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Mohamed ElBaradei: Iraq should get 'one final chance'

elbaradei
IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei

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Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on CNN.com providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

(CNN) -- Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the U.N. Security Council should give Saddam Hussein's regime "one final chance" before talking about going to war. ElBaradei joined CNN Anchor Paula Zahn Tuesday to discuss the situation.

ZAHN: How do you or why do you believe that more time will actually produce any new evidence?

ELBARADEI: Well, Paula, I think in the nuclear area we are making progress. In the chemical and biological area, there is not much progress happening.

However, I don't believe that [we have] exhausted the peace process yet. I know that the international community is getting impatient. I know that many people in Washington are getting impatient, but I think it is worth trying one more time, and ... give Iraq one final chance before we think of going to war.

I think if we can make progress and if we can disarm Iraq through peaceful means, that is obviously in the interest of everybody. So we need to continue to push Iraq to come forward with evidence. As you know, Hans Blix ... [says] he has no evidence they have chemical and biological weapons. He needs evidence, and I think Iraq has to understand, unless they come with the evidence pretty quickly ... the international community is not going to wait forever. I think Secretary Powell said yesterday that it is for Iraq to come forward, and I agree. I mean, I'm asking for time not to continue to search in the dark, but I'm asking for time on the assumption that Iraq will hear the message and come forward with evidence so we can move forward.

ZAHN: Well, you've asked for several months. Do you have a deadline in mind? And would you favor a second resolution that would set a deadline? There are those who believe the first resolution is the resolution that should have been honored and that the Iraqis should have come clean by now.

ELBARADEI: I think when I talk about [a] few months, I'm talking about the nuclear file, and as I mentioned, in the area of nuclear I think we're making progress. On the assumption that Iraq will continue to provide us evidence, we should be able to come to a conclusion that Iraq has no nuclear weapon, which is progress.

But we still have, of course, the chemical and biological, and that's a problematic area, because that's an area when there is a lot of open questions.

[The] Security Council, obviously, will have to decide whether they need another resolution. There are differences of views among members on whether there is a need of another resolution, but that's not really the most important issue. The most important issue is to get the Security Council to be continuing, unified in its call, in its pressure on Iraq to disarm, because that is very important. I don't think we benefit from split views in the Security Council. I think we got where we are today, we got back to Iraq, we got to have access anywhere because of unified support in Security Council, because of the resolution 1441, and I hope that unified message, unified support, resolve will continue. Whether we need another resolution or not, as I said, that's a moot point. What is important is get the Security Council to push Iraq to move toward disarmament.

ZAHN: You made a couple references to Hans Blix's territory, the inspections not progressing the way people would like for them to. I wanted to quickly list some of the things Hans Blix reported to the United Nations Monday: indications that Iraq has created weapons using nerve agent VX, failure to account for 6,500 chemical weapons, lack of proof that they destroyed 8,500 liters of anthrax. How do you react to your colleague's stinging report?

ELBARADEI: ... I respect Hans Blix's judgment. He believed that he does not have the evidence to exonerate Iraq. He doesn't have enough records of production or destruction, and that he keeps pushing for this evidence, whether it's people, physical evidence. He keeps saying, you know, I don't have evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but I cannot exclude the possibility.

And I think what we have tried to impress on Iraq, Paula, last week that Iraq is now -- has to prove that it is innocent. With resolution 1441, the burden of proof is really in the Iraqi court, because Iraq was declared in material breach. So they have to prove their innocence, and that requires [a] high level of confidence. They need to go out of their way to prove through whatever possible means that they have no weapons of mass destruction, and I support Hans Blix, that we need both of us, both in the nuclear area and the chemical and biological side to come to the Security Council and say, yes, we now believe Iraq has been disarmed.

ZAHN: Well, let me ask you this, you no doubt know that Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said he now will cooperate more fully with the U.N. You, yourself have expressed frustration at the inability of your inspectors to question scientists privately, calling it a restricting factor.

What is it that you need from the Iraqis right now?

ELBARADEI: Well, I need to have the ability to interview all of the Iraqi scientists we would like to interview in private, both inside and outside Iraq. I would like to see more documents from Iraq in some areas when we need clarification, in the nuclear weapon area. I need a proactive approach. I need [an] Iraq that is eager to cooperate, and not just dragging its feet. I think that is very important. The environment has to change, both in my area and Hans Blix's area.

ZAHN: Are you optimistic or pessimistic you're going to get that cooperation? Because Hans Blix said in his report Monday that there have been disturbing incidents and harassments, including charges by Iraqi officials that your inspectors are spies.

ELBARADEI: Well, I can tell you, Paula, we are going to do our damn best to disarm Iraq through inspection. However I cannot say whether I'm optimistic or pessimistic. The ball is entirely in Iraq's court.

ZAHN: Mr. Blix made it very clear Monday he doesn't think the Iraqis have made a legitimate effort to disarm.

ELBARADEI: We have discussed it ... and I think we agreed we need to make one further effort, and I hope we'll succeed.


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