Blix urges patience over Iran

The international community should offer Iran more incentives to renounce its nuclear programme, the former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, said on Monday at an energy seminar in Norway.

“We still have time on our side. Iran can’t have a nuclear bomb until five years from now,” Blix said in the southwestern Norwegian town of Bergen, the NTB news agency reported.

“The United States has given North Korea time to negotiate while Iran has been given a short deadline. The United States and other great powers should negotiate with Iran and offer a few carrots like they did with North Korea,” the former Swedish diplomat said.

Tension has mounted in recent months as world powers, in particular the administration of US President George W. Bush, have accused Tehran of concealing a suspected nuclear weapons program and of aiding Iraqi insurgents.

In 2003, Blix opposed the US-led military strike against Iraq amid allegations that the country had weapons of massive destruction – claims that turned out to be false – and had instead called for the United Nations and its nuclear watchdog IAEA to continue its inspections.

Blix also said on Monday that he did not believe the United States would invade Iran given its negative experience in Iraq, but said it could carry out targeted strikes on military installations.

“The United States could bomb or launch missiles on several places in Iran. Then the reaction would be violent and that would lead to increased terrorism,” he said.

“The United States has not wanted to talk to Iran since 1980. And with 130,000 US soldiers in Iraq and US bases almost everywhere, one could ask who’s threatening who,” he said.

Last week, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, Britain, France, China and Russia) gave Iran one month to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, but did not specify what measures it would take if Tehran failed to comply.

Iran has so far refused to freeze its uranium enrichment programme, which it resumed in January and which it claims is for civilian energy needs.