Hans Blix Says Iran Has 'Legal Right' To Enrich Uranium
by Richard S. Ehrlich
BANGKOK, Thailand -- Iran has ''a legal right''
to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, but
an attack by the U.S. or Israel would probably
push the Iranians to build a nuclear bomb,
former top U.N. weapons inspector Dr. Hans
"When the U.S. says that it is unacceptable for
Iran to have enrichment capacity, well I don't
think that quite squares with the
Non-Proliferation Treaty that permits it," Dr.
Blix said in an interview.
Iran "may have enriched some very small
quantities, but I can't be sure about that. They
have very few centrifuges mounted," he said.
"They know that they are in a tense region of
the world, and that tensions will go higher if
they continue to mount and build these
centrifuges, and if indeed they produce the
highly enriched uranium. But I wouldn't say
that is prohibited. They are within a legal
right to do so. And they assert it is for
Iran secretly imported centrifuges and were
constructing a heavy-water research
reactor to build up their capability to enrich
uranium, he said.
"I can understand those who are suspicious
because they did hide what they did. They
didn't abide or respect their safeguard
agreements that they have with the IAEA
(International Atomic Energy Agency)," he
"I don't know how many centrifuges they
have, but to have a real capability -- not only
technological but a practical, industrial one
-- they would need thousands of centrifuges.
They have not come to that stage at all. But
they could produce them," Dr. Blix said.
An attack by America or Israel would
probably aim at "destroying any nascent
enrichment capability, perhaps also
hexofloride production capability," the
former Swedish diplomat said.
"If the Iranians are suspecting a strike --
whether to punish or pre-empt -- surely they
would have tried to find someplace where
they can hide [their uranium enrichment
capability], where they can make more," he
"If anything would make them more
determined to go ahead with a nuclear
weapons program, I suppose it would be an
attack," Dr. Blix said.
Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty which allows mining and enrichment
of uranium, and development of nuclear
technology for peaceful purposes, such as
energy or medical research, under IAEA
"They have the capability to produce
hexofloride, which is the feed material that
you put into the centrifuges and obtain
enriched uranium," said Dr. Blix, currently
chairman of an international weapons of
mass destruction commission, financed by the
"They do need enriched uranium for their two
light-water reactors, which they built in
Bushehr along the Persian Gulf, but that
enrichment need not go any further than
around five percent.
"However, if you can enrich to five percent,
you can also enrich to 85 percent, that's a
weapons grade. It is permitted, entirely
permitted, under the Non-Proliferation
Treaty to enrich uranium, but it is not
permitted to do it in order to make nuclear
weapons," he said.
For example, Japan, Brazil and South Africa
signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, enriched
uranium for peaceful purposes, and "there
are no objections raised to them," Dr. Blix
"So I don't think one should tell the Iranians
that 'You cannot do this for the same purpose
as these three'."
Dr. Blix was interviewed on Sunday (Feb. 6),
hours after arriving in Bangkok where he will
address various forums about peace and
disarmament, on a trip sponsored by the
International Peace Foundation.
"Today, Iran remains the world's primary
state sponsor of terror, pursuing nuclear
weapons while depriving its people of the
freedom they seek and deserve," U.S.
President George W. Bush said in his State of
the Union speech on Feb. 2.
"We are working with European allies to
make clear to the Iranian regime that it must
give up its uranium enrichment program, and
any plutonium reprocessing, and end its
support for terror," Mr. Bush said.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres,
who is "widely regarded as the father of
Israel's secretive nuclear deterrent,
dampened suggestions that Israel was
planning pre-emptive strikes against Iran,"
the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
reported on Jan. 24.
"The party that will decide is the United
States," Mr. Peres told Israel's Army Radio.
"If we go it alone, we will remain alone.
Everyone knows our potential, but we also
have to know our limits," Mr. Peres said,
according to the BBC's monitoring of Israel's
American reporter Seymour Hersh, in the
New Yorker magazine, reported in January
that U.S. special forces conducted secret
reconnaissance missions inside Iran to
identify and target nuclear and other
Copyright by Richard S. Ehrlich
email: animists *at* yahoo dot com
Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 26 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews.
His web page is