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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 13:54 GMT
Mohamed El Baradei
Mohamed El Baradei
The Head of the United Nations organisation charged with stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons had an upbeat message about Iran: progress was being made.

Mohamed El Baradei has to report on the state of world nuclear security. Since his last report, there've been astonishing revelations from the man behind Pakistan's attempts to build a nuclear device.

Our Diplomatic Editor, Mark Urban, went to see Mr El Baradei to talk about his concerns.

MARK URBAN:
For the past two months there have been weekly revelations about the Pakistan connection in nuclear proliferation. AQ Khan and other scientists have been interrogated about a series of discoveries which demonstrates the biggest leakage of nuclear know-how for decades. From his base in Pakistan, Dr Khan directed a shipping operation in the Emirates. They sent centrifuge parts capable of enriching uranium to weapons grade to Iran. Last month, the IAEA discovered a more advanced centrifuge plant, showing traces of uranium, one that the Iranians had not previously owned up to. Khan's operations also sold Libya centrifuge technology, as well as atomic bomb designs and almost two tons of uranium. Investigations have shown that the Libyan and Iranian plant was made in Malaysia to Khan's specifications. Investigators are now looking for evidence of shipment to other countries. There are already indications that North Korea was receiving assistance too, leaving a host of unanswered questions. This issue has provoked an unprecedented challenge for the world's nuclear policemen, the IAEA. Next week, their board will meet to consider how they should respond to the latest discoveries in Iran and Pakistan. You have talked about discrepancies and unanswered questions in the case of Iran. What do you want them to do now?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI
DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY:

Frankly, I want them to give me every bits and pieces of their nuclear programme, including all of the R and D they have done in the past, all their activities. I need to have a comprehensive, complete, accurate picture. We have got a lot, I must say. Iran has been co-operating post last October, since they decided to come clean, according to their statement. But, I was a bit disturbed by the fact that some R and D activities have not been declared to us as part of their declaration. I'm emphasising to them that to build confidence, you need to be proactive. You need to give me prompt, detailed information of all what you have done.

MARK URBAN:
When you make discoveries, like these unwelcome discoveries you made there, does that in your mind, cast doubt about whether they are talking to you in good faith?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
It, of course, raises the question, is there anything else they haven't discovered? That is not helpful neither to them or to us. Then we start the process all over again. I told them that, I trust, I hope that this was the last time that something would come trickling down again, from their past activities. Large or small, it is important they declare everything to build the confidence.

MARK URBAN:
The Pakistanis have had a big investigation, looking at their scientists and what they may or may not have been doing. Have they been passing the results to you?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
The Pakistanis have been co-operating well, I should say. They have been briefing us on the result of their investigations. We still need lots more information from the Pakistanis. As you know, there is this question of contamination of imports in Iran. I would like to know whether the contamination of equipment is a result of enrichment in Pakistan or a result of enrichment in Iran. That is a crucial question. That raises the question is there any undeclared activities in Iran? What we have discovered is not that the whole lot is coming from Pakistan. AQ Khan, as we have learnt, has been the chairman of the board if you like. But he has been delegating. Lots of manufacturing, lots of equipment procurement in different parts of the world. Not necessarily that everything that has come to Iran has been manufactured in Pakistan, but probably has been co-ordinated.

MARK URBAN:
What do you make of this? A couple years ago, would you have conceived that proliferation activities on this scale would have been going on?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
I would not have conceived that. I think it's coming as a total shock to pretty much everyone. We have heard there is some underground efforts to procure equipment, to elicit drafting some nuclear material from the former Soviet Union, but it is beyond anyone's imagination, at least beyond mine, that such a sophisticated, complex network of black market in nuclear equipment, in nuclear facilities, even bomb design, has been going on underground.

MARK URBAN:
Is there anyone else we don't know about? There is North Korea, Libya, Iran. We hear he offered assistance to Iraq, but was refused in the '90s. Is there any other country that they were dealing with?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
This is the million dollar question and it's a very important question in fact because we worry, I worry whether any other countries have got the equipment, have got the knowledge, the design. That is really a major part of our focus right now, trying to work with the Libyans, with the Pakistanis, the Iranians, to see whether anything else, any similar equipment has trickled to any other country.

MARK URBAN:
What is the answer to the million dollar question in your mind at this particular point?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
It is still an open question. We know that AQ Khan has not just been working for money. There is an ideology involved. We need to understand the motivations, we need to understand and try again to put some pieces and put some pieces of puzzle together, to see whether any country have gotten that. We have been sending the message around. If any of you have any of this equipment or knowledge, it's better to declare it to us at this point.

MARK URBAN:
How difficult does it make your job that some of these people involved with the Pakistan connection, could just say they were involved in a legitimate business, supplying precision engineering or electronics?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
It is an absolutely major loophole in the system of export control that many of these people can say exactly that this is a legitimate business. We are doing precision engineering. We are manufacturing part of centrifuges. There is nothing illegal about it. But I think that is one of the lessons we learned. We need national laws to criminalise any effort by any individuals or companies that aim to illicitly traffic in equipment or material that could lead to nuclear weapon proliferation.

MARK URBAN:
Do you think that Libya had a nuclear weapons programme. Would you characterise it in that way?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
I think Libya was in the preparatory stage of developing a capability that would move it to acquire a nuclear weapon. It was a matter of time as I have always said. It was not there yet. Most of the know-how was still in boxes. There was still lots of work to be done. Given the capability they acquired from outside, I think it was a matter of time before they could have acquired a nuclear bomb. North Korea however is a different ball game because North Korea has been quite advanced in fact in the past even before any assistance from Mr Khan. They had a processing plant, they had, they have the capability to produce plutonium, if they haven't done it already. They have been operating without any international oversight for a couple of years now. I have always said that North Korea is my number one, non-proliferation concern.

MARK URBAN:
Do you think the invasion of Iraq empowered your work in Iran or Libya?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
I think it empowered my work in some sense. It showed an inspection was working in Iraq, that we managed to disarm Iraq through an inspection. It empowered my work by telling people you should give me more time to complete my job. You need to be patient. These things take time. In that sense, it also empowered my work because people are taking verification very seriously, they know that this could make the difference between war and peace.

MARK URBAN:
So to some extent, they have been intimidated, those regimes or not do you think?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
I think maybe a positive message that came out of Iraq, that the international community will not tolerate proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and in that sense it helps me of course with my work.

MARK URBAN:
Does make to difference to you if you are being bugged as well?

MOHAMED EL BARADEI:
I think I work on the assumption that I am being bugged. It doesn't make you feel good because it is an invasion of privacy. It also sends a cynical message frankly that some people are more equal than others. Some can bug you and get an advantage over others. If we really need multinational work to proceed effectively, you need have to have a level playing field.

MARK URBAN:
Dr Baradei, thank you very much.

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.



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