Libération: el-Baradeï accused of helping cover up Egyptian nuclear program

The respected left-wing French daily Libération published a story implying that Mohammed el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is protecting his native country Egypt from investigation of a secret nuclear program. The article makes clear that this is speculation that is currently discreetly making the rounds at the IAEA and that is being pushed mostly by US diplomats, not that it has any tangible proof of this. It notes in particular that the US has been dissatisfied with the "moderate" approach to confronting Iran that el-Baradei favors (as do France and the UK).

Reste à savoir si la polémique, qui demeure très feutrée et ne s'est pas encore exprimée sur la place publique, est fondée. Elle prend sa source dans le programme nucléaire libyen que le très versatile colonel Kadhafi a brutalement abandonné le 19 décembre 2003, permettant à l'AIEA de plonger son nez dans ses dossiers secrets. C'est ainsi, indiquent des sources diplomatiques occidentales travaillant sur ce sujet, qu'il a pu être établi que le programme clandestin avait des implications égyptiennes. Le programme lybien a consisté notamment à importer ­ pour quelque 500 millions de dollars ­ de l'uranium et des équipements de centrifugation, dont 10 000 centrifugeuses P (Pakistan) 2. Un programme important sur lequel, semble-t-il, Tripoli ne faisait pas que travailler pour son propre compte mais aussi, secrètement, pour les Egyptiens. Depuis, une certaine tension existe entre des pays membres de l'AIEA et l'Egypte, les premiers reprochant au Caire de n'avoir pas joué franc jeu. L'affaire est à ce point sensible, à cause des répercussions qu'elle pourrait avoir dans toute la région, qu'elle est traitée avec une grande discrétion, selon les mêmes sources diplomatiques.


Translation: It remains to be seen whether this polemic, which remains low-key and has yet to be expressed in a public forum, is founded. It originates from the Libyan nuclear program that the very versatile Colonel Kadhafi suddenly abandoned on 19 December 2003, allowing the IAEA to stick its nose in its secret files. That is how, point out Western diplomatic sources working on the case, that it has been established that the clandestine program had Egyptian involvement. The Libyan program notably involved importing some $500 million of uranium and centrifuge equipment, including 10,000 P (Pakistan) 2 centrifuges. An important program on which, it seems, Tripoli was not only working for itself but also, secretly, for the Egyptians. Since then, a certain tension exists between member states of the IAEA and Egypt, with the former accusing Egypt of being dishonest. The affair is so sensitive that, because of the repercussions it could have across the region, it is treated with the utmost secrecy, according the same diplomatic sources.


The Egyptian ambassador to the IAEA has already denied the allegations, but the spokesman for the IAEA itself has refused to comment, according to this AFP story.

I'll have a second post later on this, after the elections, which provides background and digs up previous references to an Egyptian-Libyan nuclear program.
Comment

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.