Die Presse Interview with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (Excerpts)

June 25, 2010

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Yukiya Amano, the new Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, on the old favourite, Iran, and why nuclear power is nevertheless a good thing.

PRESSE: Have the UN's new Iran sanctions already affected cooperation between the IAEA and Tehran?

YUKIYA AMANO, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Let me say right off that Security Council resolutions have nothing to do with my mandate; after all, I am not on the Security Council. My task with respect to Iran is to implement its Safeguards Agreement (monitoring of nuclear facilities - ed.) and some of its other obligations. To date at least, I am not aware of any official position Iran may have taken regarding us. I only pick up now and again from the media that Iran is threatening to reduce cooperation with us in the event of sanctions. In any case, the monitoring of Iran´s nuclear facilities continues.

PRESSE: You may not have heard anything official, but have you not perhaps received signals that it might reduce its contacts?

AMANO: I have only seen that in the news, nowhere else.

PRESSE: But Tehran has just denied entry to two of your inspectors. Do you not see a connection with the sanctions?

AMANO: I do not know; Iran has not indicated as much. We published two reports in the spring, parts of which Iran maintains are inaccurate. (This related, among other things, to equipment for the production of metallic uranium which was alleged to have disappeared from a Tehran laboratory. - ed.) I trust our inspectors´ reports, but as a result Iran is now rejecting those same inspectors; the Iranians made no reference to the UN sanctions - that connection is purely speculative.

PRESSE: The IAEA has not yet taken a position on the recently concluded Turkish/Brazilian/Iranian nuclear agreement...

AMANO: At present I am still waiting for another response from Iran which, I hope, will come soon and be a good opportunity for dialogue. The whole issue has a long history, of course. Iran asked us in June 2009 for assistance in obtaining more highly enriched fuel for a research reactor; they wanted to buy it on the open market. (The reactor in Tehran uses it to produce isotopes used in medicine among other things, e.g. cancer therapy - ed.)

However, my predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, thought that that would not work and last October made his well known proposal: 1 200 kilos of low enriched uranium from Iran was to be enriched to roughly 20% (proportion of 235U - ed.) in Russia, then made into fuel elements in France, and then brought back to Iran. The deal looked like it would work, but it failed owing to lack of trust: the Iranians were simply afraid that their low enriched uranium would never come back.

Then, however, in May Brazil, Turkey and Iran issued a declaration which was similar in content, but in this case the uranium would go to Turkey. I passed Iran´s letter on this matter on to the USA, Russia and France; they sent us letters on 9 June with questions for Iran, which we passed on to Tehran, and there has been no answer as yet.

The full extent of my role in this matter is just to help Iran get nuclear fuel. In doing this I remain non-partisan and proffer my good offices.

PRESSE: Will Iranian patients now have to wait until all this letter-writing is over before there is again nuclear material for their treatment?

AMANO: Well, first of all, the Iranians have some stocks. Secondly, they can produce it themselves from their own uranium. Thirdly, they could import the radioisotopes.

PRESSE: Under what circumstances could there still be a deal on this?

AMANO: We must wait for Iran's response to the objections and positions of all the other parties. A deal is possible, but probably no longer along the lines of the model of last October.

PRESSE: Your predecessor, ElBaradei, said in an interview that he saw no direct nuclear threat from Iran, but you recently spoke of a "military dimension" to Iran's nuclear programme. How do we reconcile that? Also, when you took office as Head of the IAEA in December, you claimed to have seen "no evidence" of a military nuclear programme, but now you speak of "possible current military activities". Why this change of opinion?

AMANO: I find the whole thing somewhat unfortunate. I cannot remember ElBaradei ever saying that Iran had a nuclear weapons programme, nor have I ever seen any such thing in an official IAEA document. My view on this has also not changed; I have never said that Iran is a threat or has such a programme. What I wrote in the reports is that Iran is not complying fully with its Safeguards Agreement and other obligations, and that there are some activities which could have military aspects, which we would like to clarify. So there are concerns, but no clear knowledge.

PRESSE: So you are still casting around in the realm of possibilities, but that seems to be enough for you to call Iran a "special case"...

AMANO: "Special case" does not mean that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme. There are various reasons why Iran is "special". For instance, because there is a Safeguards Agreement with Iran but no Additional Protocol (it facilitates inspections of nuclear facilities - ed.). Then, the country is under UN sanctions. It is not fulfilling certain other obligations. Then there is the suspicion of military ramifications. All this makes Iran different from Japan, Brazil or Austria - hence the "special case". By the way, the circumstances giving rise to suspicion already figured in previous IAEA reports.

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