Accessibility links

Top UN Nuclear Official Optimistic About North Korea, Iran


The head of the United Nation's nuclear watchdog agency says he believes the international community's nuclear disagreements with North Korea and Iran can be resolved through dialogue, not confrontation.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, says he believes there is no other way to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis than through dialogue.

Six-party talks are important tool

He said the so-called six-party talks, which include the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, are the main negotiating mechanism. He says his agency has only been doing what he described as "ad-hoc verification" in North Korea.

Pyongyang recently announced it is pulling out of the six-party talks, and sent away IAEA inspectors who were there to monitor the North Korean nuclear program.

ElBaradei called the current stalemate an "unfortunate impasse," which he told reporters in Beijing he hopes will be brief. He referred to North Korea by its official initials, DPRK.

"Maybe we will have to go through a period of confrontation, if you like, but I hope that that will be short and that the six-party talks will be again resumed, and hopefully the IAEA will be able to go back and do, not just partial inspection, but full inspection in the DPRK," ElBaradei said.

IAEA chief optimistic about future talks

ElBaradei said his optimism that talks will eventually resume is based on what he described as the "new environment" surrounding nuclear weapons, where dialogue is emphasized over confrontation.

He especially pointed to comments made recently by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev that both countries are set to discuss further reductions in their nuclear arsenals.

"Another thing which I would like to repeat from President Obama, is he made it very clear, the relationship between non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament," he said. "And he said that we will not have the moral authority, the weapons states, to go after non-nuclear weapons states unless we ourselves take the necessary steps to move toward nuclear disarmament."

Policy shift also affects Iran

The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said this change of approach is also having an effect on international efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis in Iran.

"The United States is reaching out, stretching its hand to Iran," said ElBaradei. "And I have been telling my Iranian colleagues that you have to reciprocate and also stretch your hand."

ElBaradei said he sees what he called a "new opportunity right now to resolve the Iranian issue," which he said could lead to the overall normalization of relations between Iran and the rest of the international community.

The IAEA chief spoke on the sidelines of a three-day ministerial-level conference on the global future of nuclear energy.

XS
SM
MD
LG