Concerns stemming from the dangers of the proliferation of nuclear weapons underscore the importance of the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.
Such worries also highlight the need for universal adherence to the additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Mr. Ban said in his message to the start of the 53rd General Conference of the IAEA in Vienna.
That protocol is a set of safeguards aimed at boosting the agency’s ability to ensure that a State does not have undeclared nuclear material.
“I urge all parties to cooperate fully with the IAEA in resolving issues that might arise relating to safeguards agreements,” the Secretary-General said in the speech delivered by Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
He also called on the 25 non-nuclear-weapon States who are party to the NPT but have not signed on to the additional protocol to do so before next year’s NPT Review Conference.
“The IAEA has a strong foundation upon which to build,” Mr. Ban said. “It has expanded international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, while reducing the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism.”
He welcomed the incoming agency chief, Yukiya Amano, whose appointment was approved by the General Conference today, and hailed IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, who steps down in November, for his “many years of outstanding service to humanity and to international peace and security.”
In his address to today’s event, Mr. ElBaradei called for the IAEA to be given “increased authority and resources to implement a credible verification system and then trust in the validity, objectivity and impartiality of its assessments and conclusions.”
The agency cannot operate in a vacuum, he said, stressing its cooperation with the Security Council, which must rely not solely on sanctions but also on tackling nations’ insecurities that lie behind many instances of proliferation.
“As we – hopefully – move towards nuclear disarmament, States should expand and strengthen the agency’s verification mandate,” Mr. ElBaradei said in his last address to the General Conference as Director General. “Robust verification and transparency are a prerequisite for nuclear disarmament and other arms control measures.”
He also voiced hope that Iran will engage in a dialogue as soon as possible, as the media reported today that the country will kick off international talks early next month.
Last week, Mr. ElBaradei warned the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors that the agency has reached a deadlock with Iran over most aspects of its nuclear programme as he urged the country to credibly answer the international community’s concerns over potential military dimensions to the programme.
Although Iran had cooperated on some issues, such as improving safeguards at a fuel enrichment plant, “on all other issues, however, there is stalemate.
“Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities or its work on heavy water-related projects as required by the Security Council, nor has Iran implemented the additional protocol,” Mr. ElBaradei said.
He called on Iran “to respond fully to all the questions raised by the agency in order to exclude the possibility of there being military dimensions to its nuclear programme.”