Britain cannot expect other countries to refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons if it upgrades the Trident deterrent, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said yesterday.
Mohammed ElBaradei, who has led the United Nations' nuclear watchdog for 10 years, cast doubt on his own moral authority in seeking to curb the ambitions of countries like Iran, suspected of seeking nuclear weapons.
From: The Telegraph
"They are told nuclear weapons are counter-productive because they do not protect your security," said Mr ElBaradei in a lecture at the London School of Economics.
He also condemned the "unfairness" of a world in which nine countries seek to maintain their monopoly of nuclear weapons.
"How do they expect this system of haves and have nots to be sustainable? How do I go to country X and say 'you should keep your obligation not to develop nuclear weapons', when the big powers are making no progress towards their obligations for disarmament?"
The nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which came into effect in 1970 and which Mr ElBaradei is legally obliged to enforce, bans all signatories from using atomic power for military purposes.
In addition, the declared nuclear powers are obliged to disarm — but no deadline is given for this to take place.
Mr ElBaradei said that Britain cannot "modernise its Trident submarines and then tell everyone else that nuclear weapons are not needed in the future".
Iran continues to enrich uranium — a process which could create the material for a nuclear bomb — in defiance of UN resolutions.
The Security Council has set a deadline of tomorrow for Iran to halt this work, and Mr ElBaradei is due to meet Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, in Vienna today.
"My assessment of the risk of Iran is that it's not an imminent danger for tomorrow," Mr ElBaradei said.
Iran, he added, was two or three years away from having enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb, and between four and eight years away from having an operational weapons system.
Concluding that nuclear weapons should ultimately be abolished, Mr ElBaradei added: "We need to treat nuclear weapons the way we treat slavery or genocide. There needs to be a taboo over possessing them."