27 January 2003 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has so far found no evidence that Iraq has revived the nuclear weapons programme it had eliminated in the 1990s, the head of the UN agency told the Security Council today, while stressing that more time was needed for a conclusive assessment.
"With our verification system now in place, barring exceptional circumstances, and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq, we should be able within the next few months to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme," Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA Director-General said in a briefing on the first 60 days of the Agency's activities in Iraq since inspections restarted after a nearly four-year hiatus.
"These few months would be a valuable investment in peace because they could help us avoid a war," he added.
Over the first two months of inspection, the IAEA, which is responsible for investigating Iraq's nuclear programme, has carried out a total of 139 inspections at some 106 locations, the bulk of which have taken place at State-run or private industrial facilities, research centres and universities, Mr. ElBaradei reported.
Those inspections have focused primarily on Iraq's attempts to procure high-strength aluminium tubes, and the question of whether these tubes could be used for the manufacture of nuclear centrifuges, Mr. ElBaradei said, noting that Iraqi authorities have indicated that their unsuccessful attempts to procure the aluminium tubes related to a programme to reverse engineer conventional rockets.
"From our analysis to date, it appears that the aluminium tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and, unless modified, would not be suitable for manufacturing centrifuges; however, we are still investigating this issue," Mr. ElBaradei said.
The IAEA has also focused its probe on how certain other "dual use" materials - those that could be used in nuclear weapons production but also have other legitimate uses - have been relocated or used. As for reports of Iraqi efforts to import uranium after 1991, the Iraqi authorities have denied any such attempts, Mr. ElBaradei said, adding that the Agency would continue to pursue this issue since it currently did not have enough information.
Although the Iraqi side has been cooperative throughout the inspections process, Mr. ElBaradei stressed it was important for Baghdad to shift to more "proactive support" by voluntarily "providing documentation, people and other evidence that will assist in filling in the remaining gaps in our information."
Citing as an example the discovery of a sizeable number of documents, some of which were classified, during an inspection of a private residence two weeks ago, Mr. ElBaradei said this was one area in which Iraq could be more helpful. "It is urgent and essential, therefore, that Iraq, on its own initiative, identify and provide any additional evidence that would assist the inspectors in carrying out their mandate," he said. "This proactive engagement on the part of Iraq would be in its own best interest and is a window of opportunity that may not remain open for very much longer."
Mr. ElBaradei also urged Baghdad to make every effort to be fully transparent, with a demonstrated willingness to resolve issues rather than requiring pressure to do so. "The international community will not be satisfied when questions remain open with regard to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction; the world is asking for a high level of assurance that Iraq is completely free from all such weapons, and is already impatient to receive it," he said.