US to seek ouster of IAEA chief
WASHINGTON: The Bush administration, unhappy with what it sees as his interference in the US election on the Iraqi explosives issue, would actively seek to oust the UN nuclear watchdog chief if the president is re-elected, a senior official said on Friday.
Previously, US officials urged Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to step down after two terms. But now the view has hardened. If Bush wins re-election next Tuesday, the plan is “to move from urging him to (leave the IAEA) to active opposition” to his reappointment, the senior US official told Reuters.
He said US officials see ElBaradei’s hand in this week’s disclosure about 377 tons of explosives missing from the al Qaqaa munitions complex south of Baghdad in Iraq.
The IAEA said the site was never secured by the US military after the March 2003 invasion. The explosives could be used to detonate a nuclear bomb, blow up an airplane or building or many other military applications, experts said.
ElBaradei, speaking to reporters at the United Nations in New York, “absolutely categorically” denied the report was politically motivated to harm Bush’s re-election chances.
The story has dominated news headlines and given Democratic candidate John Kerry an issue to use against Bush in the final days of a fiercely-fought dead heat election campaign.
Kerry has charged that the administration blundered by failing to safeguard the powerful conventional explosives. He said this showed the president’s weakness as a leader. reuters