No Evidence Iran
Building Nuclear Weapons : Mohamed ElBaradei
By The Associated Press
-- -- WASHINGTON: The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said
Sunday he had no evidence Iran was working actively to build
nuclear weapons and expressed concern that escalating rhetoric
from the U.S. could bring disaster.
"We have information that there has been maybe some studies
about possible weaponization," said Mohamed ElBaradei, who leads
the International Atomic Energy Agency. "That's why we have said
that we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is
still a lot of question marks."
"But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can
readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active
weaponization program? No." U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice accused Iran this month of "lying" about the aim of its
nuclear program. She said there is no doubt Tehran wants the
capability to produce nuclear weapons and has deceived the IAEA
about its intentions.
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has raised the prospect of
"serious consequences" if Iran were found to be working toward
developing a nuclear weapon. Last week, the Bush administration
announced harsh penalties against the Iranian military and
state-owned banking systems in hopes of raising pressure on the
world financial system to cut ties with Tehran.
ElBaradei said he was worried about the growing rhetoric from
the U.S., which he noted focused on Iran's alleged intentions to
build a nuclear weapon rather than evidence the country was
actively doing so. If there is actual evidence, ElBaradei said
he would welcome seeing it.
"I'm very much concerned about confrontation, building
confrontation, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster.
I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through
negotiation and inspection," he said.
"My fear is that if we continue to escalate from both sides that
we will end up into a precipice, we will end up into an abyss.
As I said, the Middle East is in a total mess, to say the least.
And we cannot add fuel to the fire," ElBaradei added.
Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed
Services Committee, agreed that the current "hot rhetoric" from
the U.S. could prove dangerous.
"We ought to make it clear that there's always a military option
if Iran goes nuclear, but that we ought to just speak more
softly because these hot words that are coming out of the
administration, this hot rhetoric plays right into the hands of
the fanatics in Iran," said Levin.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republcian, said strong action might
be needed because he does not believe the United Nations has
adequately kept Iran in check.
"I think the United Nations' efforts to sanction Iran have been
pitiful because of Russia and China vetoing a resolution. The
European Union has some sanctions. They're fairly weak."
"So in this regard, I agree with the following, that the
diplomatic efforts to control Iran need to continue. They need
to be more robust but we're sending mixed signals," Graham said.
ElBaradei spoke on CNN's "Late Edition," and Levin and Graham
appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation."
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