Former U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix Rips U.S. Approach on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix criticized the United States on Thursday for keeping open the possibility of military action to force changes in Iran's nuclear program.

Blix was in Rome to take part in an international gathering of experts on nuclear proliferation that was held, coincidentally, during U.S. President George W. Bush's three-day stop in the city.

"The military threat may well be counterproductive," Blix said at a news conference. "It is more likely to strengthen the ranks in Iran."

The veteran Swedish diplomat, who tried to avert the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq because no weapons of mass destruction had been found by U.N. inspectors, said stronger economic sanctions are more likely to force Tehran to compromise on its nuclear program.

"The rewards are more important, the carrots rather than the sticks," he said. He said the United States and Europe should offer incentives including support for Iran joining the World Trade Organization, improved economic relations and guarantees against outside attacks and attempts to topple the Iranian regime.

Before traveling from Berlin to Rome on Wednesday, Bush reiterated his previous statements on the issue, saying he favors a peaceful resolution to the standoff with Iran but has not ruled out force.

Iran maintains its nuclear program is aimed generating electricity. But the United States and some of its allies fear Iran is secretly trying to develop atomic weapons.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of limited sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can produce both nuclear fuel and the material needed for nuclear warheads.
Not all of the scientists and policy experts gathered in Rome to discuss nuclear issues agreed with Blix.

As long as it is made clear that it is a last resort, the threat of military action could push Iran to comply with the international community's demands, said Uzi Arad, director of Israel's Institute for Policy and Strategy.

"The fact that there is such an option is very healthy in concentrating Iranian minds," Arad told reporters. "The existence of the military option increases the chances of a nonmilitary solution."

In Israel, fears of Iran's growing might run high and discussion of military action to keep Tehran in check is becoming increasingly common.

Source: The International Herald Tribune