Listen to the interview (about five minutes):
RFE/RL: The enrichment that Iran is doing right now is not illegal, but don't you think there should be some changes in the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA agreements?
Hans Blix: It would be desirable that Iran refrain from enrichment of uranium, because I think it will increase the tension. Iran maintains rightly that they have a right to enrich. One does not have to make use of all one's rights in the world if they bring disadvantages and if, on the other hand, abstaining from using them brings you advantages.
RFE/RL: What is it exactly what don't you like about the way West is handling this?
Blix: My criticism about the Western side is that I don’t think that they have sufficiently interesting offers. It’s true that the U.S. would go along with Iran coming into the World Trade Organization and a few other things, but on question of security, there’s been nothing. When I compare that to what has been offered to North Korea, I find it rather miserable. The Iranians may well be concerned about their security, having lots of U.S. troops in Iraq, bases in Pakistan, and they’re also getting foothold in the countries north of Iran and the NATO allay in Turkey to the West. And with all the talk about all weapons, all options, being on the table and with the regime changes that they’ve talked, I can see that the security would be a concern, and I think that the Iran should be offered about the same kind of things that North Korea has been offered.
RFE/RL: What do you suggest Iran should do at this point?
Blix: Well, I think they should go back to the talking table. Whether they do so in Vienna or they do it in New York doesn’t matter. The Security Council is used a bit as a threat. The Iranians don’t like it and for one thing, it would bring the U.S. to the table. They haven’t been there before. And it would also bring Russia and China to the table ,and that might be to the good. On the other hand, it is more the package than the forum that matters in my view.
RFE/RL: But you would suggest that Iran stop all enrichment-related activities?
Blix: I think it is desirable that they refrain from it and I think this is desirable that they should be well rewarded for it, in particular in terms of security. Also to move toward diplomatic relations -- the U.S. has not been talking to Iran for some 20 years. In the case of Korea, they’re offering, suggesting, there could be diplomatic relations, both with the United States and with Japan. This is not being proposed in the case of Iran.
RFE/RL: What’s your account of Russia’s proposal for making the final step of producing fuel? Do you think not taking the proposal by Iran would show that the country has other intentions besides producing fuel?
Blix: You see, I don’t think it matters very much at the present time whether Iran has peaceful intentions with the enrichment program or not. I would guess they’re divided among themselves. It is desirable that they refrain from it because if they start an enrichment capability, then the lead time to a bomb would be shorter if they change their mind. They may have peaceful intentions today, but they may change their minds. The lead time would be much shorter and therefore, I think it would be wise to abstain from it. Of course, they have the knowledge how to do it, but the lead time would be shorter.
From this point of view, the Russian proposal is good. They would have access, they would have owned the whole thing, but the Russians would be a guarantee that the enrichment level would not go beyond 4 percent and up to 84 or 90 percent.
RFE/RL: How about involving other countries, such as Arab countries?
Blix: I’m sure that Arab states are not at all amused by an Iranian capacity for a weapon, nor is anyone. The Chinese are not; the Russians, their neighbors, are not. So bringing the Chinese and the Russians in, I think, would be a good thing, just as we have them in in the negotiations with North Korea in Beijing
RFE/RL: Regarding Iran, do you see any similarities between now and before the Iraq war?
Blix: In some ways. I mean, they’re going to the Security Council, threatening with the council. The West is painting itself into a corner. They have said that Iran should refrain from all enrichment while they are negotiating, and now they cannot negotiate with them because Iran has resumed it. On the other hand, I think that Iran felt that the offers they were given were so miserable that this was not negotiation, and so they opted on their side. I can have some understanding for that, but this is part of the hyping, another propaganda war.
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SPEAKS: Listen to excerpts from a November 22 Radio Farda interview with Gregory Schulte, the U.S. representative on the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
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For RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program, click here.
An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.