ElBaradei: Row over Iran’s nuclear program is ‘political’ and not ‘technical’

March 11, 2009
VIENNA (Middle East Online) - UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei called on Arab countries to become actively involved in resolving the long-running nuclear standoff with Iran. ""I find it surprising that the Arab countries are not engaged in dialogue between Iran and the West. The neighbors so far have been sitting on the fence. Any solution to the Iranian issue has to engage the neighbors,"" ElBaradei told a foreign policy forum in the Austrian parliament late Monday. ElBaradei called on Iran to be more transparent about its atomic program. The Egyptian-born diplomat said fears that Tehran could one day use its technology to build a bomb were not a technical but a political issue. Therefore, a security structure in the Middle East should be found that also involved Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, said ElBaradei, who is set to step down as IAEA chief in November after 12 years at the helm. ""Iran could be a positive force in the region; it could also be a source of conflict and confrontation,"" he said. The 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate expressed hope that the new U.S. administration will make progress in resolving the standoff with Iran. Unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush, President Barack Obama has suggested direct diplomacy with Iran. Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology for generating energy for its growing population