UNITED NATIONS -- The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Muhammad el-Baradei, has urged Iran to respond quickly to a nuclear-fuel-enrichment offer proposed by the United States, Russia, and France.
Speaking on November 2, el-Baradei told the United Nations' General Assembly that the UN-drafted plan gives Tehran a chance to "build confidence and trust."
Under the proposal, Iran would send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad for further processing and packaging into nuclear fuel rods for a Tehran research reactor. The plan seeks to reduce Iran's enriched uranium stockpile in order to prevent it from being turned into highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
In his last public speech as head of the UN nuclear agency, el-Baradei reminded the world body of the perils of using force in the nuclear verification process.
He cited as an example the war in Iraq which was launched by the United States in 2003 on the false premise that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction.
"Force should never be used unless every other option has been exhausted, and then only within the bounds of the international law as codified in the United Nations Security Council," el-Baradei said.
He said the IAEA's "difficult and painstaking" work had given the UN a better understanding of Iran´s civil nuclear program since it first became aware of its existence in 2003.
But he added that "a number of questions and allegations relevant to the nature of that program are still outstanding and need to be clarified by Iran through transparency and cooperation with the agency."
In this final UN appearance, el-Baradei said that the international community's concerns about Iran's intentions can be alleviated with confidence-building measures, which requires dialogue.
"I therefore urge Iran to be as forthcoming as possible in responding soon to my recent proposal, based on the initiative of the United States, Russia, and France, which aimed to engage Iran in a series of measures that could build confidence and trust and open the way for comprehensive and substantive dialogue between Iran and the international community," he said.
Building trust and confidence, el-Baradei said, is an incremental process that requires focusing on the big picture and a willingness to take risks for peace. He said the world has a unique and fleeting opportunity to reverse course from confrontation to cooperation.
"The agency cannot do its nuclear verification work in isolation. It depends on a supportive political process, with the Security Council at its core. The council needs to develop an effective, comprehensive compliance mechanism that does not rely only on sanctions, which too often hurt the vulnerable and the innocent."
Iran Wants More Time
Speaking in Moscow after talks with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the Kremlin and Britain also want a quick response to the proposal.
"We both want to see a prompt response from the Iranian regime in respect of the Tehran research reactor proposal," he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said Tehran wants a technical committee to review the proposal and said Iran conveyed its request to the IAEA over the weekend.
Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said Iran wants more talks and guarantees. But he said Iran would rather purchase nuclear fuel from abroad for the research reactor instead of shipping its own low-enriched uranium abroad.
Soltanieh did not say whether that was Tehran's final response to the proposal.