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Shape Up and Deliver, Says Blix
By Lee Berthiaume
Embassy Magazine
October 4th, 2006

To view the electronic version of this article, please click here.


Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix says the West needs better tactics and incentives if it wants Iran to stop its nuclear enrichment program.

Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix believes countries like Canada must band together to break the complacency that has taken hold over the world on nuclear weapons disarmament, or more countries can be expected to join the exclusive group in their bids to attain a level playing field.

"We need a revival of disarmament," Mr. Blix said in an interview with Embassy last week. "People don't seem to worried about it, it's global warming they're worried about and not nuclear mutual destruction any longer.

"Canada cannot be expected to act alone," he added. "I think that Canada can work together with a number of other countries that are eager to revive disarmament and get somewhere and tell the nuclear states it's time they shaped up and delivered."

Mr. Blix was in charge of inspections for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003, and has been highly critical of the American and British administrations that launched the war, despite his correct assessment that there were no such weapons in the country.

Over the past year, the world has been increasingly caught up in the West's struggle to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, as well as attempts to pacify nuclear-armed North Korea.

At the same time, the United States is looking to ratify an agreement with India that would essentially see America give its blessing to the Asian country's nuclear program, an act that that many believe has significantly weakened the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Mr. Blix, who was in Ottawa for a lecture at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, says if trends continue, the U.S., India and North Korea could see the nuclear power group-which also counts France, Russia, China, Pakistan and Israel as members-only grow.

"I think there may be a justified fear that if the nuclear weapon states do not move in the direction of disarmament, there is a risk that there will be an erosion of support for the NPT by the others," he says.

"Right now there's a feeling everyone is trying to test, but it's not true," Mr. Blix adds. "However, it could happen. There's a domino effect. If the North Koreans move on and continue testing missiles and weapons, I'm sure it would have an impact on thinking in Japan. And no area is more riskier than that. And if the Iranians were to move on, I don't think that Turkey or Saudi Arabia...over time there is a risk that they see a nuclear program as a modern part of [progress]."


Europeans On Track With Iran

In addition, Mr. Blix says it's hard to tell other countries not to develop such weapons without leading by example.

"It's like someone sitting with a fat cigar in his mouth and telling the others they should not smoke," he says. "It's not a terribly convincing pose."

While some have questioned whether Iran is actually working on a nuclear weapons program, and how close the country is to obtaining those weapons, Mr. Blix says it's essential the West continue working to get the Iranians to suspend their uranium enrichment program.

However, he says the way the U.S., which is leading the charge, has gone about the negotiations is wrong and should instead mimic the offers made to North Korea with more "carrots" for Iran.

"I think the Europeans have been on the right track," he says of offers to supply uranium for civilian purposes and endorsing Iran's bid for nuclear power generation, "which I think is important to show that they are not out to retard developing countries."

In addition, the North Koreans have been offered diplomatic relations with Japan and the U.S. as well as assurances that it will not be attacked from abroad or subverted from the inside.

"Although the Iranians are not worried about Iraq today, they may well be worried about the United States," Mr. Blix says. "Hence an offering of assurances against attacks from the outside, provided they suspend their enrichment program, would be an interesting element in which they should probe and try in talks."

Finally, by insisting that the Iranians abandon their enrichment efforts prior to the commencement of negotiations, Mr. Blix says the Western countries have "painted themselves into a corner."

"The enrichment of the program is the chief objective of the negotiations and the other elements are given in return for it," he says. "How can you expect the party to, in advance, give away their card?"