IAEA Inspectors Starting to Interview Iraqi Scientists, 24 December 2002

2002/2412

In recent interviews, IAEA Spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said that the Agency's nuclear inspectors have started interviewing Iraqi nuclear scientists. "We are moving from an information-gathering phase to a more probing, investigative phase," he said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Speaking to the Associated Press and other wire services, he said that "interviews are taking place, but we are not revealing when or how many or with whom." He said the steps were part of efforts to build a fuller understanding of Iraq's nuclear programme through stepped up "investigative" efforts. "Now that we are refining that understanding, we are able to do one-on-one interviews in a more strategic way," rather than interviewing lots of people who may or may not have specific information the inspectors seek, he said.

Mr. Gwozdecky noted that scientists are being interviewed in Iraq, and that the Agency has not moved to exercise its authority under Security Council mandate to conduct interviews with scientists taken outside the country. The practical arrangements and modalities for such interviews are being worked out, he said. Considerations include, he noted, taking account of the kind of exposure scientists would receive by leaving the country; consent of the individuals involved and their families to leaving the country; and the protection of individuals taken to other countries, including the possibility of asylum.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said in a recent interview that he would interview Iraqi scientists abroad if he received assurances that they could obtain political asylum or return safely to Iraq. "We are now in the process of interviewing people inside Iraq in private," he noted 23 December in an interview with CNN. "But we are also working on the practical arrangements to take people out of Iraq."

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