The former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hans Blix, says it is in the international community's interest to see that Iran does not enrich nuclear materials that could be used for weapons. But, speaking in Washington, Blix said the United States and other nations should offer positive inducements to Tehran in addition to punitive measures.
Hans Blix says the United States and other nations have every reason to be concerned about Iran's recent decision to restart its nuclear enrichment program.
"It is important to induce Iran to forego enrichment," he said. "Starting enrichment now would bring them two years, perhaps, closer to the option of going for nuclear weapons. The lead-time would be shorter, and that would be a serious matter in terms of tensions in the Middle East. So I am decidedly in favor of seeking to induce them to stay away from it [enrichment]."
The former IAEA chief says Iran may insist it has the right to proceed with uranium enrichment, but the international community can pressure Iran to forego the option. Speaking at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Blix urged concerned nations like the United States to offer "carrots" to Tehran, in addition to "sticks" such as the threat of U.N. sanctions.
In this regard, Blix praised the Bush administration for suggesting last year that it might not oppose Iran's eventual membership in the World Trade Organization. But he says more needs to be done.
"What has been missing, I think, in this package has been the security aspects," he explained. "And I cannot help but compare the approach that has been taken with regard to North Korea and that which has been taken with Iran. In North Korea, as I read the media, they have been promised commitments for no attack either with conventional [arms] or nuclear means, and that there would be openings for diplomatic relations with the United States. We have seen nothing similar in the case of Iran."
For now, however, the Bush administration remains focused on a course that could lead to sanctions against Tehran. White House spokesman Scott McClellan reiterated the U.S. position Tuesday.
"We believe very strongly that the regime in Iran and its behavior need to be referred to the United Nations Security Council. That is what non-compliance calls for under the statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said. "So that is the first step. Right now we are focused on this first step. Then, when it gets to the Security Council, there would be additional discussions."
In his remarks, Hans Blix urged strengthening international inspection regimes when it comes to monitoring the activities of emerging nuclear powers.
Iran maintains its only nuclear aim is to meet its growing domestic energy needs.