ElBaradei calls Iranian threat 'hyped'



Mohamed ElBaradei, outgoing chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has called the Iranian threat "hyped," saying there is no proof the Islamic republic will soon have nuclear weapons.

"In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped," ElBaradei told the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in an interview released Tuesday.

"Yes, there's concern about Iran's future intentions and Iran needs to be more transparent with the IAEA and international community," he told the Chicago-based magazine. "But the idea that we'll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn't supported by the facts as we have seen them so far."

"About Iran, I've been told, 'Mind your own business; you're a technician.' And yet, at other times, on other matters, I have been told that I'm the custodian of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - sometimes by the very people who tell me to mind my own business when it comes to Iran," he continued.

"I don't put much stock in either designation. I'm neither a custodian nor a technician; I'm merely someone who is trying to do his job," he said.

On Sunday, government officials said that Israel wants the IAEA to release a classified report on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons experiments, following Friday's release of an IAEA report that was welcomed by Teheran as "positive."

Although the report said that Iran was stonewalling about "possible military dimensions" to its nuclear program, the report was far less critical of Teheran than Israel would have liked.

According to government officials, the IAEA has another document which is a summary of everything the agency knows about Iran's nuclear program, which has remained classified. Israel is keen on getting that document released, but has limited leverage since it is not a member of the IAEA.

ElBaradei did not agree to release the document, and the decision to do so will now go to his successor, Japan's Yukiya Amano, due to take office on December 1.

In July, Israel privately heaved a sigh of relief at the election of Amano to replace ElBaradei.

While officially Israel had no comment on the development, privately, government sources said Amano was Israel's preferred candidate.

"We hope now that our relationship with the IAEA will be less tense, that the unnecessary friction with the IAEA will disappear, and that we can return to full cooperation," one government source said.

He also said the expectation in Jerusalem was that Amano would be more "neutral" than ElBaradei when it came to Israel's concerns.