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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IAEA Urges Control of Nuclear Material, Cites Terrorist Threat

UNITED NATIONS -- The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency urged the United Nations on Monday to consider imposing multinational control over the production of nuclear material that could be used in weapons, citing the growing threat of nuclear terrorism.

If adopted, the proposal would amount to a major overhaul of the current nuclear regime, established by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which permits signers to handle their nuclear fuel under international inspection.

The treaty, which entered into force in 1970, was intended to limit the spread of nuclear technology and material. Nations that were not already nuclear powers agreed to refrain from developing nuclear weapons in return for help with their nuclear energy or nuclear medicine programs. At the time the treaty was negotiated, there was less concern that rogue states, terrorists groups and individuals might be able to obtain highly enriched uranium and plutonium, the crucial ingredients for nuclear weapons.

"Recent events have made it clear that the nonproliferation regime is under growing stress," ElBaradei warned. He pointed to the "serious and immediate challenge" posed by North Korea, which has pulled out of the nonproliferation treaty, and to the uncertainties about nuclear programs in Iran and Iraq.

It is not clear how ElBaradei's proposal would affect the five nations -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- with nuclear weapons programs that pre-dated the treaty.

On the threat posed by North Korea, ElBaradei said that in the absence of inspections there, the agency cannot "provide any level of assurance about the nondiversion of nuclear material."

In his speech Monday, ElBaradei also insisted that inspectors from his agency and the United Nations be permitted to return to Iraq "to provide ongoing assurance that activities related to weapons of mass destruction have not been resumed." Renewed inspections would "bring the weapons file to a closure," he said.