by Reuters –
BERLIN (August 27, 2003) Reuters — The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog called on the United States Tuesday to set an example to the rest of the world by cutting its nuclear arsenal and halting research programs.
“The US government demands that other nations not possess nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, it is arming itself,” Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told Germany’s Stern weekly.
Criticizing President Bush’s plan for a national missile defense shield, he said, “Then a small number of privileged countries will be under a nuclear protective shield, with the rest of the world outside.”
He continued, “In truth there are no good or bad nuclear weapons. If we do not stop applying double standards, we will end up with more nuclear weapons. We are at a turning point,” ElBaradei told Stern in the interview released ahead of publication.
The IAEA director, who has overseen inspections of nuclear sites in Iraq, North Korea, and Iran, said the world’s five original nuclear powers — the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China — should send a clear message to the world that they were disarming.
“Otherwise, we must live with the consequences,” ElBaradei said. “At the moment we are, at best acting, like the fire brigade. Today Iraq, tomorrow North Korea, the day after Iran. And then?”
Under the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the global pact aimed at stopping the spread of atomic weapons, the five original nuclear powers were permitted to keep their nuclear arsenals but agreed to negotiate terms for full global disarmament in good faith.
Nuclear nonproliferation experts have complained that Washington is undermining the goal of global disarmament with statements about its interest in exploring smaller scale atomic weapons, like nuclear “bunker-busters.”
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in Vienna)
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