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Head of UN atomic energy agency says new inspections are needed in Iraq

Head of UN atomic energy agency says new inspections are needed in Iraq

The Director-General of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been unable to conduct inspections in Iraq since 1998, today said a new probe is needed to determine whether Baghdad is developing nuclear arms.

Addressing the Agency's General Conference in Vienna today, Mohamed ElBaradei said that the IAEA "has been unable to draw any conclusion or provide any assurance regarding Iraq's compliance with its obligations under the Security Council resolutions" since its last visit nearly four years ago. "Resumption of inspections is therefore a crucial step towards providing assurance to the international community that Iraq's nuclear weapons program has been neutralized and is not being revived."

On the subject of the IAEA's Safeguards Agreement with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mr. ElBaradei said the work required to verify the correctness and completeness of the country's initial declaration could take three or four years.

Looking to the broader context, Mr. ElBaradei called for strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and pointed out that the threat of nuclear terrorism persists. " One year after the terrorist attacks in the United States, we have moved rapidly to respond with a plan of enhanced and new activities to upgrade nuclear security worldwide," he said, cautioning that "much more, however, clearly needs to be done."

The IAEA chief also called for an expanded push to protect nuclear facilities against attack, sabotage or theft. "The focus of these efforts must be expanded to cover other nuclear facilities, including research installations that also have nuclear and other radioactive material," he said. "We also have a significant short-term priority in working to bring radioactive sources under appropriate control, whether in use, storage, orphaned or in transport."

In a message to the meeting, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed that "effective measures are needed to reduce the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists." He urged the IAEA to continue its initiatives to safeguard nuclear material against non-peaceful uses, ensure the security of nuclear facilities, and prevent the illicit trafficking of nuclear material and radiation sources.