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IAEA Chief Nuclear Weapons Inspector Speaks in Vienna

Aired December 13, 2002 - 09:31   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: More now on U.N. suspicions that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear weapons program, and North Korea's latest open defiance of a 1994 agreement.
With Weapons inspections in Iraq demanding so much attention, can the U.S. juggle all of these multiple threats at once. And are they any other hotspots the U.S. should be giving attention to?

With a look at this from Washington, former senior State Department official Lee Feinstein, now of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Welcome, Lee. Great to have you with us this morning.


ZAHN: Let's talk about the North Korean announcement yesterday that it will abandon a freeze agreement with the U.S. and reactivate old nuclear powers plants it says it needs to reactivate for power. Then it threw the ball back into the United States' court. Here is a formal statement from North Korean's foreign ministry.

It reads, "Whether the Democratic People's Republic of Korea freezes its nuclear facilities or not hinges upon the U.S."

What do you make of that defiant statement?

FEINSTEIN: Well, it's counterproductive, even reckless, but it's not exactly surprising. This is the way North Korea behaves. The problem is that the administration has taken an approach, which is that it doesn't want take to talk to the North Koreans at present because it sees talking to the North Koreans as a concession, that it's strategy instead is to have allies talk to the North Koreans and put pressure on them and then wait for the North Koreans to make the first move, which I think puts the ball in the North Korea Koreans' court and puts us in a tough spot.

ZAHN: "The Wall Street Journal" is saying this morning, if the North Koreans really believe they can force Bush back to the negotiating table, they are sorely misreading this situation.

FEINSTEIN: Well, I'm sure they're sorely misreading the situation. That's what North Koreans do, and that's why we need to re-engage with them. There's no blackmail involved in talking to somebody and re-engaging with them. What we need to do is we need to sit down with the North Koreans, tell them that what they're doing is reckless, and then repackage a deal that provides even more assurances and safeguards than before, and try to get back on the path of freezing their nuclear program.

ZAHN: So do you think it's legitimate the Bush administration might view this as blackmail on the North Korean's part?

FEINSTEIN: I think that's there concern, and you can understand it, that this is the "squeaky wheel gets the grease" issue, you know, they do something to try to get America's attention, and we don't want to be in a position of rewarding bad behavior, but we can't really expect anything, but bad behavior from the North Koreans when we leave them to their own devices. So we need to be the adult in this situation, continue to work with our allies and have a united front to put pressure on the north Koreans, but also talk to them and tell them directly how serious we take this.

ZAHN: Lee, we are going to have you stand by as we take part of that IAEA news conference as related to the construction of a potential nuclear facility in Iran.

Let's listen to that and then we're going to come back to you for reaction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, with regard to North Korea, Dr. El- Baradei will speak to you on the recent exchange of letters he has had with the North Korean government, which was said that, as of today, they are lifting the freeze on their nuclear facilities.

And three, with regard to Iran, he will address recent reports about new nuclear facilities being built in Iran.

Now I turn the floor over to Dr. El-Baradei.

MOHAMED EL-BARADEI, CHIEF NUCLEAR WEAPONS INSPECTOR IAEA: Thank you very much. And let me say I thought that it is an opportunity today to brief you on some of the issues that's being the subject of your attention, international attention, in the area of nonproliferation.

The first -- maybe I start with Iraq and brief you on where we are. We have received, of course, a Iraqi declaration, as you know, on the 7th of December. The nuclear part consists of 2,400 pages.


Most of it, 2,400, is material we already had before in the term (ph) of -- for final declaration. The new part is 300 pages in Arabic that covers activities from '91, when we received their final declaration at that time, until 2002. Many of it -- a good part of it also we know. However, there are some new, additional information. We are going through it right now. We have to complete the translation into English before we do our preliminary analysis. We expect -- we committed ourself that by next Tuesday we will provide the Security Council with a sanitized copy of that report, because the Security Council also asked us to cut from the report the sensitive information that could lead to proliferation of nuclear weapons.

So we are doing two things. We are sanitizing the report, and then we are doing preliminary analysis.

A version -- the sanitized version will be received in New York to the Security Council on Tuesday. And then on Thursday, Hans Blix, the head of UNMOVIC, and I will brief the Security Council, provide our preliminary analysis of the report. He will do it with regard to chemical, biological and missile. I will do it with regard to nuclear.

We -- as I said, Iraq have concluded, as you know, that they have not been involved in any weapon-of-mass-destruction-related activities. However, of course, we have to verify that statement. And therefore, we are far from reaching a conclusion on that matter. We have to do an inspection in the field. We have to assess that statement. Again, it's (ph) our past analysis. We have to do environmental sampling. We have to do satellite monitoring. We have to interview people.

So we have to do the full complement of our inspection regime before we can reach a conclusion. And that's what I said before. The process will take time, but you need to bear with us, because, if successful, this is the best predictable way of ensuring Iraq disarmament. And it also is a process which, if successful, could spare innocent lives. With regard to Korea, we received -- I've received yesterday a letter from the nuclear authorities, informing us that they are going, as of today, to lift the freeze on their nuclear activities. As you probably know, that freeze has been imposed, or agreed to, since 1994 as part of the agreed framework between the U.S. and DPRK.

The agreed framework, as some of you know, aims to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula by committing North Korea to come into full compliance with its safeguard obligations in return for supply of energy, including two light water reactors.

The DPRK have been complaining that the agreed framework is not being properly implemented, and therefore they have decided that they would like to move away from the freeze which is part of the agreed framework.

As you again probably know, that there were reports a month ago that North Korea have been involved in undeclared enrichment program. Again, if true, would be in violation of the safeguard agreement and also of the agreed framework.

We have been trying for the last month to get confirmation from the DPRK as to the dimension or truthfulness of these reports. We have also been offering them a dialogue to try to discuss this and all other issues relevant to their coming into compliance with their nonproliferation obligations.

We did not, unfortunately, get a positive response, despite a unanimous resolution by the board of governors that supported the measure have (ph) taken, supported the need for clarification by DPRK of the reported enrichment programs, supported the need for a dialogue. They have not responded positively. As I said, they said this resolution is not acceptable to them.

And what I've gotten yesterday is a letter asking that they will lift the freeze as of today. I immediately answered them last night, asking them to exercise restraint, asking them that we need to continue to look for an agreed solution, a diplomatic solution to the problem.

I've also indicated to them that even if they were to lift the freeze, it is very important that they continue to allow us to implement safeguards under the safeguard agreement between the agency and DPRK under the NPT, which remains binding and enforced. And that we made it very clear to them that if we are not to implement safeguard, they will be in further noncompliance with the safeguard agreement with all the consequences that will ensue, including, of course, reporting to our board of governors and to the Security Council.

I hope they will give a chance to the possibility of having an agreed solution. I have been told by all the concerned parties to that problem that if North Korea were to cooperate with the agency, if North Korea were to declare its enrichment program, if North Korea were to initiate a dialogue with the agency, all the concerned parties -- Japan, South Korea, the U.S. -- are all ready to engage into a dialogue with North Korea and to try to aim for a political solution to the problem.

ZAHN: You've been listening to director general of the IAEA talk about a number of concerns the Bush department or administration is wrestling with at the moment. The key concern is that North Korea, of course, has dropped or abandoned a freeze agreement with the U.S. and has decided to reactivate some nuclear power plants.

I've been handed a piece of a copy, which is a bulletin from the Associated Press, which suggests that President Bush has in fact, just gotten off the phone with the president of North Korea, and made it quite clear that the decision on this government's part to reactivate the plants is -- quote -- "unacceptable." You heard Mr. El-Baradei said he was hopeful that North Korea would understand the consequences of these actions and maybe agree to some solutions here.

Let's turn back to Lee Feinstein who is a former State Department official now on the Council of Foreign Relations, to hear what you glean from Mr. El-Baradei said.

On the Iraqi front, I thought it was interesting he confirmed that the Security council will get the so-called sanitized document on Tuesday, and on Thursday, Hans Blix, I guess, will make some sort of presentation for the full Security Council. FEINSTEIN: Right. On the first thing, if that report is accurate about President Bush calling his North Korean counterpart, I think that's very, very significant. I think it's a very, very important step. The president is showing, first, that he heard what the North Koreans are saying and, second, he didn't like it. I think that's very, very important, and a major shift in the policy, which is very, very welcome.

ZAHN: But, Lee, in the end, what does it really mean? You talk about how the Bush administration is very concerned that the North Koreans are using this issue as blackmail. You say that's the way North Koreans do business. So the president has called their bluff. Then what?

FEINSTEIN: Then, you have to get into -- you hate to do it, but you have to get into a process with them. You have to be very tough, you have to get into a process with them, you have to be very stern, and you can't rely on other people to communicate for you. You need to do it directly. In 1994, we reached an agreement to freeze their nuclear program. We expected them to try to cheat. But we bought plenty of time, at least eight years, and we stopped them from increasing their nuclear arsenal further.

Publicly, we believe they have a couple of nuclear bombs. Towards the end of the Clinton administration, there was some indication that we were close to a deal with them to stop their missile exports. The Bush administration was re-evaluating its policy at the beginning of its term, which is understandable, but then decided not to pursue that. But I think the time has come where we've really got to get back to the negotiating table, even if the approach doesn't feel good.

ZAHN: You've taken us just about everywhere today, Iraq, Iran, and now North Korea.

Lee Feinstein, thank you for your patience as we dipped in and out of your interview to cover that IAEA news conference live. Very much appreciate your time and perspective this morning. Love to have you come back, if you can put up with us.


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