Aug 10, 2009

I should have screamed and howled louder: ElBaradei

The 67-year-old Egyptian is currently serving his third five-year tenure as head of the international nuclear watchdog, during which time he led UN nuclear inspectors in Iraq in the run-up to the US invasion in 2003.

In response to a reader question on what was the least satisfying moment of his career, ElBaradei pointed to the launch of the Iraq war.

‘[The US invasion] worked counter to our mandate because we continued to report to the Security Council that there was no evidence that Iraq had revived its nuclear weapons programme.’

‘Every time I see that hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives on the basis of fiction, not fact, it makes me shudder.’

Answering another question about any bad judgement calls he had made during his tenure, he added: ‘I should probably, before the Iraq war, have screamed and howled harder and louder to prevent people from misusing the information that was made available by us.’

ElBaradei also expressed doubts about whether Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, an issue repeatedly raised by the US government and its European allies.

In response to an Israeli reader’s query on whether his agency could have ‘done more’ to prevent the Iran from getting nuclear weapons, ElBaradei said there was no evidence that Iran was in the process of obtaining any:

‘We are not sure that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. The jury is still out. What we know is that there are still a number of questions that Iran needs to clarify.’

ElBaradei, a vocal proponent of nuclear disarmament, also praised US President Barack Obama during his replies to Time’s readers’ questions.

‘I fully support Barack Obama’s initiative to engage in a comprehensive dialogue to build trust,’ he said of recent US efforts to reengage with Iran.

He also chose Obama as one of the world leaders on the right track on nuclear policy.

‘Obama… is changing the conventional wisdom… saying that we have to have a security system that does not depend on nuclear weapons.’

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