SPIEGEL Interview with Mohamed ElBaradei "Al-Qaida also Wants the Bomb"
Part 2: NEXT PAGE: "The world, as we know it, would not survive the tsunami brought on by a major collapse in the mechanisms that control nuclear weapons ..."
SPIEGEL: Can you do more than keep your fingers crossed?
ElBaradei: We are working hard on exposing the black market and its many facets. I would love to be able to say that we have figured out exactly what happened where and when, and, perhaps, what is still happening. It's a market that involves a tremendous amount of cleverness and huge sums of money. The players are business-savvy scientists, unscrupulous companies, possibly even government organizations -- a true nuclear supermarket.
SPIEGEL: The network that developed around Pakistan's "father of the nuclear bomb" has been destroyed for the most part. Abdul Qadir Khan has confessed to having delivered technology and construction plans to Libya, and is currently under house arrest in Islamabad. His most important source, Buhary Sayed Abu Tahir, is in a Malaysian prison. Do you have access to these two men?
ElBaradei: IAEA experts were able to have an extended conversation with Tahir. We would like to talk to Khan, but the Pakistani government hasn't allowed us to do so yet. But we are permitted to submit written questions, which are then answered. The investigation is underway, and the results are secret. But everything that I hear sounds promising.
ElBaradei says he is prepared to travel to North Korea to visit Kim Jong Il (pictured here) if that will help stop the dictator's nuclear ambitions.
ElBaradei: A regime that is isolated, suffers from a dramatic shortage of funds and feels driven into a corner could certainly hit upon such export ideas.
SPIEGEL: Don't you have to admit to yourself, to your organization and to the entire world that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has failed?
ElBaradei: The NPT has given us some successes in recent years, but it is correct to say that things cannot continue this way. It's absolutely essential that we amend the treaty. This May, we will have a unique opportunity to make the world a safer place. The world's most important heads of state will meet in New York for the NPT Review Conference, which takes place once every five years.
SPIEGEL: What will you propose?
ElBaradei: To intensify security inspections by making inspections, now based on the supplementary protocol, the norm. To automatically impose sanctions by the UN Security Council for violations against the NPT, especially withdrawal from the treaty. To bring weapons-grade material, such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium, under multinational control. Everyone will have to give up something, because we are standing with our backs against a wall. The construction of new plants for producing fissile material must be suspended for at least five years. Nuclear powers must guarantee the have-nots the delivery of nuclear fuel for civilian use in return for the non-nuclear powers agreeing to do without the technology, and must also disarm more quickly and comprehensively.
SPIEGEL: That's an ambitious program that requires a radical shift in thinking. What makes you optimistic that all the key players won't just play for time once again?
ElBaradei: Everyone must understand that time happens not to be on our side this time. That political tensions in some regions, such as the Middle East and the Korean peninsula, will fuel the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. That we cannot get the genie of nuclear weapons back into the bottle.
SPIEGEL: The conference in May could also be one of your last official appearances. Hardliners in the Bush administration are trying to force you out. Do Washington's hawks hate you because you were so on the money in your assessment of Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons potential?
ElBaradei: I don't know. The official reason US politicians cite in opposing my third term is that, in their opinion, two terms are enough. I will campaign for re-election. I haven't heard anything about an opposing candidate yet, and I believe that many countries support me. Most of them probably wouldn't stake their lives on me, but they seem to be able to get along with me rather well.
SPIEGEL: Does it bother you that, according to press reports that have not been denied, US intelligence apparently bugged your telephone? And should we assume that someone is also eavesdropping on this interview?
ElBaradei: I have nothing to hide professionally. But it becomes unpleasant when you apparently cannot even have a private phone conversation with your wife or your daughter. There is also a concerted smear campaign against me. For example, they say things like: An Egyptian can't be impartial toward Islamic states, and will tell them all our secrets. I refuse to comment on people at this low level.
SPIEGEL: And despite all that you would like to continue?
ElBaradei: I won't lose any sleep over it if it doesn't work out. But I would like to launch the reform of the NPT and move the situation in North Korea and Iran in a positive direction -- from my standpoint of strict neutrality. After all, I know exactly what the consequences would be of a major collapse in the mechanisms that control nuclear weapons: The world, as we know it, would not survive such a tsunami brought about by human activity.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Baradei, thank you for speaking with us.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Interview conducted by Erich Follath and Georg Mascolo.
- Part 1: "Al-Qaida also Wants the Bomb"
- Part 2: NEXT PAGE: "The world, as we know it, would not survive the tsunami brought on by a major collapse in the mechanisms that control nuclear weapons ..."