The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Saturday that he lacked useful intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program and urged states that accuse Tehran of seeking an atomic bomb to provide evidence.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, voiced frustration with countries such as the U.S. and Israel, which charge that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear program is purely for generating electricity.
“There’s a lot of talk about somebody believes that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. We cannot work on the basis of belief, we have to work on the basis of fact,” ElBaradei said at the World Economic Forum here in Switzerland. “If people have information on the basis of which they are coming to the conclusion that this is a weapons program, I’d like very much for them to share with us.”
Only the IAEA could vet such tips by visiting suspect sites and verifying nuclear activities, he said. In the absence of such evidence, the IAEA has been doing its best through environmental sampling, satellite monitoring and on-site investigation to reconstruct Iran’s 2-decade-old covert nuclear program, he said.
ElBaradei’s comments were reminiscent of his remarks before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when he criticized the quality of information that American officials provided to bolster their assertions that Saddam Hussein was trying to build nuclear weapons. No such weapons have been found.
In Davos, ElBaradei strongly backed efforts by Britain, France and Germany to negotiate a deal under which Iran would end nuclear enrichment activities that could lead to a bomb in return for peaceful nuclear cooperation, trade and security benefits.
He urged the United States to get involved in the talks.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who is attending the Davos meeting, said his country had received “no direct signal from the Americans” that they were interested in direct negotiations with Iran.
Even if Washington were interested in improving ties, Kharrazi said, “there can be no rapprochement” in the current climate of animosity.
ElBaradei offered a veiled warning against military action against Iran. “We should not start thinking about any other options until we exhaust the political-diplomatic verification option and discover that this is not going anywhere,” he said.