Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Reuters Investigates:
Who is Mohamed ElBaradei, the professional Egyptian opposition figure who joined the ranks of disaffected Eypgtians to topple President Hosni Mubarak after thirty years in power? Does the 68-year-old diplomat and lawyer have what it takes to become Egypt's next president if it holds free and fair elections?
Louis Charbonneau's special report takes a close look at ElBaradei's performance while at the helm of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where he stood toe-to-toe with the Bush administration over Iraq and Iran. It tells how he survived a plot by hawkish U.S. politician John Bolton to oust him and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 jointly with the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog. It looks into his questionable record as a manager while showing that he may have what it takes to lead Egypt -- if he wants the job.
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February 2003. Anti-French sentiment sweeps across the United States. President George W. Bush and his top aides can barely contain their irritation at the French government for undermining U.S.-led efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize the impending invasion of Iraq. With the aid of Germany and Russia, France torpedoes the drive for a new resolution authorizing war. Frustration erupts into anger. Bottles of French wine and champagne are emptied into toilets and some restaurants rename French fries “freedom fries.”
In the sound and fury following the U.N. nuclear governors’ censure of Iran last week for its cover-up of a second uranium enrichment site, and Tehran’s rejection of a nuclear cooperation deal with world powers, a broader, festering issue was obscured.
That is the question of “alleged military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear programme — that is, whether Tehran illicitly coordinated projects to process uranium, test high explosives and revamp the cone of a missile to fit a nuclear payload.
For years Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and outgoing head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, has warned the United States and other Western powers against jumping to conclusions about Iran’s nuclear program. While Washington, Israel and their allies see increasing indications that Tehran’s secretive nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons, ElBaradei told an audience of academics, politicians and diplomats at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City that his agency has “no concrete evidence” that Tehran is pursuing an atom bomb.
So is Iran’s nuclear program intended solely for lighting light bulbs in the world’s fourth biggest oil producer as Tehran insists? According to ElBaradei, its purpose is something completely different.
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.
At his penultimate meeting with governors of the U.N. nuclear watchdog before he steps down in November, Mohamed ElBaradei gave diplomats a reminder of the colourful prose and no-nonsense authority they may soon miss.
A veteran of the long-running dispute between the West and Iran over its contentious nuclear programme, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency urged the 35-nation governing body to “put (your) heads together to break the logjam,” on the same day that Tehran submitted a package of proposals to foreign powers.
Insiders say Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was rather reticent and stiff in public when he took the job in 1997. He’d spent decades below the radar in Egypt’s foreign service, U.S. academia and the U.N. nuclear watchdog as head of the legal and external relations divisions.
But Mohamed ElBaradei evolved into a politically outspoken tribune for international peace and fair play.
The U.N. nuclear non-proliferation watchdog assiduously guards its impartiality as it monitors and investigates disputed activity in Iran and Syria, with suspicious Western powers impatient for the inspectors to draw conclusions.
So the International Atomic Energy Agency typically puts what have become keenly anticipated, quarterly reports on Iran and Syria through many painstaking drafts before they see the light of day, to help ensure that not a single word can be misunderstood, misinterpreted or turned to political advantage.
George W Bush’s final tour of Europe as president of the United States has so far been curiously uneventful and curiously familiar. More discussion of Iran, more talk of tougher sanctions if the Islamic republic refuses to stop enriching uranium and another warning that ‘all options’ are on the table to ensure it falls into line.
But despite three rounds of sanctions by the U.N. Security Council, Iran has refused to cooperate. Instead it has set about protecting assets at risk from such measures, for example by withdrawing funds from European banks.