IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei today spoke to the press about Iran´s nuclear programme, saying the next few months were "crucial" and that " diplomacy and negotiation" provided the only durable solution. His comments came at the end of the IAEA Board of Governors meeting taking place this week at the Agency´s Vienna headquarters.
Dr. ElBaradei told reporters he was "increasingly disturbed" by an increase in Iran´s knowledge and capacity to enrich uranium and the decrease in the IAEA´s ability to clarify the nature of that programme.
"We see Iran speeding up its enrichment capacity," he said. He said he saw the next few months as crucial. "The earlier we move, now, the more we have a chance to find a negotiated solution. The longer we delay, the less options we have to find a negotiated, peaceful resolution."
Dr. ElBaradei called on Iran to adopt a self-imposed moratorium on its enrichment programme. "It would be a good confidence-building measure if Iran has a self-imposed moratorium on the level, on the number of centrifuges being built," he said. "There is no power reactor operating now in Iran. Bushehr is going to get its fuel through Russia. There is no urgency in building capacity right now... I think that could be a first step toward a ´time-out´ or ´freeze for freeze´."
He explained this would mean that "Iran would take ´time out´ from enrichment as called for by the Security Council, and the Security Council would take ´time out´ from the sanctions, and just get back to where everybody needs to be - around a negotiating table". Dr. ElBaradei first proposed the "time out" idea in January.
In a statement to the IAEA´s Board of Governors at the start of the week, the Director General said that Iran had continued to provide the Agency with access to its nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz. However, he said the IAEA was unable to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in Iran.
The Director General also told reporters that the Board had not adopted the IAEA´s budget for 2008/2009, which proposed a 2% increase. Dr. ElBaradei said that there was a "gradual erosion" of the IAEA´s ability to perform critic functions. He expressed concern that financial problems come at a time when the IAEA increasingly is asked to perform functions that are directly relevant to international peace and security and to make judgements that directly relate to decisions on war and peace. Without sufficient resources, he cautioned, "I will not be able to certify that we are able to do the critical functions we are expected to perform."