WASHINGTON, Oct 28: Chief of the UN nuclear watchdog agency Mohamed ElBaradei said on Sunday he had no evidence that Iran was building nuclear weapons and accused US leaders of adding ‘fuel to the fire’ with recent bellicose rhetoric.

The IAEA director-general said on CNN’s “Late Edition” programme that he had seen no evidence to suggest that Iran had “a concrete, active nuclear-weapons programme right now,” and urged the United States to head off a military confrontation with Iran as Tehran was still not close to making a nuclear weapon.

The Islamic republic, he said, was “still at least a few years away” from making a nuclear, which gave the United States and other world powers enough time to seek a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear dispute.

Mr ElBaradei noted that his assessment of Iran’s nuclear capability was based on US official estimates that Tehran was still several years away from being able to refine material for a weapon.

The IAEA chief urged Iran to open its nuclear programme to inspections and halt attempts to enrich uranium to avoid further complications. The Middle East, he said, was in “a total mess right now,” and any escalation of the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear programme would make the situation worse.

On Thursday, the Bush administration announced an unprecedented package of unilateral sanctions against Iran, designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and its elite Quds Force a supporter of terrorism.

Updated Oct 29, 2007 12:00am

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