The outgoing head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency has called Israel’s alleged nuclear capability the most serious threat facing the Middle East. Mohammed ElBaradei, the Egyptian who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, complained in Tehran that Israel has not allowed U.N. inspectors access to its nuclear operations.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear capability, but foreign analysts have estimated that Israel has up to 200 nuclear weapons.
ElBaradei made his comments at a joint press conference with Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Director Ali-Akbar Salehi. Concerning Iran’s nuclear development, the outgoing U.N. official said, “Iran’s nuclear issue can be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, and I have never seen such determination to resolve this issue.”
Negotiators from France, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and Germany have been meeting in Geneva since October 1 to discuss procedures allowing inspection of facilities in Iran, which so far continues to refuse full cooperation.
Iran surprised most Western nations last week by announcing that it had built a second uranium enrichment plant. The Iranian government added that it would allow U.N. inspectors to enter the facility towards the end of this month.
El Baradei defended Iran against Israeli and American allegations that the Islamic Republic is working on manufacturing a nuclear weapon. “As I have said many times and I continue to say today, the agency has no complete proof that there is an ongoing weapons program in Iran,” he stated.