WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Bush administration is scrutinizing intercepted telephone conversations that International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei had with Iranian diplomats in search of ammunition to oust him from his post, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
The newspaper said it showed the lengths to which some in the administration are going to try to replace a top international diplomat who questioned Washington’s actions in Iraq and on the Iran nuclear issue.
The report, sourced to three unnamed U.S. government officials, said the intercepts had produced no evidence of nefarious conduct by ElBaradei.
However, it said some within the administration believe the conversations show ElBaradei, the director general at the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog agency, lacks impartiality because he tried to help Iran to navigate a diplomatic crisis over its nuclear programs.
Others say the transcripts exhibit standard telephone diplomacy, the Post said.
A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on the Washington Post’s account, as did a spokeswoman for the State Department.
The United States accuses Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under cover of its atomic energy program. Iran denies the charge.
While Tehran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment activities last month under international pressure, it insists the suspension is temporary.
Diplomats say hard-liners in Washington think ElBaradei has not been tough enough on Iran.
The Washington Post said the White House lacks clear international support to block ElBaradei from winning a third term next summer. But it said several senior policy makers, who had requested anonymity, said the White House was searching for material to strengthen its case that ElBaradei should be retired.
The newspaper also said the United States had been canvassing for possible candidates to replace ElBaradei, but had yet to settle on one ahead of a December 31 deadline.