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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 January, 2005, 12:47 GMT
Watchdog urges patience over Iran
International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei
Mohamed ElBaradei said North Korea was a more urgent threat
World leaders must not take rash action over Iran's nuclear programme, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, has said.

"We need to exhaust all possible diplomatic remedies before the international community can think of any other option," he told the BBC.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran is agreeing to inspections.

But the United States says Iran is using its energy programme to hide the development of nuclear weapons.

"It [the inspection process] takes time," Mr ElBaradei told BBC World Service radio.

"But as long as you're making progress, as long as you don't see any imminent threat and we don't see that today in Iran, I think we need to exhaust all possible diplomatic remedies before the international community can think of any other option."

'Greater threat'

France, Germany and the United Kingdom are trying to broker a deal under which Iran would stop producing nuclear fuel in return for political and economic incentives from the Europeans.

Speaking on the fringes of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Mr ElBaradei said that North Korea presented a more imminent threat of proliferation than Iran.

"To me, North Korea obviously is a much more serious issue right now... Unlike Iran we know for sure that they have the nuclear material that could go directly into a weapons programme," he said.

Multilateral talks on North Korea's nuclear programme have stalled.


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