CAMBRIDGE - Before decrying nations that pursue defensive nuclear technology, the world first needs to examine the reasons behind their insecurities, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, said last night at Harvard.
The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and other countries that possess nuclear programs should move away from their nuclear defenses and by doing so, set a better example for Third World countries that fear being left behind, said ElBaradei, director general of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, speaks at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts November 1, 2005. ElBaradei spoke about nuclear non-proliferation and arms control. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
''What message are you sending to those in the minor leagues? 'You'd better join the big boys,' " the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said at a Kennedy School forum.
A frank discussion of global security can occur only if all nations follow their own commitments to the energy agency, he said. But some countries cheat by taking liberties. Although he did not mention any nations by name, Iran has been told by the United Nations to suspend all uranium enrichment activities, including uranium conversion, a key step in producing nuclear weapons.
They'll say '' 'I'm still kosher. I'm still within the treaty.' If we continue on that path, the security margin we have is almost fictional," he said.
ElBaradei, a 63-year-old lawyer from Egypt, and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency were awarded the peace prize for their work in encouraging the peaceful use of nuclear energy while working to prevent military use of such energy. ElBaradei was also recently selected to serve a third term as the head of the agency, a move the Bush administration at first vehemently opposed. In the run-up to the Iraq war, ElBaradei challenged Washington's assertion that Saddam Hussein had restarted his nuclear weapons program.
Graham Allison, director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, led the 90-minute discussion before about 600 students, faculty, and local residents.
ElBaradei lamented that his hands are tied when working with nations that aren't part of the UN treaties. And when asked about Israel's undeclared atomic arsenal, he replied that he has told leaders in the Middle East that peace cannot exist if anyone has a system that ''undermines the peace process."
That answer wasn't good enough for Mohamad Al-Ississ, 28, a Jordanian student working toward his master's in public administration, who expressed concern about what he perceives to be a double standard that the Western world applies to Israel.
''What message are we sending?" Al-Ississ said. ''That if you already have the weapons, you are above the law?"
ElBaradei also touched on the recent remark by Iran's president that Israel should be ''wiped off the map." He said he hoped the comment was ''huffing and puffing." ElBaradei said that he met with Iran's security director last week and that he believes Tehran is committed to curbing its enrichment activities.
''Yes, there is a security imbalance in the Middle East and it is not sustainable," ElBaradei said. ''It's a situation absolutely horrifying in many ways. You have mistrust, lack of government and security imbalances. I share your pain, and I assure you, I can do as much as I can."
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