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Breakfast with Frost
Mohamed El-Baradei, director general, International Atomic Energy Authority, IAEA

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: And now as you heard in the news and we've been talking about, United Nations weapons inspectors have completed their fourth day of inspections in Iraq, a helicopter base north of Baghdad was the latest site they visited. By the end of this week Saddam Hussein must tell the UN whether or not he has any weapons of mass destruction hidden away but can we believe him whatever he says. It's the job of the UN team to discover the truth behind Saddam's claims, a very difficult job in a rather big country. And I'm joined now from Vienna by the man who's responsible for all of those inspections that are to do with the nuclear issue and Hans Blix of course does the, the various poisons area. Now Mohamed is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Authority, IAEA, you see it often as, Dr Baradei good morning.

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: Good morning Sir David.

DAVID FROST: Very good to have you with us. Before the war began you said, before the inspections began you said war is not imminent or inevitable and can be avoided by cooperation with inspectors, after the first few days is that coming to pass, coming true?

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: Sir David I think, I think we are off to a good start but we're still far from reaching a conclusion. So far we have been getting good Iraqi cooperation but it's a long road ahead of us and we still have, we're still waiting for the declaration that would come from Iraq on the 8th. We still have a lot of inspection to do so we are off to a good start but we are far from being able to reach a conclusion.

DAVID FROST: And in fact you have to reach a conclusion sooner than this, but someone said it would take a year for you to be absolutely sure that there were no nuclear weapons in Iraq, can you do it in the time you've got?

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: Yes, I think, I think we will be able to report progress as we go along but we are not keen to rush to a conclusion, it's a serious issue David and we'd like to take our time and I hope the world will bear with us as we go through this difficult task as you mentioned. I, we said before that it will take us probably around a year before we can come to a reasonable conclusion that Iraq does not possess the capability to have nuclear weapons.

DAVID FROST: And in fact are you expected where you go, are you able to go to places and surprise the Iraqis or is there always a notification system or does it always leak that you're on the way?

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: No there's absolutely no notification now, I think with the new Security Council Resolution we have an immediate unfettered access any where we go, yesterday for example we went to a machine tool factory, we went to another industrial complex that used to be producing centrifuge for, for weapons, no we are not giving any notice whatsoever and we insist to exercise our full rights.

DAVID FROST: If they come out on December the 8th with a report that they have no weapons of mass destruction, including no nuclear weapons whatever, or being manufactured, what will you say?

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: Well I hope they will come as clean as they can, I mean we impress on them, David, when we were in Iraq last week that they should really come clean. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for Iraq if it cooperates fully as I said, war could be avoided, the sanction could be suspended but if they don't come clean and if we discover that there are omissions there will be, as the Security Council says, grave consequences. I think they understand that, I hope they should come with a comprehensive declaration of all that they have. In any case once the declaration comes we will have to do a full inspection to check the voracity of that, of that declaration.

DAVID FROST: And in fact if they are, if they are trying but they failed with their nuclear weapons, does that count as illegal by UN standards, or if they fail, if they try but fail is that acceptable?

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: No it's not acceptable, I think they have, they have to provide us with full cooperation in all respects, they have to declare all what they have, what they have done in the past and to make sure that we have seen everything they have by way of developing a nuclear weapon. So they have to come clean on substance, they have to come clean on process by fully cooperating with us and providing us access also.

DAVID FROST: And since you're the expert, when we get this report on December the 8th, hopefully on December the 8th, who will judge the accuracy of it, you're in the best position to do so, or is it Kofi Annan or is it President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, who will decide whether they're lying or telling the truth?

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: Well I think it's our responsibility to check the declaration from the nuclear point of view and Hans Blix will do it from chemical, biological and missile. But a copy of the declaration will also go to the Security Council and I think we will be also looking for member states to tell us whether they see any inconsistency in that, in that declaration. But at the end of the day we are the one who have to go and do an inspection and discover if there are any discrepancies.

DAVID FROST: Is war closer than it was two weeks ago or not?

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: I hope not, I think as I said, I would very much like to avoid a war, war is not good for anybody but we have an important job to do and we have to do a thorough job. It really depends, David, on absolute 100 per cent Iraqi cooperation, so the ball is very much in the Iraqi court.

DAVID FROST: And so far in the nuclear area you haven't found anything guilty or recriminating in the first three or four days?

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: No we haven't.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much indeed for joining us, we really appreciate it.

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: Thank you Sir David.

DAVID FROST: And we look forward to welcoming you to our studio here when you're, when you're in London.

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI: Thank you for having me.

DAVID FROST: Thank you indeed. The official, the official word there from someone who is the most qualified to give it.


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