CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS
Interview with Mohamed El Baradei
Aired December 28, 2002 - 07:08 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, ANCHOR: At the center of all this is the International Atomic Energy Agency saying this morning it will, in fact, comply with the North Korean order.
On the line with us now from Colombo (ph), Sri Lanka, is the director general of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei.
Dr. ElBaradei, good to have you with us.
MOHAMAD EL BARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL. INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (on phone): Thank you very much, Miles.
O'BRIEN: Tell us right now what's going on with the inspection teams on the ground. Where are they? Where are they headed?
EL BARADEI: Well, Miles, despite my urging the North Koreans that we need to have inspectors in the field to monitor the restart of their nuclear facilities (UNINTELLIGIBLE) install the needed equipment and (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they have told an inspector this morning that they ought to leave immediately. And w3e are making arrangement for our inspectors to leave. They are scheduled to leave (UNINTELLIGIBLE) North Korea on Tuesday, the 31st of January -- of December.
O'BRIEN: And I assume you do that with some great reluctance. Give us a sense. I know you have protested frequently, and you have written letters to the appropriate authorities in North Korea. What sort of response have you received?
EL BARADEI: Well, sometime we did not get any response, sometime we got skewed responses. I think, I think, I think it's a country in a defiant mode right now. They are walking away from their international obligations. They are throwing away the inspection system.
I -- this is a very dangerous precedent, Miles, in -- for the nonproliferation regime, that a country can walk away with impunity from its obligation not to make nuclear weapons. And I hope the international community will organize a response that would ultimately end up in preserving the integrity of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- of the regime. This is clearly a defining moment for the nonproliferation regime.
O'BRIEN: Just to give us a sense of perspective here, and how dangerous this is, the international community now would be completely in the blind as it relates to North Korea's nuclear program, correct? And really, for the past eight years or so, there's been very active inspections. EL BARADEI: That's correct. I mean, in the past eight years, we are monitoring the freeze of their -- many of their nuclear facilities, although we did not know how much plutonium they've produced in the past. But they were supposed eventually to come into compliance and allow us to verify the history of their program.
Now we are completely out, we have no clue as what is going to happen in the next few weeks and months. We know that they are going to start their power reactor in the next month or two. I was also told yesterday that they are going to start their reprocessing plant again in the next month or two. And that's really the most worrying, because the reprocessing plant is a plant which will produce plutonium that could be directly used for nuclear weapons.
I hope in the next month or two, before they embark on the restarting of their program, nuclear facilities, that diplomacy will be set at work and that we will be able to avert what it is now, looks like a serious crisis situation.
O'BRIEN: Did your inspectors have any sense of this prior to this becoming public knowledge? In other words, had this been brewing for quite some time? Did you see it coming?
EL BARADEI: I think I saw it coming. I mean, in the last two weeks, they have started to take off the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and cameras from all the nuclear facilities. That does not auger well for a country that was to respect its international obligations. I saw that coming, and this is, again -- the attitude there that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if they use their nuclear capability, they might gain a favorable negotiating position.
What they don't understand, that no country is ready to pursue a policy of appeasement or to negotiate under threat.
And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) unless they come back into compliance, none of their neighbors, not the U.S., no member of the international community, is ready to negotiate with them. Everybody is ready to look sympathetically to their economic and other needs, but not before they come into compliance and act as a member of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a law-abiding member of the international community.
O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this, Dr. El Baradei. We won't know for sure without having your inspection team there, but if the North Koreans continued on the course and at the pace they are going, how soon could they be producing weapons-grade plutonium?
EL BARADEI: Well, I think if they start operating the reprocessing plant, they -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that would take them a month or two. And once they start operating the plant, they will be able to produce plutonium in increasing amounts as they go along. So we will have to start to worry, seriously worry about, like, a month from now.
O'BRIEN: Quick question before you get away about Iraq, where -- the other front for the IAEA right now. These -- this interview, these series of interviews, ongoing, with an Iraqi scientist in the nuclear program, apparently, any, if you will, bombshells coming out of that?
EL BARADEI: No, I don't think we have any smoking gun, Miles. I think we -- this is part -- systematic -- we are going systematically through interviewing Iraqi scientists. This is part of the larger inspection regime. We are doing a lot of activities. We are taking samples, environmental sampling. We are doing no-notice inspection. We try to do everything to establish the facts.
And that's why our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Iraq have not restarted its nuclear weapons program. We are going to report, I'm going to report next week to the Security Council. We'll have then a much comprehensive report on the 27th of January. But we are still at the beginning phase, and we hope, we hope we can make progress as we go along.
O'BRIEN: Dr. Mohamed El Baradei, who is the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, proving there's no rest for the weary, no vacations for somebody in the midst of all of this. Thank you for being with us. We appreciate it.
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