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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 10:54 GMT
UN urges toughening nuclear rules
IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei
The IAEA wants the right to inspect all countries
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog has echoed President George W Bush's call for better international co-operation to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

Mohammed ElBaradei said quick action was needed to stop terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons.

"If the world does not change course, we risk self-destruction," Mr ElBaradei said in an editorial in the New York Times newspaper.

The comments follow a major scandal involving a top Pakistani scientist.

Overhaul need

Mr ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said there was a "sophisticated worldwide network that can deliver systems for producing material usable in weapons".

And there was also a high demand for them - by countries that perceive themselves to be vulnerable.

The 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) needed to be "tailored to fit 21st-Century realities," the IAEA head said.

Without threatening national sovereignty, we can toughen the non-proliferation regime
Mohammed ElBaradei
He supported President Bush's priority - outlined on Wednesday - to tighten controls over the export of nuclear material with a view to enacting "treaty-based controls" and criminalising "the acts of people who seek to assist others in proliferation".

But he also called for empowering his agency to allow it to carry out inspections in all countries, including the recognised nuclear powers sitting on the UN Security Council.

    Other proposals included:

  • Universalising the control system of exports

  • making the additional protocol that provides for snap inspections compulsory for all NPT members

  • not allowing countries to withdraw from the NPT - something North Korea has done recently

  • multinational control over nuclear fuels

  • "verifiable and irreversible" nuclear disarmament - in the footsteps of recent agreements between Russia and the US - starting with a major reduction in the 30,000 nuclear warheads still in existence.

Mr ElBaradei said proliferation stemmed from insecurity and urged the world to begin addressing its root causes.

North Korean spent nuclear fuel rods in Yongbyon
North Korea withdrew from the NPT and admitted developing nuclear weapons
Conflict areas - like the Middle East, South Asia and the Korean peninsula - could be expected to continue to seek weapons of mass destruction "as long as we fail to introduce alternatives that redress the security deficit".

Mr ElBaradei said the world must drop the idea that nuclear weapons are fine in the hands of some countries and bad in the hands of others - an implicit criticism of US plans to forge ahead with research into the so-called mini nukes.

"We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security - and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use," he said.

Bush seeks tougher nuclear curbs
12 Feb 04  |  Americas
Powell says nuclear ring broken
06 Feb 04  |  South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's nuclear shame
05 Feb 04  |  South Asia
Nuclear scandal still begs questions
05 Feb 04  |  South Asia
Profile: Abdul Qadeer Khan
23 Dec 03  |  South Asia
Q&A: North Korea's nuclear threat
03 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific

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