El-Baradei's annual report to the UN General Assembly yesterday noted progress in understanding the nature of Iran's program, after the government had initially provided "changing and contradictory" information. But he cited some reversals in Iran's pledge to suspend uranium-enrichment activities.
"I have continued to stress to Iran that in light of serious international concerns surrounding its nuclear program, it should do its utmost to build confidence through these voluntary measures. I have also asked Iran to pursue a policy of maximum transparency so that we can bring outstanding issues to resolution and over time provide the required assurance to the international community," el-Baradei said.
One day earlier, Iranian lawmakers unanimously approved the outline of a bill that would force the government to resume the process of uranium enrichment.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hussein Musavian, has said a compromise is still possible in negotiations with three European states offering to provide fuel for Iran's planned power plants.
The IAEA's board of governors meets on 25 November to discuss Iran's program and could refer the matter to the UN Security Council for action.
The same process used in producing fuel for nuclear power plants can be used to make nuclear weapons. IAEA inspectors have not found clear evidence that Iran is trying to make atomic bombs but have come across research potentially linked to weapons-related activities.
Iran's deputy UN ambassador, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, told the General Assembly that his government has an inalienable right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful uses. But he said Iran is committed to its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
"Nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's defense doctrine, not only because of our religious convictions and obligations under the NPT and other relevant conventions, but in fact because of sovereign strategic calculations," Danesh-Yazdi said.
In his report to the assembly, el-Baradei also said a settlement of the North Korean crisis must involve its return to the NPT. And he expressed hope that the UN Security Council will allow his agency to resume monitoring sensitive sites in Iraq as soon as security permits. He said the agency is satisfied so far with the information provided by Libya about its nuclear program but that further investigation is still needed.
The disturbing lesson to emerge from the IAEA's work in Iran and Libya, el-Baradei said, is the existence of an extensive illicit market for the supply of nuclear items -- a market driven by heavy demand. He said present export-control systems are clearly inadequate to counter the spread of nuclear technology, which is increasingly accessible.
"The technical barriers to mastering the essential steps of uranium enrichment and to designing weapons for that matter have eroded over time, which inevitably leads to the conclusion that the control of technology in and of itself is not a sufficient barrier against further proliferation. This also leads to the important conclusion that ways and means should be found to better control the sensitive part of the fuel cycle -- namely the production of enriched uranium and the reprocessing of plutonium," el-Baradei said.
One country of chief concern in trafficking nuclear technology, Pakistan, has sought to calm fears about proliferation from its territory.
Pakistan's UN ambassador, Munir Akram, told the General Assembly its seriousness is underlined by the recent move by parliament to toughen export controls dealing with nuclear and biological weapons. "Salient elements of our new law include prohibition of diversion of controlled goods and technologies, including reexport, trans-shipment and transit, licensing and record keeping, export-control lists, and penal provisions of up to 14 years' imprisonment and a fine of at least 5 million [rupees, about $82,000]," he said. "We are confident there will be no proliferation of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] from Pakistan."
Pakistan has refused to let the IAEA interview scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. He admitted earlier this year to sharing nuclear technology with Iran, Libya, and North Korea.