AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – The world should be more worried about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists than about Iran’s nuclear program, the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency said Friday.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said there is no military solution to the standoff with Iran over its determination to continue its uranium enrichment program.
ElBaradei, who spoke Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said he was “for the first time somewhat optimistic” that the Iran standoff can be resolved.
“I think everybody understands that we need to exhaust every possible route to find a diplomatic solution,” he said.
But he said the risk that terrorists could acquire a nuclear weapon was of greater concern.
“Terrorists are a different thing,” he told the Dutch television program Netwerk. “The fear of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons is much more, in my view … than a country acquiring nuclear weapons right now,” he said.
ElBaradei said the international community needed a collective security system that does not have an exclusive nuclear club, “a system where every country feels secure.”
Otherwise, he said, “we are going to see proliferation of nuclear weapons.”
U.N. Security Council members agreed this week to postpone a tough resolution against Iran, giving Tehran another two weeks to reassess its insistence on developing its uranium enrichment capabilities.
Britain, France and Germany were working up a new package of incentives and sanctions to present to Iran, in a move applauded by the IAEA chief.
The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran says it aims only to generate energy and charges that the West is guilty of “double standards.”