TEHRAN, Iran – The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Saturday that Iraq was not fully cooperating with the weapons inspectors in their search for alleged weapons of mass destruction.
"We have not finished our work in Iraq. We are not getting full cooperation from Iraq but we hope to get it in the coming weeks," Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at a news conference.
"We'd also like to see active cooperation (from Iraq) in freely interviewing Iraqi scientists," ElBaradei said.
However, he said there was still a chance to avoid war.
"We still believe that war is not inevitable," he told reporters as he wrapped up a two-day visit to Iran.
He was in Iran visiting nuclear facilities to ensure the country's nuclear industry was limited to peaceful, civilian purposes and check the safety of generating plants. Iran maintains it will use its nuclear power for energy production only, but the United States claims the facilities are part of a secret nuclear weapons program.
ElBaradei also met with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
Earlier this month, ElBaradei told the U.N. Security Council that inspectors had found no evidence that Iraq had resumed its nuclear weapons program. He also said they could do their job without Iraq's full cooperation.
In a German magazine interview published Saturday, ElBaradei said he sees no reason to halt weapons inspections and resort to war to disarm Iraq.
"I still see a chance for peace," he told Der Spiegel weekly. "The Iraqi government appears to have recognized the seriousness of the situation."
ElBaradei, who made the remarks to Der Spiegel before he began his trip to Iran on Friday, said Iraq had "cooperated increasingly well" in recent days with U.N. experts getting better access to factories and to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's numerous sprawling palaces.
"We shouldn't give up hope," he said.