Press Statement by Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Activities in Iran

August 9, 2005

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Director General Mohamed ElBaradei briefed the press on the Agency´s verification work in Iran, before the opening of a special session of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna today. Following is an unofficial transcript of his remarks.

The Board is meeting this afternoon to consider my latest report on resumption of activities at the Esfahan conversion facility. As you recall the Board has clearly stated in the past that although suspension of enrichment related and conversion activities in the Islamic Republic of Iran is a voluntary decision, none the less it is essential for confidence building and for resolution of outstanding issues relevant to Iran´s past undeclared nuclear activities.

I have reported to the Board that yesterday Iran started to introduce feed material into the conversion plant, essentially, unravelling the suspension with respect to the Esfahan Nuclear facility. I will deliberate with the Board and see how the Board would react to that.

I would hope that this is simply a "hic-up" in the process and not a permanent rupture. We have made very good progress in the last couple of years with regard to verifying Iran´s past nuclear activities and I will report to the Board next month on progress made on this issue.

We have also, the international community, made good progress in the effort to create confidence in the relationship between Iran and the international community. This was primarily through the negotiation between the European 3, on behalf of the European Union and Iran. This has been going on well. The proposal has been submitted to Iran a couple of days ago. You have seen that the Iranians are not happy with that proposal, but my appeal to all parties is to understand that this process is aimed to normalize a relationship that has been strained for the last quarter of a century.

It will take time to build up confidence, establish normal relationships with Europe and ultimately with the United States. The flash point, or the main point of contention in that proposal as I understand is the right of Iran to maintain fuel cycle activities. This is particularly the enrichment and reprocessing activities. This is an issue which goes much beyond Iran. As you again recall that I have been calling attention to the danger of disseminating fuel cycle activities around the world, because that brings us very close to the capability to develop nuclear weapons and I have been asking for a new framework for managing nuclear energy by which countries would have the right to have nuclear energy to generate electricity and other applications, but not necessarily to move forward on a national basis to have fuel cycle activities.

I have been discussing and consulting with many Member States to develop what we call assurance of supply scheme by which countries will have reactor technology and the fuel they need and not necessarily sit on enrichment facilities or reprocessing facilities. That could be, may be organized on a region basis or multilateral basis. However, this continues to be the sticking point in the negotiation, but the European offer is made on the assumption that this is an offer to be responded to by Iran.

They are supposed to meet again by the end of August at the Steering Committee. They are also supposed to meet in September in New York in the margin of the Summit Meeting in New York.

I call on all parties to continue the negotiating process. I don´t believe that any of these issues can be resolved outside the negotiating process. Confidence building is a long-term process and requires a dialogue and I would request all parties to exercise maximum restraint, to desist from taking any unilateral action and to try to go back to where we were a week ago, basically, continue to work with the Agency to clarify outstanding verification issues and continue to work with Europe on a long-term framework agreement by which Iran´s relationship with the West will be normalized. This is good for Iran, this is good for regional security and this is good for the international community.

Q: Would you think that a diplomatic forum for Iran be useful or hurt...

A: Rather I would defer that to the Board. I think, as I understand the Board would request Iran to reconsider its decision to unravel part of the suspension. This is clearly an issue, which is being now negotiated here. I believe that the Board will take a day or two before they come to a decision on that issue. And the important thing for me, at the end of the day, is to go back to the negotiating process and to avoid any escalation of the situation which in my view would be a lose-lose situation.

Q: Dr. ElBaradei, you are warning all parties against any unilateral steps here. Do you regard yesterday´s events at Esfahan as a unilateral step?

A: I think the decision by Iran to restart Esfahan despite the request by the Board to sustain a full suspension, is of course is a unilateral step. I understand that there is sense of frustration in Iran but as I said, negotiation of long-term arrangements is a complex long-term process. It has an implication for peace and security and I would hope that Iran, as I was assured they will, will continue to negotiate rather than take unilateral action, go back to the negotiating table with a counterproposal and let´s try to see the way forward.

Thank you very much.