Former UN Weapons Inspector On Iran Report

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Hans Blix is a former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and was the UN's chief weapons inspector for Iraq prior to 2003. He's at home in Sweden. Having read the report, Hans Blix, do you think the evidence is conclusive that Iran has carried out "activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device"?

Hans Blix: Yes, I think the report is much more detailed and convincing, and it's also assessed. And so, while earlier you had the tendency to say that this raises questions, now they have actually assessed it and they say that the evidence is credible. They do not draw the conclusion that Iran will make a bomb, they simply...the evidence shows amply that they had activities that moved them closer to the bomb option.

Werman: This is in contrast to the US assessment in 2007 which said that the nuclear program was essentially closed down with some minor enriching going on. So, it sounds clear to you that this work is still continuing?

Blix: Well, what the Agency says is that before 2003 they can identify a structured program and after that, lesser so. But still, they faced a number of activities after 2003 and even continuing now. So, it doesn't really directly contradict the US conclusions, but it's perhaps more nuance in suggesting that, yes, things did continue after 2003 - perhaps not at the same level and intensity.

Werman: The IAEA has a history of being very cautious. It was skeptical of the evidence presented by the Bush Administration on Iraq during that crisis and lead-up to that. How confident are you that the Agency that you used to direct is keeping the same standards?

Blix: Well, I am not in it now so I can't really judge with absolute certainty, but the tradition of being cautious, I think, is right. We certainly learned in the Iraq case, when we were in New York, that it was highly justified. Because intelligence agencies come up with all kinds of findings and they want to draw conclusions and they know that the Agency has a higher credibility than they do. So, they would love the Agency to, sort of, embrace this evidence and embrace that conclusion and make it their own. The Agency has to be cautious. I mean, in the case of Iraq, you will remember that we had the story about the contract concluded between Iraq and Niger, and it turned out to be a forgery. We had the aluminum tubes that were said to be for enrichment purposes, and they turned out to be for something else. So, I think they just have been wise in being very cautious. But this time, there's a lot of evidence they've referred to come fairly to rather long ago and they have been accessing carefully. I think it makes this early credible impression much more solid than I had thought.

Werman: What kind of pressure do you come under from foreign governments, as head of the IAEA, to tailor reports one way or the other? It seems like there must be some pressure.

Blix: Yes. The governments will push if they have a policy that they would like to slam on various sanctions and they would hope that their findings would be suitable to underpin that. I think that the Agency's standing in the world depends upon it being very judicious, and I think they have been so, as far as I can judge. That makes it the more serious what they are coming with now. It feels fairly cautious and very calm in language, but you do get the impression that yes, Iran is moving forward and not to the same structured way as before. But anyway, they are moving closer to weapons option. Whether they actually will manufacture a weapon, no, this doesn't say; nor it that necessary. I think it's a bit of an obsession about asking it, do they have the weapon next year or next month, or two years from now. Then I think the most important question is - what is the world to do about it? How is the world to react to this?

Werman: Hans Blix, former weapons inspector and former head of the IAEA, speaking with us from Sweden. Thanks very much for your time.

Blix: You're welcome. Bye-bye.