1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to secondary content
  4. Skip to sidebar

17 June 2009 | Vienna, Austria
IAEA Board of Governors

doc Related Story, 15 June 2009

Director General´s Intervention on Non-Proliferation Issues at IAEA Board of Governors

by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Thank you very much, Chair.

My comment is more of a general reflection on some of the issues that we are facing and then I will make some comments on some of the specific issues. Some of you mentioned that what you heard today is simply a repetition of what we have been hearing for the last three years, and that would be absolutely correct. We have been going around in circles on some of the issues we are facing.

We reported North Korean non-compliance in 1992 - today it´s 2009. For seventeen years, we have been dealing with the verification issue in North Korea. This should teach us a lesson on how not to deal with verification issues. If every verification issue took us 20 years to clarify, then we are obviously on the wrong track. I would even dare to say that we are not very useful.

In the case of North Korea, for all these years from 1992, things have gone from bad to worse. It started to improve when there was a dialogue. When there was no dialogue, things got much worse. There was a dialogue under the agreed framework and there were no weapons, just spent fuel under an Agency freeze. When the dialogue stopped, we got a nuclear test. When we got the six-party framework, things started to move and we again got into dismantlement and shutdown. But when the six-party talks came to a halt, we got another nuclear test. And not only that, we also got an announcement that North Korea will also start an enrichment programme.

What does that tell us? It tells us is that, unless you have a meaningful dialogue between the parties, unless they talk to rather than at each other and understand the security dimension of proliferation issues, we will continue to grapple with these issues.

Usually, I am asked to report on North Korea. But as I told the Chair, at the next Board I will not be able to report, because I have nothing to report. We are not party to the six-party talks, we are not in North Korea. If anybody were to report, it would need to be a member of the six parties. We need to really reflect and see whether we are on the right track and try to find a way to resolve proliferation issues. In the past there was, and continues today, to be a sense of cynicism that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is not implemented in a balanced way. The weapon States continue to rely increasingly on nuclear weapons while the non-nuclear weapon States are told that nuclear weapons are not the way to security.

I think that has completely changed, recently. There is a new glimmer of hope, with Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev committing themselves to create a world free from nuclear weapons. Everywhere in the world, there is now a realistic expectation that finally the NPT will be implemented in a holistic manner and that we will continue to focus on the ultimate goal of non-proliferation, which is nuclear disarmament. That, hopefully, will help us to create a new environment. I hope that by next year, by 2010, when the non-proliferation review meeting takes place, we will see concrete actions from the weapon States. There was a commitment by the US and Russia to work for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, a commitment to have the CTBT implemented, a commitment to slash drastically the arsenal of the US and Russia. Hopefully, the other weapon states will follow. Then there is a commitment that we should not have a world that´s based on haves and have-nots - the more than 30 countries which rely on the nuclear umbrella under NATO and bilateral agreements, and the others which are told that they cannot touch nuclear weapons. Even that is changing. I´ve been invited next month to a NATO meeting to speak on behalf of the "natives" - those who are outside NATO - looking into what should be NATO´s role in a world, hopefully, free of nuclear weapons.

There is change in the air and I think that change needs to be reflected here. Coming back to the non-nuclear weapons States - I made it very clear ten years ago that without the Additional Protocol, we cannot really do our work in a credible way. Without an Additional Protocol, we can only talk about declared nuclear material. We have learned since 1991 in Iraq, that if any country tries to divert nuclear material, they don´t divert from declared material, they divert through a clandestine programme. And yet we still have over 100 countries without Additional Protocols, which means we do not have the authority. We are sometimes called the "watchdog," but we don´t bark at all if we don´t have the legal authority to do the work. That, obviously, is somewhat linked to nuclear disarmament. I know many of the non-nuclear weapons States are saying "why should we do our part while there is no movement on nuclear weapons disarmament?"

I hope that you will move in parallel - that the weapon States will move to reduce and eliminate their stockpiles and the non-nuclear weapon States will continue to assume their legal obligations. I don´t want to get into legalities. All I can say is that, without Additional Protocols, we are not able to do credible verification about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.

There is the question of the new phenomenon of more and more countries going into enrichment and fuel cycle processes. You know my views on that - that we should eventually have a total multinationalization of the fuel cycle, as part of a world free of nuclear weapons and on the basis of equality and universality. You have one proposal before you which is a first step, in my view, in the right direction. Not multilateralization, but establishing an LEU bank, supported by the Russian guarantees. I believe that if we have more countries with enrichment or reprocessing capabilities, these are countries that can make nuclear weapons in a few months. To me, that is not really the kind of security system which gives assurance to us and to the rest of the world.

There are four pillars which have to work together: the Agency, the Security Council, multilateral dialogues and bilateral talks. What we can do here can be very much influenced by the Security Council, by multilateral dialogue and by bilateral talks. The Security Council should not necessarily mean just sanctions. The Security Council is supposed to be a forum to try to find solutions. The Security Council is supposed to intervene early and do preventive measures and try to find solutions.

When things are moving in the bilateral/multilateral dialogue, such as in the six-party talks, then they move here. When there is a dialogue, there is some movement. When there is no dialogue, we come to a standstill. We are completely gridlocked in both North Korea and Iran - with North Korea it is even worse, because it declared it is out of the NPT altogether.

We don´t have a magic wand and our legal authority, in many cases, is very limited. That´s why we have to be very careful of what we say. I cannot say that a country is absolutely clean if I don´t have all the tools that allow me to do that. We learned from Iraq how jumping the gun can lead to total disaster. You have to understand that every statement we issue here goes through at least twenty drafts because we have to be as objective and impartial as humanly possible. We know the implications of what we say.

Now I come to Iran. There has been a confidence deficit over a number of years because of undeclared enrichment activities, even if they were experimental. That obviously created a confidence deficit in the mind of the Secretariat and the rest of the international community. We need to restore confidence. It is not a question of whether an item is routine or not routine. An item is on the agenda because we have proliferation concerns that warrant such an agenda item.

We have been working in Iran for six years. We have made a lot of important progress. There is no question about that. Loads of people criticized what we call the "work plan," saying we were trying to stretch the process. With the work plan, however, we managed to clarify the scope and nature of the enrichment. That was a major achievement. And the Security Council in the end paid tribute to the work plan. The work plan clarified the enrichment programme in Iran, but because of the confidence deficit, we very much need the additional protocol. It´s not because it´s obligatory but because I need the additional protocol to be sure that there are no undeclared activities in Iran, as happened in the past. That is a normal common sense approach.

Design information - well, this is part of the safeguards agreement. We need these things. If Iran wants to build confidence, Iran would do the Additional Protocol and the design information. Iran has done it before. It is not extraordinary, but it would go a long way towards building confidence.

Enrichment is, of course, the crux of the problem. Nobody, I think, questions anybody´s right to have a fuel cycle, not even the Security Council. One of the ideas I put forward a couple of years ago, which I repeated yesterday, is: with the new overture coming from Washington, why can´t we go for a freeze-for-freeze? Why is there a rush now for Iran to build its enrichment capability in terms of industrial capacity? There is no commercial need for it right now. You have the technology, and I´ve said that publicly. There is no reason to continue to build that capacity and there is also, if we are going into a negotiation, no reason to have additional sanctions applied. Negotiation should not be limited to the nuclear issue but should include security issues, economic issues and many other issues that span over 50 years. To me, a freeze-for-freeze would be a very important step which might calm down the atmosphere so that the international community will not be worried that Iran is building up capacity and LEU. And Iran cannot really lose because it has the knowledge and has demonstrated that it has the capacity. We need to look forward and we do not need to continue to have this kabuki dance where we keep repeating the same thing, shuffling our papers and shuffling our statements. It doesn´t really help anybody, frankly.

Then I come to the alleged studies. Yes, there are alleged studies and we have been able to share some with Iran. We have not been able to share others with Iran. I called on those who have information to enable us to share it with Iran, copies at least, because I think that this is simply due process. I understand sensitivities about sources and methods, but we need to be able to share it with the defendant. I cannot tell you, "here is my accusation," without at least sharing with you the substance of the accusation and enabling you to mount a defence. But there is enough in these alleged studies to create concern in the minds of our professional inspectors, who work twenty-four hours a day on this issue. Although sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies said Iran stopped alleged work on nuclear weapons studies in 2003, we do not know whether it has stopped or not. We continue to receive new information. We also do not know whether the information is authentic or not.

These are important issues. Naturally we cannot make a quick conclusion. These are issues of war and peace. But Iran has to help the Agency by engaging in substantial discussions with the Secretariat. Iran would benefit a lot from engaging in substantial dialogue on the alleged studies, on the procurement by the military establishment, on the manufacturing of nuclear-related equipment by the military establishment. We would be delighted if we can prove that these are fake. We have no agenda other than to prove the facts. This could be fake, as in the case of Iraq, or it could have substance. We do not know, but we are concerned and you have to help us to address these concerns. Iran can help us address a lot of concerns by implementing the additional protocol, by implementing the safeguards requirements on design information. The more transparent Iran is with us, the more we are able to conclude on this issue.

So, again, I think that everybody should really try to look to the future. There is a new environment. There is a new air and we cannot continue for 15-20 years to deal with each issue. I can tell you that the perception of the whole non-proliferation regime from outside is not very good. People have started to become sceptical about our work.

I hope a meaningful dialogue with Iran will start soon. I hope Iran will make a goodwill gesture. I know the US is reviewing its approach. I hope they will come with some substantive responses to some of Iran´s questions. I hope we will get a freeze for freeze.

On North Korea, there is no other solution other than the diplomatic solution. The only way is to try to find how we can get into a meaningful dialogue, how we can address North Korea´s concerns about security. Whether you agree with them or not, these are issues that have to be addressed.

I finally would like to talk about transparency. To me the whole of non-proliferation, of verification, is about transparency. If we don´t have the additional protocol, we have limited authority. We also have limited authority because our focus is only on nuclear material. If we go into weaponisation, our authority is almost negligible.

Here I would like to talk about Syria. If Syria wants to prove that the allegations are not accurate, the best thing it can do is to be fully transparent. We are ready to work with any modality to protect Syria´s confidential military and non-military information, as we are ready to do with every country. But it is in every country´s interest, if it is clean, to work with us through transparency measures, if needed. I deplored Israel for not giving us a chance to verify this facility before it was destroyed. Not many of you did. I did, and I continue to do so because we lost a very important opportunity. However, Syria also has an obligation now to allow us to verify that this was not a reactor. This is our obligation. I hope that Syria will not continue to stick to strict legalities because that means the issues will remain on our agenda.

We have, in many cases, very limited authority. We don´t have the technology. We are very short of satellite imagery. In many cases, we don´t get it when we ask for it. We are not able to validate environmental particle analysis. These are issues at the heart of our independence and credibility. I am grateful to the US for committing US$ 10 million in additional extrabudgetary contributions to the Agency, but I do not understand those who continue to insist on zero budget growth despite all our efforts to achieve efficiency gains and savings. I am not willing to tell world public opinion that we are able to deal with issues that have to do with our very survival when I know that we are not able to.

As to how we write our reports, that´s our business. We are not co-managing safeguards. You delegated us to manage safeguards and we´ve continued to manage safeguards with as much impartiality, as much objectivity as we can.

I would like to finish by saying let´s look at the big picture. We have to recognize that the way we have been doing things has not been the right way. Let us try to learn from the past, look to the future and try to understand that genuine dialogue is the best way to go.

More DG Statements »