ElBaradei OK with nuclear energy

2008-02-04 00:29

Cairo - The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency said on Sunday that he was not concerned about Arab countries using nuclear energy for power development, despite international controversy over Iran's atomic programme.

Many countries in the Mideast have expressed interest in developing peaceful atomic energy programmes in response to rising domestic energy consumption and possibly to counter Iran's nuclear activities.

"All the Arab countries' nuclear activities will be under agency safeguard systems, so I don't see a reason why anybody should be concerned about ... Arab countries using nuclear energy for power development," Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters after meeting with Arab League chief Amr Moussa in Cairo.

'Sensitive' parts

The IAEA chief said Arab countries were not focused on the "sensitive" parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, which he argued should be under multinational control.

"Usually there is concern where there is more proliferation with regard to the sensitive parts of the fuel cycle: enrichment activities, reprocessing activities," said ElBaradei.

"All enrichment, all reprocessing activities should be under regional or multinational control, but we are not at this stage here in the Middle East."

Iran has defied UN Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb.

ElBaradei said the IAEA was making "good progress" resolving outstanding questions about the history of Iran's nuclear programme and called on Tehran to co-operate with the agency to clarify its present activities.

Many Western countries fear Iran's programme could pave the way for weapons development, but Tehran insists it is focused only on electricity generation.

Sanctions

"I hope again that Iran will continue to demonstrate full co-operation with the agency because the more we can clarify the past, have a good grasp on the present, the more we can help to build confidence about the future nuclear activities of Iran," said ElBaradei.

The UN Security Council has passed two rounds of sanctions against Iran for the country's refusal to suspend enrichment, and major powers among the group have agreed on the outlines of a third set.

But diplomats say a third round of sanctions is unlikely to be approved until the IAEA delivers its next report on Iran's programme in February.

- AP

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