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Newsmaker: Mohamed Elbaradei

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei speaks with Margaret Warner about Iran's nuclear program and the international nuclear threat.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Mohamed ElBaradei, welcome.

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Thank you very much for having me here.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    You said yesterday that the jury is still out on whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons. What evidence have you found that suggests it may be?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Margaret, Iran is a very complex issue. They are developing capability to enrich uranium, which makes it rather sensitive program because having the capability to enrich uranium means that you can have the material that you can use in a weapon but should you decide to have it, and that's why we are having a very close look at Iran and that's why the international community is very concerned about it. But developing enrichment of uranium, which you can use for civilian uses, does not mean automatically that this is for a weapon program.

    There's a lot of concern why Iran is developing an enrichment program, why do they need nuclear energy? They have a lot of gas, they have a lot of oil? There's a lot of skepticism there. But the Iranians have their own answers. I am not in a position to say you are right, you are wrong. What I do is check the facts, verify the uranium program, and so far I haven't seen any concrete proof that what Iran is doing is directly linked to the weapon program, and that's why I am saying we are not in a position to say Iran is developing a weapon program, but at the same time I'm not yet in a position to say everything in Iran is exclusively for peaceful purpose. The jury is still out, it's a work in progress and I'd like to finish the work as early as I can.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    There was a report, I think in the New York Times a week or so ago, that said that some of the uranium, traces of uranium found were of such purity, that really they were only appropriate for weapons use. Is that true?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    That's correct. However, to answer again for that, that these equipment have been imported from outside of Iran. They were not domestically manufactured. Most like they are coming from Pakistan and that's why I'm now in dialogue with the Pakistan government, hoping to get the possibility to compare the equipment in Pakistan, the equipment in Iran, to make sure that the Iranian story is correct.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Did you ask President Bush yesterday to help you in that regard?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    I'm help — I'm asking everybody who can help me to, to help me.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Just a sort of common sense question. If, if the Iranians aren't doing this for weapons uses and it's really just to generate electricity, why would they have kept it secret for 18 years?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Well, their answer — and again I'm repeating their, their story — that they have been under sanction for 18 years. If they would have declared it to us 18 years ago, they would not have been able to get the equipment they wanted.

    Mind you, I mean we now discover that they got all this equipment through the black market, through underground, and the argument is that if we would have declared it at that time, you know, that, that source of supply would have been completely dried up before we got the stuff.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    You also said something yesterday, I think on Capitol Hill, speaking of their uranium enrichment. You said, "they know it's a deterrent, they don't need a weapon, it sends a message." What did you mean?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Well, what I mean, if, if you, if you have an enrichment program or a reprocessing program, which means that you can produce uranium, which you ca–weapon-usable material as we call it, or plutonium, you are really sending a message that we know how to do it, should we decide to make a weapon. We don't need, need to develop a weapon, but I am telling you–you know, the world, my neighbors, that I can do it.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Now yesterday, after your meeting with President Bush, you said I think Iran is cooperating fully yet they haven't 'fessed up to certain things until you found evidence, for instance, the centrifuge that, that they were working on. Just last Friday, they froze the inspections for a couple of weeks because they were annoyed at this critical report you all put out. How is that cooperating fully?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    For six months, you know, we had a very difficult relationship with Iran, cooperation was no good, information was slow, in many cases contradictory, and I have reported all that and I said that you are not helping us to build confidence. Verification is after all to try to build confidence, and we need transparency.

    They have said that since October they have taken a strategic decision to cooperate fully, cooperate fully meaning since October we are able to go to any site we want, including military sites, which is very positive.

    Cooperating also means that they have decided to freeze all their enrichment program as a confidence-building measure. That is also positive.

    Unfortunately, this detour so to speak, or the inability to declare as part of their declaration certain research and development activities was a setback and I made it clear to them that this is a setback in terms that confidence needs to be consistent cooperation in a very transparent and proactive manner.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    What impact do you think the U.S. invasion of Iraq had on Iran's willingness to cooperate with the IAEA?

    In other words, the existence of the system came to light, I think exiles revealed it in August of 2002, just as the U.S. was building up for the Iraq war. Is there a connection?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    I'm not sure. Again, I cannot be categorical, whether there is a connection between the Iraq war and the Libyan declarations and Iranian cooperation. I'm not sure. It's much more — in my view it's much complicated than that. Iran started the program 15 years ago. I think they knew at one point they had to declare it, because when you build such a large facility, they, they knew that they had to declare it.

    The Iraqi war had an impact, however, you know, to make everybody understand that weapons of mass destruction could mean the difference between war and peace and in that sense it makes any move to be undeclared very, very difficult, or, or to have — countries have to weigh very carefully whether to, to go for an undeclared program.

    We also have to weigh our word, our — an inspection very, very carefully because we know our — any word we say could make the difference between war and peace, and sometime people are a bit impatient about us. Why aren't you jumping to conclusion? Why aren't you really confirming what we suspect?

    And my answer to that, I need to be 100 percent sure. I don't, I don't want to err on, on, on the wrong side, and, and then see unforeseen consequences.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Are you speaking of the U.S. when you talk about "some people"? I mean, do you feel pressure from the United States, which has been very suspicious of this program?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Well, the U.S. is very skeptical. I think, you know, they, they were very skeptical. They continue to be very skeptical about Iranian intention. I heard that in my visit everywhere in Washington and I hear that from other countries also. But I listen to everybody and, and my answer, you know, I would like to get any information that can help me with my job.

    I need intelligence information.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And are you getting what you need in that regard from the U.S.?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    I think I'm getting as much as I expect right now. I think there's clear understanding, particularly after the Iraq war, that we need to work together, that, you know, that we are partners and not competitors, and I think the message I'm getting from Washington this week, that we really need to put our heads together, not just the U.S. and, and IAEA, but everybody in the international system.

    I mean, we are facing now the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction which, which is everybody's, everybody's fight. It's exactly like terrorism. There is no winner, there's no loser. It's either all we will win or everybody would lose.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Your next report on the uranium program is due, I believe in June —

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    That's correct.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    — and the White House said they consider that a very important date.

    Will you be able to give us a definitive judgment by then, and is Iraq–I mean, is Iran cooperating to, to the extent that we will have what you need by then?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    I hope I'll be able to give a conclusion by that time. I'm not sure I can. It all depends on how much cooperation I will get from Iran and how much cooperation I'll get from Pakistan, how much cooperation I got from countries who have information. But I served notice to Iran that I need 100 percent, 110 percent cooperation, transparency, information. I served notice everywhere else, that anybody who have any information that can help me with the job, that I am to give, to provide, is now.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    If Iran drags its feet and you're, and you're not able to get what you need by June, would you be prepared then to recommend that the whole matter be referred to the Security Council, which as you know could then impose sanctions on Iran?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Whether the international community would like to refer the matter to Security Council is a political assessment, and Security Council sometime is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

    I mean, we — you know, not necessarily that, you know, when you refer to Security Council that's the end of the matter. And then what? So these are political assessments that need to be made and I keep telling our member states, I give you the facts, you, you make the assessment.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Mr. ElBaradei, the reports are that you have urged the White House to begin direct dialogue with Iran to try and help this process along. Why?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Well, I believe, you know, a dialogue is, is a key for any, for the solution of any problem, Margaret. Iran and, and, and the U.S. has a lot of problem they need to settle together, ranging from Iraq, Afghanistan, the al-Qaida prisoners in Iran, and of course the nuclear issue, and I'd like them to sit together, I'd like to start dialoguing directly if — I'd be happy to help but I'd like to see that dialogue going.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And what kind of reaction did you get yesterday from the president and Condoleezza Rice.

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Well, I, I, I think I, I saw some degree of skepticism, that, that they have tried to dialogue with Iran, particularly after the earthquake, it did not really work very well, that Iran was not very receptive.

    I under — I probably assumed that the Iranians have the same feeling. So what I am trying to do is just basically being an honest broker, telling the two, the two parties, let us bury the hatchet, let us sit together, that it's the only way to move forward.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Finally, all the countries that, that we're all worried about, I mean, North Korea isn't letting your inspectors in. Pakistan, despite the discovery of this whole secret network they were running isn't letting your inspectors in. Iran has certainly been playing games.

    How confident can Americans or people all over the world be that your agency really can arrest this growing threat?

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Well, the agency is just part of the system, Margaret. We are, we are part of what we call nonproliferation regime. The nonproliferation regime right now is absolutely under growing stress. What we have seen with A.Q. Khan associates, the black market, what we have seen with some of the Qaida people interested in, in, in nuclear weapons, makes it clear that this is a different ball game and we have to revise the rules, and that's really the — was the focus of my discussion with President Bush yesterday.

    That we need to look at the big picture, there's a lot of measures we need to take, control of the nuclear material, better export control, better authority for the agency, less countries having enrichment and reprocessing.

    So people should not sit on their laurels and say we, we, we are –we are safe. We are not safe unless we take a lot of measures.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Mohamed ElBaradei, thank you.

  • MOHAMED ELBARADEI:

    Thank you very much for having me.

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