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Paul C. Warnke Lecture on International Security: A World Free of Nuclear Weapons: Illusion or Possibility

Speaker: Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency
Presider: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
November 4, 2009

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Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) speaking at the New York office of the Council on Foreign Relations on November 4, discussed ongoing negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program. ElBaradei reiterated that the agency had no evidence that Iran had an ongoing nuclear weapons program or had developed a nuclear weapon. "Iran's program is an effort to force recognition of its role as a regional power," he said. Last month, the United States, Iran, Russia, and France agreed preliminarily in Vienna on a confidence-building plan that calls for Iran to ship much of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for reprocessing for eventual use as medical isotopes in Tehran. ElBaradei expressed hope for this plan going forward. "For the first time at least in my twenty-five years with the agency, I see a genuine desire on both sides [United States and Iran] to seriously engage not only on the nuclear issue but on a broad range of issues." Iran, he said, "could be the door to a stable Middle East."

ElBaradei stressed that dialogue was the only way to change behavior of governments and countries. When asked if countries like Iran could use dialogue to buy time as they proceeded to develop covert projects, he argued that dialogue be accompanied by robust verification and have a set timeline. At the same time, he ruled out sanctions as a means for affecting regime behavior. "I am not the greatest fan of sanctions. In the name of sanctions, we have committed egregious violations of human rights," he said.

ElBaradei, soon to step down as IAEA head after twelve years, said global security had taken a turn for the worse in the last quarter century. "We have not done good at all in the last twenty-five years. We look at our security situation, it's in tatters."

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