Mohamed ElBaradei, outgoing chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, maintains that the danger posed by Iran's nuclear program is being exaggerated, and that the only way to resolve issues with Teheran is through talks. Negotiations should also eventually lead to the Middle East being a nuclear-free zone, he believes, thus ending the "imbalance" resulting from the fact that Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"The threat in Iran's nuclear program is exaggerated. I do not think that we will wake up tomorrow and discover that Iran has a nuclear weapon," he said in an interview with the Austrian Die Presse published on Sunday.
"[US] President Barack Obama has understood that negotiation is the only possible solution with Iran... Iran wants to discuss not only the nuclear issue, but also the entire palette of problems with the US. Iran can play an important, central role in the Near East; in Afghanistan or also in Iraq," the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate continued.
The greatest danger in the region, according to ElBaradei, comes from the possibility of an Israeli air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"Bombing Iran is not the solution. An Israeli attack would turn the entire region into a fireball," he said.
"We should ask ourselves why countries develop nuclear weapons. They promise power and prestige. Israel says it cannot tolerate an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons. But when you talk now with Arab leaders, they say they cannot tolerate a nuclear Israel.
"The solution: We need to ensure a lasting peace in the region, and the entire Middle East must become a nuclear-free zone. That, however, takes time. But we must also remember the imbalance in the fact that a country, namely Israel, remains out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while other countries are bound by the contract."