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IAEA should return to Iraq as soon as possible, Security Council told

IAEA should return to Iraq as soon as possible, Security Council told

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog body told the Security Council today that the agency should restart its work in Iraq as quickly as possible and that it was waiting for new instructions for its return.

"The IAEA should resume its work in Iraq as soon as possible," Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement delivered on his behalf to an informal meeting of the Security Council on the weapons inspections process. During the session, the Council also heard from Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which was responsible for investigating Iraq's alleged biological, chemical and ballistic weapons programmes.

"The IAEA continues to be the sole organization with legal powers - derived from both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and successive Security Council resolutions - to verify Iraq's nuclear disarmament," Mr. ElBaradei said. "We await the guidance of the Council as to the modalities of our return."

Mr. ElBaradei further informed the Council that the IAEA had advised the coalition about the need for physical protection of the location of Iraq's declared nuclear material. He said the IAEA had also provided information about the location of radioactive sources, to enable safety and security measures to be taken.

Representing Mr. ElBaradei in the Council's consultations was Gustavo Zlauvinen, head of the IAEA's New York office, who also briefed the Council on the Agency's fifteenth report assessing nuclear disarmament in Iraq.

The report concludes that, as of 17 March, when IAEA inspectors left Iraq before the onset of military action, the Agency "had found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq."