IAEA chief Yukiya Amano on nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano on nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano on nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
Feb. 13 2011 8:59 PM

"We Don't Have a Smoking Gun; We Have Concerns"

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano on nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says it is unlikely the Stuxnet cyberattack on Iran derailed the Islamic republic's nuclear program. The Washington Post's Lally Weymouth talked to Amano last week in Vienna. Excerpts:

Yukiya Amano. Click image to expand.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director Yukiya Amano

L.W.: Many believe that Iran carried out nuclear weapons research in the past, including work on weaponization. ... Do you agree with this? Y.A.: We receive information from various countries and collect information from our own sources that give us concern over the possible use of nuclear materials for military purposes—in the past and perhaps now.

L.W.: How is Iran complying with the IAEA? Your last report indicated some frustration.
Y.A.: We ask them to declare—we ask about their activities. ... We don't know if there are other activities outside their declaration. We are not sure if they are hiding something.

L.W.: What is the next step if they are not forthcoming?
Y.A.: We continue to press them. If they don't [clarify], I have to report it to the board of governors. For the time being, I don't see any indication that we can make progress.

L.W.: Will you say in your February report that Iran was engaged in nuclear weaponization before 2003?
Y.A.: We don't say that. We don't have a smoking gun. We have concerns.

L.W.: Will the IAEA press for access to further locations in Iran?
Y.A.: Yes, this is an issue that we have been discussing. We want to know more about what they are doing. ... But Iran does not tell us well in advance about the construction of new facilities.

L.W.: How badly was Iran's centrifuge program affected by the [Stuxnet cyber] worm from 2009?
Y.A.: Iran is somehow producing uranium enriched to 3.5 percent and 20 percent. They are producing it steadily, constantly.

L.W.: So the cyberattack did not slow them down? The amount of enriched uranium has not been affected?
Y.A.: The production is very steady.


L.W.: Some say that from the moment Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei gives the order to make the bomb it will take a year.
Y.A.: This is a question where we don't have much expertise. What we are doing is [tracking] how much enriched uranium they have.

L.W.: Iranian President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad seems very determined to build a nuclear program.
Y.A.: I have the same impression.

L.W.: What is the status of the al-Kibarsituation [in Syria]?
Y.A.: The main issue in Syria is the al-Kibar site that was destroyed by Israel in 2007. They have constructed new buildings, and we visited after the destruction in 2008. After that we continued asking Syria to allow us further access, but they did not. As I didn't receive a response, I wrote a letter to the foreign minister in November.

L.W.: [Syrian] President Bashar al-Assad recently denied the facility ever existed.
Y.A.: Yes, he said the facility was not a nuclear reactor. ... The problem is that this facility was destroyed, cleaned up, and a new building was built on that ground. We hope to visit again; we hope to check it again. But the facility which was touted to be a nuclear reactor is gone.