IAEA nations, but not Israel, fete El Baradei in sendoff

September 10, 2009

Some nations who once criticised Mohamed ElBaradei over his approach to Iran’s disputed nuclear programme joined a roomful of effusive tributes to the outgoing chief of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on Thursday.

But Israel, ElBaradei’s most public and caustic critic, left its seat empty to sidestep the succession of delegations hailing the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, participants in the closed-door meeting said.

The IAEA’s multinational board of governors presented ElBaradei, 67, with a silver platter, approved a resolution declaring him “Director-General Emeritus” for after he retires on November 30, and gave him a standing ovation.
He was moved to tears of appreciation.

The tall, slightly stooped IAEA chief said he felt “humbled and grateful” and picked up on his cherished theme of international cooperation to solve conflicts, poverty, disease and other iniquities of the world.

“We are all partners on a human journey and we are on the right track,” he said. “The human family is not a zero-sum game — we will either win or lose together. No problems can be solved alone,” ElBaradei said, gently alluding to past differences with a unilateralist United States under George W. Bush.

He repeatedly praised Bush’s successor as U.S. president, Barack Obama, for his commitment to nuclear disarmament and multilateral consultations to defuse conflict.

ElBaradei also said his successor as director-general, Yukiya Amano, a dry Japanese diplomat without the incumbent’s charisma who was only narrowly elected in July, would lead the IAEA with “competence, courage and vision”.

ElBaradei, a veteran Egyptian diplomat, and the IAEA jointly won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to prevent the stealthy spread of nuclear weapons and foster peaceful and safe uses of atomic energy in the developing world.

The latter half of his 12-year tenure was also buffeted by spats with Israel, the United States and some European powers, especially France, over perceptions he was softpedalling the risks posed by Iran’s shadowy nuclear activity.

They bridled at ElBaradei’s outspoken warnings that only negotiations, not isolating sanctions or last-resort war

(“bonkers”, as he undiplomatically put it), can bring a lasting solution on Iran. Some Western officials, including

former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, accused him of “speaking outside his box” as head of a technical U.N. agency.

The Bush administration’s relations with ElBaradei had curdled in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, when he publicly challenged what later proved to be fabricated intelligence about an Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programme used to justify the U.S.-led invasion.

U.S. officials in the Bush administration circulated transcripts of wiretaps of ElBaradei’s telephone in an ultimately futile attempt to undermine his election by the IAEA’s board of governors to a third term in 2005.

U.S. relations with, and public respect for, the IAEA have improved dramatically since Obama took office in January.

But old tensions resurfaced last month when France and Israel suggested ElBaradei was sitting on IAEA findings pointing more concretely to a covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme than information the agency has released to date.

He angrily denied any such cover-up. The Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities under investigation, he said in remarks to governors on Wednesday, were highly suspicious but investigations so far had unearthed no hard proof of “weaponisation” work.

Twenty-four hours later, all the political tugs-of-war  between ElBaradei and Western powers seemed forgotten as 39 national delegations including the United States and big European allies sang his praises in the send-off ceremony.

But not Israel, which accused ElBaradei of glossing over  what it considers an undeniable Iranian lunge for nuclear weapons capability under the noses of IAEA inspectors that will pose a mortal threat to the Jewish state in the near future.

Israel’s chief envoy sat quietly at the back of the conference chamber during the tribute rites, then returned to his seat for a bit of routine board business that concluded the meeting.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

If non-proliferation under a (revised) NPT with intrusive inspections authority under IAEA can contain non-signatory states prolific nuclear programmes, it’d be imperative to bring Israel, Pakistan, N Korea and India under NPT aegis with a view to remove nuclear weapons from becoming the destruction of peaceful co-existence between states with different social systems.

Posted by hari | Report as abusive

El Baradei gave a rousing speech that negotiation, not confrontation, is the only effective means of preventing nuclear proliferation.

It is a shame that the IAEA has nothing but a past and continuing history of inability. It is nothing more then a great stalling tactic, like most of the UN.

Their mode of operation is to:
1. Conduct endless investigations.
2. Provide endless opinions that more information is needed.
3. Implore people to let the IAEA do their job.
4. Become quiet and reserved when yet another nation develops nuclear weapons.

His words have no impact now.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Why is Israel given a seat the the UN/IAEA? It is patently obvious they have no interest in UN/IAEA decisions or resolutions, or a multi-lateral approach to problem solving. As long as they have powers like the US and UK at their beck and call they don’t really need to cooperate with anyone.

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

So John H, how are the UK and US at Israel’s beck and call when they are constantly asking Israel to do things it doesn’t want to. I fear you are delusional. This whole IAEA is another nail in the coffin of the UN, an organisation that today just seeks to prop up dictatorships and propagate suffering.

Posted by john | Report as abusive

I find it completely hypocritical of Israel to be criticizing the IAEA considering they are the only nuclear capable country that has flatly refused to be inspected for decades.

Posted by mondo | Report as abusive

BTW, John, you are delusional if you don’t think the USA is completely subservient to Israel. Check out the website www.ifamericansonlyknew.com

Posted by mondo | Report as abusive

Israel, is not always right and has used horrendous methods to kill innocent people. If you have nothing to hide declare your nuclear weapons,, what does Israel have to hide?

Posted by Michael B | Report as abusive

Hey mondo-when was the last time you saw any inspectors in the USA or any other nuclear powers “inspecting”. Winking is more like what they do…or turning their heads & pretending nut to see. Want to bet that after his retirement a whole lot of reports on Iran will suddenly be “found”?

Posted by bronxiegirl | Report as abusive

Very nicely put. But a little too late. Iran through russia surely has more then we know about, or isreal alleges. Google “web bot predictions2009″. The senerio they say may play out is a very real possiblity with what we know today.

Isreal having our nuclear capablities is not good. They have built what they have lived in. They are building more settlements. They are still throwing rockets at isreal. None of it good. Then by the hand of Isreal… to have that senerio play out, our hands are in it. :(

Posted by Charles | Report as abusive

The entire UN, IAEA are prime examples of the most useless, worthless and incompetent international organizations on the face of the earth. They have no means by which to enforce any of the minuscule portion of their mandate. They can do no more than write reports and issue worthless statements of opinion. It’s time this fallacy of international governance and cooperation were completely disbanded and replaced by organization which actually has some authority.

Posted by Filipe | Report as abusive

[…] […]

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive