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DPA Interview 300310

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German Press Agency (DPA) Interview with Yukiya Amano with Albert Otti and Miriam Bandar

30 March 2010

» German Version

New sanctions against Iran would mean international nuclear inspectors have a more difficult job in the short term, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano told the German Press Agency (DPA) Tuesday.

But in his first interview with an international media organization since he took office last December, Amano also made clear he envisions a wider role for the IAEA, which he said could be tasked to verify nuclear disarmament.

Members of the United Nations Security Council are currently discussing further punitive measures to get Iran to halt its nuclear activities and to cooperate better with the IAEA´s inspectors.

"As Iran quite often declares, they don´t want to act under pressure," the 62-year-old IAEA director general said.

Pressure has led Iran to resist Security Council or IAEA resolutions and sanctions in the past. This has meant that at times, Iran reacted by restricting the Agency´s so-called safeguards inspections and not informing the nuclear watchdog about new facilities in a timely fashion.

But Amano did not wish to predict the long-term effects of new punitive steps.

"For now, a part of the comprehensive safeguards agreement is not implemented," Amano said about Tehran´s binding inspection deal with the IAEA.

The Japanese diplomat said that there had been no progress in the past weeks in getting Iran to clarify possible activities related to developing nuclear weapons. "So far I haven´t got the response that I hoped."

Nuclear inspectors are also seeking information about 10 new enrichment plants that Iran has announced it would build, starting with two sites.

"We are now following this issue carefully. But we don´t have specific pieces of information on the construction of these 10 or two facilities," he said.

There has also not been a breakthrough on a new setup of IAEA cameras and seals at Natanz, where Iran started to enrich uranium to a higher level of 20% in February, the Director General said.

World powers are concerned that Iran could use the uranium not for civilian nuclear reactors, but for a hidden weapons programme, a claim that Tehran´s leaders dismiss.

Summing up the situation, Amano said, "It continues to be difficult, because some of the rules and obligations that should be implemented are not implemented."

Looking into the future, Amano envisioned an additional role for IAEA inspectors.

"We are able to play a role in the verification area in nuclear disarmament," Amano said, reacting to the new START Disarmament Treaty that is set to be signed by US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 8 in Prague.

While it is not yet clear under which international treaty the IAEA could carry out such work, Amano mentioned the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, a pact that has yet to be negotiated and which would oblige countries to stop making material for atomic weapons.

Although work on this deal has stalled in the past months, US Arms Control Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher said Monday that, "with respect to the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, we urge the Conference on Disarmament to take up negotiations of the FMCT."

"I think that´s a very good move," Amano said about the START Treaty. "Progress in disarmament is very helpful to strengthen the effort in the non-proliferation area, and vice versa. This is a positive spiral."

Many countries, especially developing nations, have complained that nuclear weapons states are not doing enough to disarm and not honouring their side of the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as a way of blocking work on such issues as Iran or North Korea.

Amano was elected to succeed Mohamed ElBaradei last year amid opposition from developing countries that feared that the Japanese diplomat and non-proliferation expert would represent the agenda of industrialized governments.

Amano has made a point of visiting Nigeria in December for his first foreign trip in his new post, and of travelling to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay last week.

But the Director General denied he was trying to carry favour with developing countries by making these trips and by focusing on nuclear energy and nuclear cancer therapy for poor countries.

"That is needed to lift developing countries from poverty. Energy is our work. Cancer is our work," he said. "This is not to remedy the image of myself as being from a developed country."

Copyright 2010 DPA