Iran General NewsElBaradei urges U.S., Iran to meet

ElBaradei urges U.S., Iran to meet

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ImageWall Street Journal: The United Nations official responsible for keeping tabs on Iran's nuclear program detailed measures he believes the new U.S. administration should take to halt Tehran's nuclear-weapons program, and described previous U.S. efforts as "a total failure."

The Wall Street Journal

By MARC CHAMPION

ImageDAVOS, Switzerland — The United Nations official responsible for keeping tabs on Iran's nuclear program detailed measures he believes the new U.S. administration should take to halt Tehran's nuclear-weapons program, and described previous U.S. efforts as "a total failure."

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview Thursday that those steps should include opening "direct dialog at a high level, with no preconditions" with Tehran. The U.S. should then negotiate a "freeze for freeze" agreement, in which Iran would halt expansion of its nuclear program — which can be used for civilian or military purposes — while the U.S. and other nations would stop expansion of U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran.

He said these initial steps would be possible within six months. Previous efforts to negotiate such a deal have failed.

The Obama administration has pledged to engage Iran's leaders directly, although it has declined to set any time target.

Further steps, Mr. ElBaradei acknowledged, would present enormous challenges. Any agreement would have to address Iran's security concerns and its desire to be accepted as a regional player, he said. It would be necessary to change the political atmosphere in the Middle East and persuade other nations, including Iran, that nuclear weapons aren't the ticket to prestige and security.

The IAEA, which Mr. ElBaradei runs, monitors compliance by countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. Mr. ElBaradei, an Egyptian national who won a Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the IAEA in 2005, crossed swords with the administration of George W. Bush, which has defended its record on Iran. The U.S. opposed Mr. ElBaradei's appointment to a third four-year term at the agency in 2005.

Mr. ElBaradei said it was "a good question" why Iran would abandon an ambition to obtain nuclear weapons — an ambition Iran denies, but Western governments are convinced it has. However, the prospect of free access to technology, access to the World Trade Organization, security guarantees and normalized relations with its neighbors and the U.S. could be enough, he said.

The challenges were evident Thursday at a panel discussing global expectations of the Obama administration.

Speaking in Farsi, Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran would want to see the Obama administration change U.S. policies in practice and apologize for acts including the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said European Union nations had for years attempted to negotiate with Iran, offering trade, technology and other benefits. "We were talking and talking, but got nowhere," he said.

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