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Transcripts of Interviews

Transcript of the Director General's Interview

"American Morning" Segment with Bill Hemmer, CNN Anchor

18 March 2004

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. (See CNN.com).

HEMMER: The U.N.'s chief nuclear inspector says the jury is still out on whether or not Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Mohammed El Baradei told Congress and the White House yesterday there is no specific proof of Tehran's nuclear intentions. The head of the IAEA is our guest today from D.C.

Good morning to you. Nice to see you again here on AMERICAN MORNING. It has been some time since we have spoken here. Nice to have you.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Thank you, Bill, for having me.

HEMMER: In your conversations yesterday with the president, what did you tell him, if you can share that with us?

ELBARADEI: Well, I think I told him that I fully support his initiative to strengthen our fight against proliferation of nuclear weapons. I think pretty much we are reading from the same page, Bill, on the need to control nuclear weapons, usable material, and the need to have a better system of export control, and the need to limit the factories that produce plutonium and highly-enriched uranium.

And I think we both agree that after the discovery of that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by A.Q. Khan and associates, after our knowledge that al Qaeda and others were trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons, there is a different ballgame altogether, and we need to change the rules. And we focus on how we can operationalize his ideas, my ideas, other people's ideas to strengthen the system. So I think it was very productive.

HEMMER: And in return, what did he tell you? What was his message?

ELBARADEI: I think his message is that he's very much looking to work with the international community. He's very much looking to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency. And I assured him that we very much look at the U.S. leadership. So I think it was very positive.

HEMMER: Are there any hard feelings with the issue of WMD in Iraq as a fallout from this and a hangover?

ELBARADEI: We haven't really discussed that, and I don't think it was there. I don't think it...

HEMMER: You're saying you didn't even talk about it yesterday?

ELBARADEI: We did not even talk about it because we have our hands full on new issues. I think Iraq is behind us in many ways, and I would have liked to talked about it, frankly. I did not have the chance to talk about it because I had more other pressing issues.

HEMMER: Listen, you say your hands are full. How concerned should the people of this planet be regarding the issue of nuclear weapons coming to places like Pyongyang and North Korea, or coming into places like Tehran and Iran?

ELBARADEI: Well, I think we ought to be concerned. We ought to be concerned having nuclear weapons anywhere. We ought to be concerned about having the amount of nuclear weapons we have today.

And I think I have been out screaming, if you like, Bill, that we need to protect ourselves better. We need to focus on making sure that fissile material that exists in many parts of the world, in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), in civilian activities, should be neutralized. We need to clean up a lot of nuclear materials that exist in the former Soviet Union, that exist in many parts of the world.

And that's something President Bush agreed with me. That we need to have an action plan, in fact, to clear our planet of all this material that could be easily accessible to terrorists.

So we are concerned. But we need also to look at broad security structure. I mean, we need to see why North Korea is still interested in nuclear weapons, or why many countries in the Middle East have been and are still possibly looking into nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. We need to provide some security assurances to this country by which they feel secure without necessarily...

HEMMER: You know, I understand that. And I don't mean to cut you off here, but we're limited on time a little bit here.

ELBARADEI: Sure.

HEMMER: What I seem to hear from you, you mentioned A. Q. Khan, this Pakistani scientist who we now know gave nuclear information to a number of countries, including Iran. Do you not believe that Tehran is a threat now, or are you in a different camp on that?

ELBARADEI: Well, on Iran, we still - Iran is still a work in progress, Bill. As I said a number of times, the jury is still out. As long as I get full cooperation by Iran, as long as I'm making steady progress, as long as I don't see an immediate threat, I'd like to continue with that process, verification and diplomacy, and hopefully bring that issue to closure.

And I think we are making good progress. So I do not want to stop the process, nor to jump to conclusions.

HEMMER: Mohammed El Baradei, nice to speak with you. I have got a list of 100 questions. We'll get to it next time. All right?

ELBARADEI: All right, Bill.

HEMMER: Appreciate it. Talk to you later.

ELBARADEI: Thank you for having me.