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'Nuke threat greater from terrorists than Iran'

Mohamed ElBaradei, director of IAEA, said there is no military solution to the standoff with Iran.

india Updated: May 13, 2006 08:45 IST

The world should be more worried about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists than about Iran's nuclear programme, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency said.

Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said there is no military solution to the standoff with Iran over its determination to continue its uranium enrichment programme.

ElBaradei, who spoke at length with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said he was "for the first time somewhat optimistic" that the Iran standoff can be resolved.

"I think everybody understands that we need to exhaust every possible route to find a diplomatic solution," he said.

But he said the risk that terrorists could acquire a nuclear weapon was of greater concern.

"Terrorists are a different thing," he said in an interview. "The fear of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons is much more, in my view ... Than a country acquiring nuclear weapons right now," he said.

ElBaradei said the international community needed an equitable collective security system that does not have an exclusive nuclear club, "a system where every country feels secure."

Otherwise, he said, "we are going to see proliferation of nuclear weapons."