June 1, 2007 / 11:39 AM / 13 years ago

IAEA chief warns of "crazies" seeking Iran war

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Nations nuclear watchdog chief warned on Friday against the “new crazies” advocating military action to halt Iran’s nuclear program and said he did not want to see another war like that in Iraq.

“I wake every morning and see 100 Iraqis, innocent civilians, are dying,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview for BBC Radio.

“I have no brief other than to make sure we don’t go into another war or that we go crazy into killing each other. You do not want to give additional argument to new crazies who say ‘let’s go and bomb Iran’,” he said in a documentary, excerpts from which were published on the BBC’s Web site in advance.

Tehran has ignored repeated warnings and resolutions sponsored by world powers in the United Nations Security Council demanding that it cease uranium enrichment.

It was ElBaradei’s strongest warning yet against the use of force. He has urged Western powers to consider allowing Iran limited enrichment he believes would pose no bomb proliferation risk and avert a feared slide into conflict.

The powers have rejected his proposal.

Iran says it is pursuing a nuclear program to provide electricity. The West believes it is trying to build a nuclear bomb and is gearing up to draft a third round of U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Enrichment is a process of refining uranium for power plants, or if taken to a very high degree, atom bombs. A report by ElBaradei’s IAEA last week said Iran was expanding a campaign to install 3,000 enrichment centrifuges by mid-summer, laying a basis for “industrial-scale” fuel production.

In the BBC interview ElBaradei said a nuclear-armed Iran would be terrible but added the jury was still out as to whether the country even wanted atomic weapons.

He said one could not “bomb knowledge”. Asked who the “new crazies” were he replied: “Those who have extreme views and say the only solution is to impose your will by force.”

ElBaradei angered the United States, Britain and France by calling for a face-saving compromise that would cap Iranian enrichment activity at its current modest levels.

Diplomats said those three countries, as well as Japan, sent envoys to stress to ElBaradei that the U. N. Security Council resolution urging an immediate halt to Iran’s nuclear activities was law, adopted unanimously, and should enjoy his support.

In Germany earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indirectly chided ElBaradei by saying “the IAEA is not an agency that is negotiating with the Iranians. That is being done under a Security Council resolution by six states”.

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