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Kurier Interview 260610


KURIER Interview with Yukiya Amano* with Konrad Kramar

26 June 2010

(Translated from German)

Yukiya Amano, the Head of the IAEA, the UN atomic agency, on the tug of war with Tehran and global nuclear security.

Since the UN Security Council recently imposed new sanctions on Iran, the conflict over the country´s nuclear programme is threatening to escalate again. The KURIER spoke with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

KURIER: How have the recent sanctions affected cooperation with Iran?

YUKIYA AMANO, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: I have as yet no official communication from Iran. But up to now, whenever sanctions have been imposed, Iran has always reduced its cooperation.

The IAEA presented a report in March. Iran described details of it as inaccurate. I had confidence in my inspectors´ report. There was another report in June. Again, Iran described it as inaccurate. But the inspectors still have my confidence. Everything else is speculation, and I do not engage in speculation. Speculation is not my area of expertise.

KURIER: How do you view the proposal by Turkey and Brazil on exchange of nuclear fuel rods with Iran?

AMANO: A good opportunity to have a dialogue with Tehran; I hope Iran gives a positive response to our questions. This issue has a long history. In June 2009, Iran made an enquiry concerning nuclear fuel for its research reactor in Tehran.

At one point it looked as though agreement was near, but it did not work out because there was not enough trust. Iran is afraid that, if its uranium leaves the country, it will never come back again. I believe agreement is still possible, but not very likely.

I am non-partisan and will use my office to support the Iranians in obtaining nuclear fuel.

KURIER: Are Iran and its nuclear programme a threat to global security?

AMANO: I have never said that Iran is a threat or that it has an atom bomb. I choose my words very carefully. Iran is not complying fully with its obligations. There are activities which could have a military context, and they must be clarified.

The fact that I have called Iran a "special case" does not mean that it has an atom bomb. But we cannot say that the same applies to Iran as to Brazil or Austria; it is a special case.

KURIER: The IAEA is at the focal point of international politics. Does not that make its task more difficult?

AMANO: The IAEA has many tasks, such as promoting the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. I try to emphasize these tasks in the media. People always call us the "nuclear watchdog", but that just does not cover all our activities. We also help cancer patients in Africa or Asia.

KURIER: The IAEA promotes the expansion of nuclear power - is that in keeping with the times?

AMANO: Every country and its people have the right to decide entirely for themselves about the civil application of atomic energy. I respect that right fully. But there are currently 60 countries with a major interest in using it.

That being so, should we simply look on, or should we help them make nuclear power safe? It is not our role to tell a country whether it should build nuclear power plants or not. However, if a country believes that nuclear power is a good way to meet its energy needs and mitigate climate change, then we are there to help it and to do it properly and safely.

Safety has improved greatly since the Chernobyl accident. I can say that with full conviction, but nothing is perfect. There is the problem of nuclear waste. But other technologies also have their weak points, as we have just seen in the Gulf of Mexico.

KURIER: Can the IAEA offer effective protection against nuclear terrorism?

We are assisting South Africa at present during the World Cup with nuclear security. When so many people congregate, it is dangerous if there is not good protection, so we are providing radiation detectors.

We have the world´s only data collection on illicit trafficking in radioactive material. We have trained 3000 people, and we have provided 8000 radiation detectors. That is a lot, but is it enough considering what is needed?

But we cannot do everything: it is the responsibility of the member States. They cannot simply sit and wait for us to do everything. With proper help from the IAEA, we can make this world safer.

* Old hand in the nuclear field: Yukiya Amano

Career diplomat: Born in 1947 in Japan, he has represented his country in numerous diplomatic missions. His postings have included Washington and Brussels.

Nuclear disarmament: However, Amano´s special interest was always nuclear disarmament. He was an influential participant in negotiations on important treaties such as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty or the renegotiation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. As of 2005, he represented Japan at the IAEA and ultimately, in 2009, became its Head.