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U.S.: El-Baradei Receives U.S. Backing For A Third Term

  • Robert McMahon --> El-Baradei Washington, 10 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. government has changed course and says it is prepared to support the chief of the UN's nuclear agency, Mohammad el-Baradei, for a third term in an upcoming election.

A State Department spokesman said Washington would support the international consensus, which heavily favors el-Baradei. The decision was announced after a meeting yesterday between el-Baradei and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which both sides stressed concerns over Iran's nuclear program and the need to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack yesterday described the nuclear agency as "serious in its work" and committed to making sure Iran abides by its nonproliferation commitments.

He said the meeting yesterday between Rice and el-Baradei found some common ground on the issue of Iran. Afterward, McCormack repeated Bush administration concerns that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

"We have had suspicions about Iranian behavior concerning their nuclear activities for quite some time so that's where the discussion and focus should be and that's where our focus is as well as - and I think it's safe to say -- the focus of the IEAE as well," McCormack said.

Some in the Bush administration had reportedly opposed el-Baradei's candidacy because of a belief he was too soft on Iran. Iran says it wants only a peaceful nuclear program but it conducted tests in secret for a number of years.

Asked about previous U.S. opposition to the IAEA chief, McCormack said it was mainly due to the principle of limiting the leadership post to two terms.

"We believe that (the term limit) leads to a healthy UN system but I would add that we expect when the vote comes up in the (IAEA) board of governors on this issue that we will join the consensus," McCormack said.

The United States is currently relying on the diplomatic efforts of Germany, France, and Britain to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear-fuel-enrichment programs.
Some in the Bush administration had reportedly opposed el-Baradei's candidacy because of a belief he was too soft on Iran.

The United States and IAEA have also discussed improving the regime governing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to avoid situations where states are able to legally get close to making atomic weapons.

Rice and el-Baradei expressed support in their meeting for stressing the importance of the Optional Protocol to the NPT. That measure would give the IAEA the right to conduct more intrusive inspections of nuclear activities in all countries.

"They both expressed their conviction to make the additional protocol the verification standard under the NPT and underscored the urgency of halting the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology," McCormack said.

IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky told RFE/RL that el-Baradei and Rice had a "good discussion" on improving verification of nonproliferation. He said Iran remains a focus of the agency.

"Both sides agree that it's an important issue to resolve," Gwozdecky said. "Certainly from the IAEA's point of view, Iran has been a major project for us for several years now. We're been working very, very rigorously in trying to verify everything about Iran's nuclear program."

The board of the IAEA is due to discuss Iran and other matters at a meeting in Vienna on 13 June.

(Radio Farda's Fatemeh Aman contributed to this report)