go beyond diplomacy."

He repeated his call for a "time-out" for talks, during which there would be either a suspension of UN sanctions to match an Iranian suspension of enrichment, or at least a first step of no new sanctions and no expansion by Iran of its enrichment work.

"The question of trust has to be resolved so people are talking to each other," ElBaradei said.

He defended the timetable allowing Iran to defuse one issue at a time, pointing out that the first issue -- the nature of Iran's enrichment work -- was the most important.

This should allow the IAEA to conclude by November whether Iran is cooperating.

If Iran is not, "then it's a completely different situation," ElBaradei said.

US ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte told reporters Friday that the IAEA-Iran work plan outlines a "potentially important process" for clarifying historical questions if Iran cooperates fully and quickly.

But Iran must still "provide a full verification of current activities" and suspend enrichment as the Security Council demands, Schulte said.

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