The world is in a "race against time" to prevent nuclear weapons from getting into the hands of terrorists, the chief of the UN's nuclear watchdog said Monday.
Mohamed ElBaradei said the world was not ready to deal with a nuclear or radiological attack by terrorists and must hurry to strengthen international nonproliferation measures to prevent such as possibility.
"We are in a race against time because it is something we were not prepared for," said ElBaradei, the director general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). "We have to cross our fingers that nothing will happen."
Speaking on the sidelines of an international conference on nuclear security, ElBaradei welcomed a tentative deal struck at the weekend between three European powers and Iran aimed at suspending the Middle East country's nuclear enrichment and reprocessing programs.
He called the preliminary agreement brokered in Paris between Iran and France, Germany and Britain "a step in the right direction."
ElBaradei said he still had to confirm details of the agreement, but hoped it included the suspension of uranium enrichment programs in Iran as a sign of good faith by Teheran.
"I am told it is still a very tentative agreement, it has still not yet been confirmed," ElBaradei told a news conference in Sydney.
Iran says its nuclear plants will only be used for a civilian atomic energy program.
The two-day conference under way in Sydney was aimed at building cooperation to boost security at nuclear facilities in the Asia-Pacific region to prevent terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear material.
"The threats to nuclear security -- from nuclear proliferation by some states or terrorist acts involving nuclear facilities and nuclear and radioactive materials are global problems," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the conference. "They will only be solved by global action."
(China Daily November 9, 2004)