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Head of International Atomic Energy Agency Warns of Nuclear Terrorism

VOA TV news report transcript

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is warning that the world faces the very real threat of nuclear terrorism. Speaking at a conference on nuclear security in Australia, Mohamed ElBaradei says more needs to be done to secure nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorist. VOA's Jim Bertel reports.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says the world faces a "race against time" to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack. Citing an extensive black market in nuclear and radioactive material, Mr. ElBaradei called on the international community to adopt measures to increase security of nuclear materials.

"We do not need to wait to see a kind of situation like 9/11 or Chernobyl for the international community to act. We need to have the foresight and to take preventative action."

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency points to the undeclared nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, and previous programs in Libya and Iraq, as clear evidence of the existence of an extensive illicit market for the supply of nuclear items.

A weekend announcement of a tentative agreement to freeze Iran's nuclear reprocessing activities is being welcomed by many at the conference as an important step in the international community's nonproliferation efforts. Mr. ElBaradei calls it a move in the right direction.

"I would hope that this would lead to the desired outcome which is Iran to suspend all its enrichment and reprocessing related activities and open the way for normalization of Iran's relations with the international community starting with Europe, which will deal with providing Iran with reactor technology, conventional technology, security assurance."

If approved, the deal between the European Union trio of Britain, Germany and France, and Iran, would be a major breakthrough after months of negotiations. The Europeans had warned Iran that they would back Washington's threat to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions unless it gives up all uranium enrichment activities before a November meeting of the I.A.E.A.

Iran's Foreign Minister Kamai Kharrazi said his country had agreed to the tentative deal to build confidence between Europe and Tehran, and hopes it will lead to further cooperation.

Iran's clerical leadership still must approve the deal.