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IAEA Director-General Interview with Der Standard, 11 June 2009

Independence is the Key, DER STANDARD Interview with Mohamed ElBaradei with Gudrun Harrer, 11 June 2009.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency since 1997, will leave his job in autumn. In an interview with Gudrun Harrer, the Egyptian lawyer speaks about the challenges for the Agency and the hopes for change in the Middle East inspired by US President Barack Obama.

STANDARD: You are leaving the IAEA after 12 years as its Director General in autumn. The succession question is still open, after a Board meeting on Tuesday we are back to square one with candidates without clear majorities.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: I am very concerned about that. The person who comes here has to be a unifier. He has to have the trust of both the North and the South.

STANDARD: And he should also be very independent from his capital, shouldn´t he?

ELBARADEI: Independence is the key. I am not the most popular with many of the countries, but I like to believe I am respected. Nobody can accuse us of being biased or having a hidden agenda. Independence and objectivity is absolutely key for us. We go through 50 drafts when we write a report on Iran to make sure that, as far as humanly possible we are objective, impartial and rooting every word we say in facts. We don´t have an army, we don´t have a government, our credibility is our strength. Independence is the key for the next DG otherwise everybody will lose. Because all the issues the Agency deals with require absolute international cooperation. You need a person who has the trust of the North and the South - and unfortunately you have mistrust right now between the two. You need a person who is a manager, to manage people from a hundred different nationalities and different cultures. It is an organisation which - I hate to say - we are sure is infiltrated by many intelligence agencies...

STANDARD: It happened to yourself, your telephones had been tapped by the CIA.

ELBARADEI: Including myself. I am not managing Coca-Cola. You have to manage not only competency and efficiency, but subjectivity. You need a manager who has the political background to understand all this, has the independence, is able to unify, and at the end of the day the guts to stand his ground. I am subjected to pressure every single day, and you have to be able to say: No, go away! But you can only say this if you know that what you are doing is the right thing. I hope we will find the right person soon. It is not only about the Agency, but its impact on peace and security and on development. Governments should get together and agree on a person, on a consensus candidate.

STANDARD: What ist he biggest challenge for your successor, how did the role of IAEA change compared to 12 years ago when you took over?

ELBARADEI: We have a number of challenges which change in dimension, but there are always the same two basic challenges: One is security and what sort of global security we should have: The Agency is part of how we can reshape a new security system after the end of the Cold War. After the Cold War all of us were hopeful that we would have a different world, based on equity, security and shared humanity. Nothing of that came about. Unfortunately we failed, we lost opportunities. What we see is a world that is fragmented, divided, full of civil wars, and interstate wars, like Iraq and Afghanistan with increased radicalism. We got rid of this huge nightmare which was a major confrontation between what was the former Soviet Union and the US but that was replaced by a lot of situations of insecurities, regional insecurities, ranging from the Middle East to East Asia, to South East Asia, even in Latin America, from wars, terrorism or what have you. We have to see what we can do to improve that situation, particularly in the area we are most worried about: that some of these extremist groups will get their hands on nuclear material or radioactive sources. After 9/11 we saw the sophistication of terrorism, of extremist groups, and we know that they have been looking for radioactive sources and nuclear material. They have been doing some research and work on that and we know if they will get it they will not hesitate to use it. For nuclear weapons with states there is the concept of deterrence and you know you have to be mad to use them - if you do you will be demolished completely. But that is not part of the ideology of the extremists groups: it is just to use whatever weapons to change the world according to their distorted ideology. On the issue of nuclear terrorism which came to us in 2001 - there is still a lot of work to do, by us and by the rest of the international community. This is an unfinished job. We really can´t afford to sit on our hands, it is a race against time. I am actually surprised that a radioactive source acquisition by extremist groups did not happen, to make a so called dirty bomb. We have thousands and thousands of radioactive sources everywhere... maybe it would not kill hundreds or thousands of people but the terror it will create, the economic impact. A radioactive dispersal device, as we call it, a dirty bomb in the middle of an urban center, Manhattan, London, that is a great worry for us.

STANDARD: Is it still so easy to get that material?

ELBARADEI: We know that there is still a lot of nuclear material after the end of the Soviet Union which is not adequately protected. We don´t yet have what we call the Gold Standard with all the nuclear material in absolute proper adequate physical protection. This is one area that came to us particularely after 9/11: we woke up unfortunately to the possibility of nuclear terrorism. Before that we were worrying about nuclear safety, about avoiding another Chernobyl, which is always an issue here in Austria... Safety will continue to be a major issue but here we have been more successful in bringing up the safety standards. The level is not perfect yet. We still have some old reactors operating, still have weak regulatory bodies in certain countries, but overall safety has improved quite dramatically.

STANDARD: And what about non-proliferation on the state level, what were the major developments during your time?

ELBARADEI: Of course, that is our old traditional role. We have seen a number of efforts over the years to try to develop nuclear weapons, we have seen Libya, Iraq - the concerns about Iraq reviving its nuclear weapons programme and WMD and how it ended up in destroying Iraq altogether. We have still concerns about Iran, and North Korea has gone from bad to worse. In that area, we are still not in good shape at all. And then we have seen a new phenomenon, that is, countries not having nuclear weapons but going all the way to the edge without having nuclear weapon.

STANDARD: But is this really new, don´t we have a number of countries with such a status?

ELBARADEI: Not new, but Iran brought it to the surface - the idea that you can still be kosher and part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but everybody knows that you can do nuclear weapons maybe in one month. And it is a new phenomenon that can spread. Iran brought that to the consciousness of people. Of course we have a number of countries like Japan, Brazil, Argentina which have the technology but there was not much concern about them. But with this kind of situation created by Iran in the Middle East, in an area which is in a total mess, people are worried that this might be a new wave of proliferation: rather than having an overt nuclear weapon programme, you have a virtual nuclear weapon programme, as I call it.

STANDARD: Why are countries again wanting to leave open if they go nuclear or not?

ELBARADEI: We have been failing completely in the area of nuclear disarmament. People forget completely that in 1970, when we developed the NPT, the idea was that we will put a cap on the number of countries which have nuclear weapons - 5 at that time - and that they commit themselves to nuclear disarmament in return for everybody else saying "we will not develop nuclear weapons". The idea was: Nuclear weapons are more threat than assurance. And that was as early as 1970. But 35 years after that we still have 27,000 war heads, we still have weapons deployed on Cold War status alert, which means that the US could have only half-an-hour or one hour to respond to a reported nuclear attack which could be a result of a computer error or could be unauthorized. We could wake up in the morning and find out half of our world is gone... We are still in an insane situation from a security perspective. That of course has a major impact on the Non-Nuclear Weapon States. It developed a sense of cynicism. How can you tell me "nuclear weapons are dangerous and not good for you" when at the same time you are saying "the world is dangerous, we are continuing to improve and even develop new systems of nuclear weapons". This is not sustainable. And then you go to the Middle East where Israel is sitting on a nuclear programme saying "we are not going to give it up any time soon unless there is a comprehensive peace". This has created a sense of impotence, inequality, humiliation in the Middle East. That is one of the major challenges I face. No one in the Muslim world understands, or appreciates, or accepts that we continue to investigate Iran and Syria and Iraq and the only question I get is "how about Israel", why aren´t you going to Israel?

STANDARD: The answer would be: Israel is not member of the NPT.

ELBARADEI: Yes of course, if I talk about legality, they are not part of the NPT, but for the common person it does not make any sense. He sees a situation which in his view is a double standard. The non-proliferation regime in the Middle East is still legal, but it lost its legitimacy for the people. You know there is a difference between being legal and being legitimate. And that is a major challenge we are facing and we have to address.

STANDARD: Disarmament, Middle East, Iran: US-President Barack Obama has promised to focus on these issues. Do you see any hope?

ELBARADEI: Luckily there has been this change recently with Barack Obama coming to power. That has for the first time given me a glimmer of hope that ours is not a Sisyphus task - you go up and you go down again. The system of the haves and the have-nots is not sustainable, it is eroding because of the new countries which are developing this virtual capability. Frankly it was becoming an impossible task. We, as the Agency, don´t have enough legal authority. After the Iraq experience in the early 1990s we developed the Additional Protocol that gives us additional legal authority. But we still have a hundred countries that have not subscribed to that - not only Iran. This is a result of the cynicism: why should they tie their hands while the weapon states are not doing anything? We know that the Security Council is not really there to support us most of the time, they adopt a resolution which more often than not is not implemented, plus we have the new terrorism... I continued to talk about it, publicy and privately, I was accused of speaking outside the box which for me was absolutely ridiculous, because if I am sitting here and I have loyalty to my job I have to warn the international community, governments and civil society, of the danger we are facing, and give advice as what needs to be done, knowing well that it is their decision at the end. However, Barack Obama did the job for me. I could subscribe to anything he said on commitment to nuclear disarmament and the linkage between disarmament and non-proliferation.

STANDARD: This means that there is also new hope for the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Absolutely, because he said we don´t have moral authority, if we act in one way and ask the others to act in another way. Another statement by Obama which for me was absolutely crucial was the linkage between poverty and violence and insecurity. This is something I have seen all the time. Proliferation is not happening in Norway or in the Czech Republic. It is happening in regions where there is poverty, domestic repression by governments, where there is a regional conflict going on for decades like the Palestinian issue or the Korean peninsula or Kashmir. If you are poor and repressed by your own government... Take the Middle East. Almost without exception, people are feeling repressed, not empowered. They feel hopeless, powerless, unfairly treated by the outside world, because they wake up in the morning and what they see on television is the repression of the Palestinians, killing of the Iraqis, of the Afghanis, the conflict in Somalia. It is easy for them to believe that there is a conspiracy against the Moslem world, the Arab world. And put that with poverty, with the sense of humiliation and injustice: this is the best formula for the radicalism we are seeing today. I keep warning that one of the major issues is the gradual radicalisation in the Middle East right now. The so-called moderates are losing ground because they have not been able to deliver. That also brings me to what we have been trying to do here in the Agency and make the linkage between development and security. We are not just a watchdog, nor are we promoting nuclear power. We never tell any country you should use nuclear power, that is a sovereign decision. But if they do it we have to be there to ensure that it is safe, that it is secure, and that it is not misused for non-peaceful purposes. But half of our work is radio therapy treatment for cancer, improving crop production, managing ground water, ensuring a clean environment, clean air... That is what I call our mother care role. Half of our work is development work and the other one is regulatory work. To me it has always been clear that you cannot separate the two. I have said several times that poverty is the mother of all weapons of mass destruction. And I am glad that there is this new environment where the US right now starts looking not only to the symptoms, but to the root causes. Why are countries and people being radicalized, why are they looking for nuclear weapons? This is not just coming out of the blue, it has roots, and to ignore the root causes does not improve the situation. I hope that Obama will succeed, and my advice to everybody I meet both inside and outside the US is "Help him to succeed, to show to the American people that his policy works and to show to the world that his policy works"! Otherwise the pendulum will go to the other direction and we will see again people like Mr. Cheney saying that we have to torture people to protect ourselves. A world where we can only protect ourselves by torturing: this is not the world I want to live in or leave to my children. Obama is an absolute phenomenon, unique. He comes from a very modest background, an ethnic background which has been subject to a lot of discrimination, a Christian with Moslem background. He grew up in three continents, he understands the suffering, the injustice, the feeling of discrimination by the poor, the people who are not fairly treated, inside the US and around the world. He is focussing on the big picture, on a concept which is almost forgotten - fairness, equity, justice. So he is trying to restore the moral compass to this world, which has lost its vision and sense of direction and leadership.

STANDARD: Obama has announced that the US will contribute more to the IAEA budget. What can he do to strengthen the Agency´s role as the institution responsible for non-proliferation and safeguards? It sometimes seems under threat, there is a lack of trust. For example, Israel took the issue of a suspected Syrian reactor in its own hands and bombed it.

ELBARADEI: As I said, there has been a lot of cynicism. Part of that is the erosion of international law. When Israel bombed the Syrian facility - whatever it was - very few people spoke against it or expressed their concern about a clear violation of international law. I was one of them, Switzerland was another. But not a single EU country spoke against it. I told them: "You cannot apply international law selectively. If you want to have credibility, if you want to talk about Iran, about North Korea, rules of international law and non-proliferation, you cannot pick and choose. You have to have the same standard applied to every situation whether it is your foe or your friend". That is part of the kind of erosion of our system of governance at a global level, which was always supported at least to a certain extent by certain rules of international law, and that also is eroding. If you see anyone refering to international law it is becoming like a luxury. Now all the talk is about the immediate interest.

STANDARD: However, your report on Syria from last week confirmed that there are open questions which Syria has to clarify. For some this would support Israel´s decision.

ELBARADEI: If there was really a concern for proliferation, Israel and the Americans at that time - they had the information for one year and they kept the information for 6 months after they bombed. We only got it 6 months after the bombing. If they really were concerned they should have come to us. We would have established in a clear-cut manner whether this was a reactor or not a reactor by going there. Right now we are assigned an impossible task: to try to verify what was there. This is not the way. If you have an institution, make use of it. They have not made use of it. They are sitting outside the regime altogether but they are trying to make full use of it. And they don´t understand that by having the nuclear programme... they think it does not threaten... well if you go to any part of the Arab or the Moslem world they look at it in a different light. They see it is a programme that is threatening them.

STANDARD: Are you optimistic concerning Obama´s peace efforts in the Middle East?

ELBARADEI: If I look at my lifetime, the Palestinian issue was always getting from bad to worse. When Israel was established in 1948, the partition resolution - the package at that time had nothing to do with what we see on the ground today. It was supposed to be a Palestinian state on 44 percent of the territory, now the Palestinian area is 20 percent. Jerusalem was supposed to be a corpus separatum, there was a right for Palestinians to return, it was even stipulated in 1967 that there is no acquistion of territory by force. What you see now is an erosion of all parameters...

STANDARD: But if we go back in history, there was also a strong Arab contribution to that mess.

ELBARADEI: Of course, there was mismanagement by both sides, no question about that. The Arabs mismanaged, the Israelis mismanaged. What is really important now is, let´s forget all this, let´s go and seek a settlement where everybody feels it is fair and just. And in that context we have to clean up the whole Middle East of weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons. But that requires leadership. You cannot do it like the Bush administration three months before they left office. I am glad that Obama started from day one by focussing on that issue, also by having a very distinguished person, George Mitchell, to be his emissary there. Obama made it clear that he is going to focus on it. It is a red flag in the area: As long as you don´t resolve the Palestinian issue, the red flag will continue to be raised: We are persecuted, humiliated, unjustly treated. And of course, as you know, this has been used and abused by the governments, by the rulers. They justify all their despotism, their failure to deliver economically, socially, politically, by citing the Palestinian issue. Resolving the Palestinian issue will leave them naked. Then they would have to face their people and either deliver or they have to move. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago at the Arab summit in Riyadh started his speech there by saying "We all" - the Arab regimes - "have lost our credibility". I saw him afterwards and I congratulated him for his honesty. That is the situation - a total divide between people and governments. So we need to start at different levels. The Palestinian issue is one, another is democracy. But democracy is not like instant coffee. It is not that you are going to do it overnight. In Europe it took 200 years, also in the US... It will take time, of course it cannot be imposed, it has to come from within. But we have to start and the only way to move toward democracy is through development, having a middle class, education, welfare. A healthier, wealthier educated people are the one who will ask for their civil rights. Rather than just talk about democracy, invest in development, education, health and understand that it might take a generation or two. But this is the way to go.

STANDARD: Coming to Iran: Do you see any chances for negotiations and a solution?

ELBARADEI: The Iranian policy was a policy of failure for the last six years. The basic premise at the beginning - that Iran should not even have the know-how - was a failure, by the west in general, especially those involved, primarily the US. While for a number of years the Europeans were engaged with Iran, the US was opposed to this, trying in fact to undermine it. It is only in the last few years that the US decided to come on board. But they decided to come on board with preconditions. By asking Iran to do at the beginning of the negotiation what usually, under normal circumstances, should be the outcome of the negotiations which is suspension of enrichment or some arrangement. The Agency has a lot of issues with Iran which need to be clarified. And of course we need the additional protocol because we need to go to more places and to get more information. Iran should be transparent and cooperative in resolving these outstanding issues, e.g. on the question of past studies on weaponisation. But frankly: in 2005 we did not see an ongoing weapon programme, we did not see any indication. At that time I was attacked publicly and accused of losing all credibility. Then the US narrative changed, they stopped talking about nuclear weapons but about Iran trying to develop the capability, which is enrichment. And then came the US intelligence assessment that they had done some "studies" - nothing about hardware, but studies - and that they stopped it in 2003. Then of course the language continued to change saying that the Iranians are trying to development a capability that they might use in the future. Some time ago there were a couple of statements by Hillary Clinton that "we do not know whom to believe because we have different assessments". Two days ago I saw another statement by her - which I appreciated - basically saying "we need to sit with the Iranians to see what they are up to, what they are aiming for". So, nobody has a clear idea other than that Iran is developing the technology. And now the Americans have come back all the way back to where we are. Yes, they are developing the enrichment technology. We do not know if there is a weapon programme, we need to clarify the issues. Based on what we see today, they are not an imminent threat for tomorrow, we are not going to wake up tomorrow to see them having a nuclear weapon. Even in the worst case scenario - that they kick us out and they walk out of the NPT - we know that what they have is not more than what would enable them to make one nuclear weapon, and nobody has an arsenal composed of one nuclear weapon.

STANDARD: But they have what they have now, plus the technology...

ELBARADEI: That is why I said the policy failed. Because the policy was that they should not even have the knowledge which is as I called it was a combination of arrogance and ignorance. And I still would repeat that. You can´t ask a country not to have the knowledge. Now they have the knowlegde and they have part of the industrial capacity too, they have 5-6000 centrifuges operating. It was obvious to me all along that the only way is to sit together and put all the grievances they have for the last 50 years on the table. I am happy that Obama mentioned this specifically in his speech in Cairo, saying it goes back to 1953 when the US overthrew Mossadegh all the way to the hostages until today. It was obvious that you have to sit with them, that you cannot impose preconditions, that you have to treat them with respect. You know that psychology is 50 percent of any solution and substance is another 50. When I saw Obama saying we are ready to sit with the Iranians in a direct dialogue without preconditions and based on mutual respect and sit with the Islamic Republic of Iran - he was the first one who mentioned Iran by its name - I realized that there is a new environment, and this gives me a lot of hope. This is common sense policy, it was sidelined for six years. So, I have a lot of hope. But Iran needs to reciprocate. I told the Iranians now it is your turn to show a gesture of good will. Cooperate better with us, apply the Additional Protocol, you can do a lot to build confidence. I think Iran is going to move. One of the proposals I made some time ago: let us calm things down by having a freeze for a freeze. A freeze in the expansion of your enrichment programme and a freeze of the sanctions. Create conditions conducive to negotiations. And I will repeat that on Monday at our Board of Governors. Because then you will be not negotiating under pressure, you are not negotiating while Iran is building up capacity and you are not negotiating while Iran feels that they are still being whipped by additional sanctions. In my opinion, the negotiations are not going to take less than 2 to 3 years. They are not going to talk only about the nulear programme. The nuclear programme is a symptom of lack of security in the Middle East, of competition for power. That´s the essence of it - competition of power and ideology between Iran and the US. They are totally opposed ideologically and they have to sit together to decide what are the red lines, who can do what, what is acceptable, what is not acceptable. Iran in return has to provide assurance that the programme is peaceful. Iran needs also a face-saving formula - they cannot just go now and tell the people we are abandoning completely our nuclear programme - and assurance of security and assurance that they will get nuclear technology. To be fair, the second offer by the Americans and the Europeans is very generous. It is good, but because of the lack of trust and because even of a lack of a forum to discuss it, it has not moved. But I believe that there is a good prospect that, if both sides apply a common sense approach, we will get an Iranian package which, as I said, will have a lot of impact on the whole Middle East, a positive impact on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Lebanon, on the Palestinian issue, and of course on Iraq. There has to be a discussion on human rights, on support for extremist groups and many other issues. Iran at the end of the day wants to be recognized as a major power in the Middle East, and it is a major power in the Middle East right now.

STANDARD: With the help of Mr. Bush and all those who wanted the Iraq war...

ELBARADEI: After Saddam Hussein is gone, after the Taliban are removed, at least temporarily, Iran has its tentacles everywhere, while on the other hand the Arab world is completely fragmented. They have more fights with each other than with the Israelis. There is a lack of trust, there is a lack of governance, there is a lack of sound economic development in many parts of the Arab world. They also have to understand that they have to be part of that dialogue. Like in the Korean situation, it is the neighbors who have been affected, Japan and South Korea. I keep telling the Arabs you cannot sit on the fence, you have to be engaged, because any settlement will impact on you. You should not repeat the fatal mistake that you have made in Iraq, by acting, as if Iraq is in Latin America: even if the war was a total mistake, if they had gone immediately to put an Arab face on things, a Moslem face trying to work on a political settlement, the situation would have been different, we would not have lost one million Iraqis. The whole Arab-Israeli axis has to be part of that package. It has to be supported simultaneously by a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. After a hundred years of bloodshed and mistrust in the Middle East, we need a very robust security system to make sure things are going in the right direction.

STANDARD: I think that the outcome of the elections in Iran do not make much difference to the overall situation which you are describing. But undoubtedly President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added to the problem with his threats against Israel.

ELBARADEI: He made a lot of offensive provocative statements. Some of it has been misinterpretated. I believe he did not ask to wipe Israel off the map. He spoke about one state for all, which Yassir Arafat once used to say, what Hannah Arendt was writing about. However, it was the wrong statement at the wrong time. Plus the Holocaust question. What difference does it make if it was six or five-and a-half-million people murdered: it was an atrocity, a horrible thing. Anyway, the president in Iran is not the one who decides. People are stereotyping Iran. Iran has a very vibrant society, one of the most advanced in science and technology, there are many intellectuals. 75 percent of the Iranians are young people who want a very normal relationship with the West and with the US. Unlike the Arab world where the people generally are very angry at the US and the leadership is friendly with the US, it is the other way round in Iran. The leaders are taking a sort of hostile posture, while the Iranian young people are very friendly. That is also one reason why I am very hopeful for Iran. Every leader in Iran, despite the rhetoric, would like to be the leader who gets this grand package - and be a national hero. There is a lot of hope, if we do it right. And the Agency is playing a small but very important part, now and in the future, if Iran helps us to clarify their nuclear programme and be able to provide assurances that their programme is for peaceful purposes. But we have to be supported by political dialogue, which has not been the case so far.

STANDARD: You have been criticised for being "too political": Isn´t the IAEA a purely technical organisation?

ELBARADEI: You cannot separate the technical from the political. There are a lot of statements here that this is a technical organisation. Well, they have to come and sit here for one day to realize that 90 percent of my work is absolutely political. We work on technical issues, but every technical issue we work on has a lot of political implications. We are dealing with 150 countries and not two of them are see the things in the same way, there are completely conflicting visions. So we have to understand that yes, we deal with technology, but technology has a lot to do with peace and security, and because of that the Agency is playing a very important political role. We had to go to the Security Council in 2003 and scream that we had not seen any Iraqi nuclear weapon programme. Unfortunately we were not listened to and we see the result right now - every morning I wake up and think of the Iraqis who lost their lives, the Iraqis who have been maimed, four million displaced, one out of three Iraqis got his life pulverized because of - Obama put it in a nice way - a war of choice: It was a war which should never had happened. So, when we sit here, every word we say, we know the political implications of every word we say and that it has a lot of impact on peace and security. If I look at nuclear safety: I have to protect you, I have to protect my family, if I see any reactor that is not operating at the highest level of safety I have to raise alarm - that is very much a political issue. I have very much to mobilize public opinion. And of course security: I have to continue to be as watchful as possible with the extremist groups so they never get their hands on nuclear material. Then we have a lot of countries now who are looking for nuclear power programmes. Almost 50 countries came to us because they are interested. A lot of them do not have the infrastructure and I have to dampen their expectations basically saying, yes, you can have it but it will take at least ten years and I will not give you the green light before you build the capacity. Because this is not just about electricity for you, it could have a major impact for your neighbors so. Then we have our technical cooperation: my heart bleeds sometimes when I go to these countries. I was in Ghana and I saw that we delivered the second radio therapy machine - for a country of about 20 million people, in addition to four neighbouring countries whose people come to Ghana to make use of these machines. In Austria there is one machine for every 250.000. When you see these situations... I recently went to Cairo, my home of origin and I saw the slums there, how people are living. There is an Arabic saying: if poverty was a man I would have killed him. We have to make sure that all human beings can live in peace and dignity, if we are not able to do that then we have failed.

STANDARD: You are hopeful for a long-term development on Iran, what about North Korea?

ELBARADEI: North Korea went from bad to worse. It has been mismanaged, by stopping the dialog. It was working in the Clinton area through the agreed framework, then the Bush administration stopped the dialogue completely, accused them of violating the agreed framework. North Korea had only one trump card - nuclear capability - and it turned from producing plutonium to developing nuclear weapons. So we are now dealing with a much worse situation than we had. We have been dealing with North Korea for many years and I always said that North Korea is a model of how we should not deal with issues of non-proliferation. But North Korea in many ways is not different from Iran. It needs a dialogue, security needs to be assured, it needs economic and humanitarian assistance. The situation is terrible, I was there a year ago. And of course they have to come back to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. As I say, in all these situations: dialogue, mutual respect, understanding what is possible, building trust. These are all common elements in any political conflict, in addition of course to the specific issue. And these common sense approaches have been absent at least the last decade.

STANDARD: Isn´t it a major difference to Iran that the North Korean regime seems to be very fragile which could make it much more dangerous?

ELBARADEI: Part of the problem is of course that there is a succession going on right now and there is an internal conflict about it. Iran is different, Iran has a lot of influence in its region. For North Korea it is a question of survival of the regime. We have to accept that the regime may not be to our liking, but give it the chance of natural progression like many of our countries have progressed. If you aim unrealistically high you end up in a much worse situation. But I still think North Korea is doable provided that we approach it that way.

STANDARD: Dr. ElBaradei, you are retiring in a few months time, do you already have plans for you personal future?

ELBARADEI: What I am exactly going to do I don´t know and I am enjoying the fact that I don´t know. All I know is that probably I will be in Vienna most of my time, the place I love, not least for the modern art and music... We have a house in the south-west of France and one in Cairo, and we will be between these three places. I have of course many offers to teach, to speak. I would like to write a book on how we can do things better. All I know is that I will continue to speak publicly, as loud and as clear and even more freely, on some of the issues we discussed today because I think we owe it to ourself and to the next generation to leave a better world than we got from our parents. I came to Vienna in 1984, 25 years ago. Vienna is home. My wife and I had long discussions where we should settle, at the end we said, Vienna is in many ways our home. It has my favorite coffee shop, it has my favorite orchestra, my favorite museum. At our age the best thing is to keep some roots.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.

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