The Bush administration is on the right track in planning to askCongress for budget increases to safeguard or dispose of weapons-gradenuclear material. Once dubious about the effectiveness of suchcritically needed programs, the White House has commendably shifted itsview.
In fact, the administration will ask for an eye-catching 37 percentincrease in money for nuclear nonproliferation programs, such as one todispose of plutonium and enriched uranium.
Those efforts are aimed at helping Russia to dismantle Soviet nuclearweapons, which are degrading and aren't secure against theft, and atfinding jobs for displaced Russian scientists who might be tempted tosell their expertise to unfriendly nations.
Bush administration officials at first were cool to the U.S.-fundedprograms to help safeguard former Soviet weapons and scientists. ButPresident Bush and Russian leader Vladimir Putin have established aclose relationship, and Russia signed on early to the U.S.-led campaignagainst terrorism. So, after a review, the White House recently saidthat the programs "work well."
The administration still is not asking for as much money as Congress islikely to approve for the vital work. More support than the presidentwill propose will be needed to protect insecure nuclear weapons from theSoviet era. But the change of thinking at the White House is promising.
It is also encouraging that the Pentagon recommends that the UnitedStates continue its moratorium on nuclear weapons tests. Over the longrun, a permanent, worldwide ban on nuclear testing is the surest way toprotect mankind from nuclear disaster. return to menu
B. U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement
1. U.S.-Russia Uranium Pact Stalls
David Willman and Alan C. Miller
Los Angeles Times
January 16, 2002
(for personal use only)
A landmark 1993 agreement to sell tons of uranium stripped from Russianwarheads to fuel American power plants is in jeopardy because of adispute over price between the Russians and a U.S. company.
The standoff between the Russians and the U.S. company responsible forcarrying out the deal already has stalled shipment of uranium to theUnited States. And arms control specialists are concerned that acollapse of the deal could increase the chance of terrorists or roguenations obtaining the nuclear material.
A senior Bush administration official, Energy Undersecretary Robert G.Card, told the American company in a letter last week that "U.S.strategic interests may be at risk if the [firm] cannot ensurecontinuity of shipments of Russian down-blended [uranium] to the UnitedStates." Card said the disagreement could also lead to "a nuclear powerfuel shortage" here; the U.S. company relies heavily on the uraniumpurchased from Russia for sales that it makes to American nuclear powerplants. The company supplies about 70% of the uranium fuel used inAmerican nuclear plants, which generate about one-fifth of allelectricity used in the U.S.
The high stakes illuminate an anomaly in how the United States hashandled a crucial national security function: Since mid-1998, thegovernment has ceded to the private company, USEC Inc. of Bethesda, Md.,far-reaching responsibility for implementing the agreement with theRussians to purchase 500 metric tons of military uranium.
Because USEC and the Russians remain at odds over pricing, no shipmentshave been authorized for 2002. Ordinarily, the year's first load ofuranium--three metric tons, or enough for about 120 nuclearwarheads--would have been ordered by October and would begin flowing tothe United States in March.
In a written response to Card on Thursday, USEC President William H.Timbers Jr. said that the energy official's letter "undermines and couldsignificantly affect the ability of [USEC] to reach prompt andsuccessful agreement" with the Russians regarding the 1993 uranium deal.Timbers also termed Card's concerns about a possible shortage ofnuclear-power fuel "unwarranted and disingenuous."
Copies of the letters were obtained by The Times.
A USEC spokesman said Tuesday that the company expects to resolve itsdifferences with the Russians without any serious consequences.
A Bush administration official familiar with the current talks said thatUSEC and the Russians "seem to be at loggerheads. . . . I think [theuranium agreement] is in jeopardy. I would not characterize this asnormal negotiations." The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
1993 Agreement Is Seen as a Watershed
>From the standpoint of those concerned about the potential spread ofnuclear weaponry in the aftermath of the Cold War, the 1993 U.S.-Russianaccord, known as "Megatons to Megawatts," was a watershed.
During a 20-year period, the U.S. government would purchase about 500metric tons (about 1.1 million pounds) of highly enriched uraniumstripped from former Soviet warheads. The purchase proceeds would employthousands of Russian scientists and technicians, who would blend down,or dilute, the material for use as fuel in commercial nuclear powerplants.
The deal appeared to have several attractive features.
The securing of the weapon-grade uranium--at a price of approximately$12 billion--would keep it from well-capitalized terrorists such asOsama bin Laden. And by employing Russians to blend down the material tocommercial-grade fuel, the deal would help dissuade them from sellingtheir services to others who covet nuclear materials and expertise, suchas Iraq or Iran.
The purchases of Russian uranium began in 1995, under the purview of theU.S. Department of Energy and the government-held United StatesEnrichment Corp., a precursor of USEC Inc. Then-President Clinton, withbipartisan congressional backing, approved privatizing the corporationin 1997. And in 1998, investors bought the entity from the government ina deal worth nearly $1.9 billion. Its shares trade on the New York StockExchange.
The newly privatized USEC Inc. remained the exclusive U.S. agent for theRussian uranium deal. In the last seven years, USEC has paid $2.2billion for fuel derived from 141 metric tons of weapon-grade enricheduranium from the Russians, the equivalent of about 5,600 warheads.
More than half of the uranium fuel that USEC sells to utility companiescomes from Russia; the company also produces it at a single plant inPaducah, Ky.
For the Russians, the value of the uranium deal is huge--as much as $700million a year. The sale proceeds provide a significant revenue sourcefor Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy, which is responsible forsafeguarding nuclear material at production and research facilities.
Security at many of the sites has long been lax, U.S. officials say. Anumber of government reports have documented the shortcomings, such asporous fencing, an absence of video surveillance and nuclear workers whohave gone unpaid for months at a time.
"The uranium deal is the only thing that stands between anarchy andstability in the Russian nuclear weapons complex," said Thomas L. Neff,a Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist who in 1991 firstproposed the Megatons to Megawatts concept to the White House and theRussians.
Indeed, the decision to turn day-to-day implementation of the agreementover to private industry raised concerns among some policymakers. Thechairman of Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors, Joseph B. Stiglitz,opposed the arrangement at the time. He later termed it "bad nationalsecurity policy and bad economic policy."
USEC executives have consistently said that the company's profit-makingimperatives do not conflict with the federal government's nationalsecurity needs.
The specifics of the current dispute can be traced to early 2000, whenUSEC made a contract proposal--subject to the approval of bothgovernments--for new pricing terms that would have taken effect thismonth. The proposed terms would have enabled USEC to purchase uraniumfor about 15% less than the Russians received in 2001.
However, the Russians did not agree to the revised terms at an annualreview last fall, when the first order for a 2002 uranium shipment wasto have been placed. With no new terms ratified, USEC would be obligatedby contract to pay the same price for uranium this year that theRussians charged in 2001.
But USEC has declined to order deliveries for 2002 unless Russia acceptsits lower-price terms through 2013. Neither side has yielded,precipitating the potential breakdown in the Megatons to Megawatts deal.
The uncertainty over the uranium agreement comes at a time when USEC iscounting on a restructuring of the deal to help its bottom line.
The company warned in a financial statement filed with the Securitiesand Exchange Commission for the quarter ending Sept. 30 that it couldsuffer without the more favorable terms. Without the Russian and U.S.governments agreeing to those provisions by Jan. 1, USEC said, "earningsand cash flow in fiscal 2002 and thereafter would be adversely affectedand would be substantially lower than currently projected, absent USECmaking other arrangements."
USEC engaged in multiple rounds of negotiations in Moscow last monthwithout success. Just last week, it sent its senior vice president,Phillip G. Sewell, back to Moscow in an attempt to push the Russians toaccept USEC's latest offer. The Russians declined.
The interruption of the uranium shipments comes only a month afterPresident Bush vowed to expand U.S. cooperation with Russia. Thepresident said he wanted to "dismantle strategic weapons, reduce nuclearmaterial and increase security at nuclear sites" as part of aninternational effort to "keep the world's most dangerous technologiesout of the hands of the world's most dangerous people." He cited this asa heightened priority after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Charles B. Curtis, deputy Energy secretary under Clinton, said that anyschism in implementing the uranium agreement with the Russians createsrelated national security problems.
Such discord, Curtis said, "has an immediate consequence. And puttingthat [U.S.-Russian] cooperation at risk is a tremendous nationalsecurity consequence." Curtis noted that on other occasions when theRussians took umbrage at the American handling of the uranium purchases,they blocked U.S. observers from visiting Russian nuclear facilities,preventing verification of whether weapon-grade materials wereadequately safeguarded.
"The U.S. government needs to play a stronger supervisory role over thecommercial activities of USEC," Curtis said. "There needs to be anactive and purposeful oversight of this commercial arrangement. And Ithink that's not evident."
The spokesman for USEC, Charles B. Yulish, said the company iscontinuing to actively negotiate and fully expects to reach anagreement.
"We're seeking a prompt resolution to this matter and that's why we'refully engaged with the Russians to seek mutually acceptable terms,"Yulish said. " . . . They have the incentive to take the right deal andwe have the incentive to offer it. But right now it's one of thosenegotiating deals that you just have to be patient with."
Yulish said that USEC's efforts to win new terms for the uraniumagreement have been complicated by the changeover of administrations inWashington and by new leadership at Russia's atomic energy ministry.Both governments must approve any change in terms.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington said Tuesday, "We'renot in a position to comment."
Bush Team Urges Firm to Avoid Further Delays
In his letter last week to USEC's president, Card emphasized that theBush administration wants the company to immediately take stepsnecessary to resume shipments of the Russians' military uranium. Cardsuggested that USEC should not risk further delay of shipments in 2002by holding out for better long-term prices.
"Our first priority remains the continuity of shipments of down-blendedRussian [uranium] in 2002," Card wrote in his letter to USEC'spresident, Timbers. " . . . I want to stress that this is a requirementfor the U.S. Government and that no long-term contract will be reviewedfavorably unless it contains a separate mechanism to ensure 2002deliveries. Given the lack of progress on [the] negotiations, we supportfocusing on 2002 at this time."
Timbers countered in his letter to Card that USEC has "been workingdiligently in these negotiations to advance the long-term strategicinterest of the U.S. by pursuing the long-term stability of the[uranium] Agreement--not some stop-gap approach that will lead tocontinued uncertainty in this important program."
According to Timbers, four previous disruptions to the uranium shipmentswere the fault of the Russians. But critics say that USEC contributed tosome delays out of financial interest.
The current dispute comes as USEC is discussing a range of issues withthe Bush administration, including continuation of its role as theexclusive agent for the Russian uranium deal. The administration can, atany time, appoint a new agent or an additional agent to compete withUSEC for the purchases.
Several U.S. electric utilities that purchase uranium from USEC havetold the administration they are now interested in buying the productdirectly from Russia.
Times research librarian Janet Lundblad in Los Angeles contributed tothis report. return to menu
2. USEC, DOE Swap Barbs
The Paducah Sun
January 17, 2002
(for personal use only)
USEC President William Timbers has accused the Department of Energy ofdistorting facts and delaying talks for a plan to preserve the1,500-employee Paducah uranium enrichment plant.
Timbers made the claims in December and January letters toUndersecretary of Energy Robert Card, who meanwhile wrote Timbers that"if the outstanding issues in the negotiations are not resolvedexpeditiously, the United States could find itself with a nuclear powerfuel shortage."
The biting dialogue started Dec. 14 when Timbers wrote Card expressingconcern about the "growing gap" between USEC and DOE following twofruitful November meetings involving the two men. He said the departmenthad raised "many new issues that neither of us had discussed" regardingUSEC's Nov. 15 draft agreement immediately committing to:
Maintain the Paducah plant, leased by USEC from DOE, at an enforceableminimum annual production level of 3.5 million units of enricheduranium. That is roughly the amount sold now.
Bring on line, subject to milestones, a new plant by 2007 using existingEuropean gas centrifuge technology or by 2009 using new USEC-developedtechnology. Centrifuge is much cheaper to operate than the Paducahplant's outdated gaseous diffusion process.
Allow DOE complete access to run the Paducah plant if USEC ceasesoperation.
Be removed as agent for imported Russian uranium if USEC should defaulton any of the other obligations.
In a Jan. 10 letter, Timbers described Card's Dec. 19 writtenproprietary response as having "several broadly drawn standards" givingEnergy Secretary Spencer Abraham sole discretion to take over USECbusiness without compensation or appeal.
Timbers said USEC negotiators told DOE officials in a Dec. 26 conferencecall that "no U.S. corporation could subject itself to suchunprecedented and unnecessary government authority and remainaccountable to its shareholders or remain in business."
Card wrote Timbers Jan. 8, saying the domestic nuclear supply could bein jeopardy. "I am also concerned that U.S. strategic interests may beat risk if the USEC cannot ensure continuity of shipments of Russian(uranium) to the United States," Card wrote.
USEC has pinned the future of the Paducah plant on lowering prices forthe cheaper Russian uranium, which helps offset the plant's highproduction costs from using massive amounts of electricity. USEC ismiddleman for sales of the Russian material, recycled from former Sovietwarheads and accounting for about half the enriched uranium used by U.S.nuclear plants. About a third comes from the Paducah plant and the restfrom European competitors.
Card reminded Timbers that the government would not approve anylong-term agreement with Russia "until all other domestic issues havebeen resolved."
Timbers' letter last week called Card's fuel-shortage concern"unwarranted and disingenuous." He said USEC had met supply obligationsdespite Russia's having suspended shipments four times in recent years.
Timbers also said Card's characterization of the plant negotiations wasjust as "factually wrong" as with the Russian deal.
"Inaccurate assertions, DOE delays and unworkable intrusions into theoperation of a private company, together with unsupported claims of animminent nuclear fuel crisis directed at a negotiating strategy thatunnecessarily puts the future of USEC and Paducah at risk, are not inthe mutual support and cooperation" embraced in the November meetings,Timbers wrote.
The energy workers' union, which represents nearly half of Paducah'senrichment employees, supports the Russian deal but wants a USECguarantee to keep running the plant. Phil Potter, Washington-basedpolicy analyst for Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy WorkersInternational, said he was familiar with some of the correspondencebetween Card and Timbers, but had not talked with DOE officials aboutthe status of the negotiations.
"USEC certainly believes the differences (between it and DOE) aresubstantial, but unless somebody releases the actual proposals publicly,how do you make a comparison of your own? So I just haven't tried,"Potter said. "I don't know where all this is going." return to menu
1. Senior General Confirms That Russia Is Reducing Its Nuclear Arsenals
January 17, 2002
(for personal use only)
Russia and the USA will reduce their nuclear arsenals. However, it isnot yet clear whether or not they will manage to do this in an concertedmanner, judging by the results of two-day consultations which the firstdeputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, Col-GenYuriy Baluyevskiy, held in the Pentagon...
The main objective of the consultations, set by the presidents of Russiaand the USA, is to draft agreements on the reduction of strategicoffensive weapons in conjunction with defensive offensive weapons by aregular summit due to be held in May-June this year. The Americansearlier declared their readiness to reduce nuclear arsenalsunilaterally. Now Yuriy Baluyevskiy confirmed that Russia also had suchplans.
Replying to a question from an ITAR-TASS correspondent on the subject,he said: "We are already reducing (nuclear armaments). First andforemost, we are implementing the plan for building armed forces whichwas approved by the president. It is an open secret that this planenvisages reduction of our nuclear arsenals and, therefore, reduction ofRussian nuclear forces...
The general recalled that he was "one of the apologists who startedbuilding nuclear weapons and planning how to use them and who built thearmed forces". Now he [Baluyevskiy] and his colleagues are convincedthat "there will be no large-scale war, for which we have been preparingourselves for decades".
During his two-day visit to Washington, Baluyevskiy held two-dayconsultations with US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feithand Assistant US Defence Secretary J. D. Crouch. At the very end of thevisit, Baluyevskiy also had an hour-long conversation with USpresident's special assistant for defence policy and armaments control,Franklin Miller, at the National Security Council in the White House.According to Baluyevskiy, the last meeting helped him understand the USstand probably better than all discussions in the Pentagon.
After the discussions it was decided, among other things, to set upworking groups for strategic stability, military-technical cooperationand cooperation in the fight against international terrorism. The groupswill be set up within the framework of the interdepartmental dialoguebetween Russia and the USA. The Americans have already nominated theircandidates for the posts of co-chairmen of these groups. The Russianside is expected to put forward its counter-proposals within the nextfew days. The group for military-technical cooperation will deal withcooperation in the field on nonstrategic missile defence and otherissues... return to menu
2. Neutralizing Nukes
Christian Science Monitor
January 16, 2002
(for personal use only)
As Russian and US military planners meet this week to discuss mutualcuts in nuclear armaments, a question mark hangs in the air: How can theUS on the one hand boost efforts to dismantle Russian nukes, and on theother hand simply shelve its own warheads for possible future use?
In early January, the Bush administration made the welcome announcementthat it would increase funding to deactivate excess Russian weaponry ofmass destruction - a project under way for nearly a decade now. At aboutthe same time, however, the Pentagon said that as the US worked towardreductions in its own nuclear arms, as agreed last year by PresidentsBush and Putin, the warheads would be stored, not dismantled.
This apparent inconsistency springs from ingrained cold-war thinking inthe Pentagon. Planners there still are thinking in terms of thousands ofoverseas targets, whether Russian missile silos or other stillunforeseen threats. They may also assume that stored warheads in the USdon't pose the same dangers as stored warheads in Russia.
That, of course, ignores the Russian perspective. Plenty of PresidentPutin's military aides may be only too happy to follow the US lead,storing warheads for what they still see as a future Western threat.
The irony in this cold-war mentality is that it could deepen the verydanger the other US initiative - aid to help reduce stockpiled weaponryof mass destruction in the former Soviet Union - is designed to address.No one needs even more stacked-up Russian nukes, vulnerable to theft.
The US-backed programs to reduce that danger, in effect since 1991, havehad considerable success. Thousands of warheads have been deactivated,nuclear material put in safer storage, and weapons scientists redirectedto peaceful pursuits. But much remains to be done, and funding has beenbarely adequate.
The Bush decision to sustain funding is positive, though specificfigures won't be known until the 2003 budget is out. The administrationis leaning toward a little more than $1 billion. Many in Congress arewilling to go higher, and a bipartisan commission that issued itsfindings early last year recommended $3 billion a year.
The positive US move to help Russia get rid of excess nukes should bematched with a positive willingness to deactivate permanently America'ssurplus warheads. If that takes the more formal agreement Russia favors,with verification measures, fine. return to menu
3. U.S., Russia Tackle Nuclear Cuts in 2-Day Talks
The Moscow Times
January 16, 2002
(for personal use only)
Two days of talks between Russian and U.S. military officials beganTuesday in Washington, with plans for joint reductions in nuclear armspromising to be one of the more explosive items on the agenda.
Russia opposes U.S. plans to store, not destroy, at least some of thethousands of warheads it has agreed to cut, and it wants a formal treatyon the cuts pledged last year by Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W.Bush.
U.S. Congressman Curt Weldon, who was in Moscow on Tuesday, reiteratedthe Bush administration's position that the relationship between the twocountries has changed so as to make a treaty unnecessary. "When we dealwith the British or French, we don't have to write down how many itemswe have," Weldon, a senior member of the House of Representatives ArmedServices Committee, said on Ekho Moskvy radio. "We're friends."
But the Foreign Ministry has said Russia wants a treaty that would makethe cuts irreversible. At their meetings in November, Bush promised toreduce the U.S. arsenal of about 7,000 strategic warheads down tobetween 1,700 and 2,200, while Putin promised to cut Russia's arsenal ofabout 6,000 to between 1,500 and 2,200. Assistant U.S. Secretary ofDefense J.D. Crouch alarmed Moscow last week when he said the Pentagonhas plans to store at least some of the warheads for possible emergencyredeployment. But more important to Russia than the destination of thewarheads is what happens to the delivery vehicles -- the nuclearmissiles and bombers -- said Alexander Pikayev, co-chair of thenonproliferation program at the Moscow Carnegie Center. "This is the keyquestion," Pikayev said. "Russia wants them to be destroyed or modifiedin a way that would prevent the U.S. from rapidly uploading the [stored]warheads."
If the United States stores both the warheads and delivery vehicles, itsarms reduction will be useless, said Alexander Konovalov, president ofthe Institute for Strategic Assessments. "It would be more of ade-alerting," he said. "The U.S. would be able to install the warheadsback on the missiles in a matter of weeks, maybe days."
U.S. officials have not spelled out what would happen to the warheads'delivery vehicles. Under past nuclear arms control treaties, which didnot specify the treatment of dismantled warheads, Russia and the UnitedStates used them for various purposes. During the Cold War, bothcountries used the fissile materials from them to manufacture newweapons. Afterward, when the demand for more nuclear arms ceased, Russiaand the United States used or sold the plutonium and uranium extractedfrom the warheads. Both have also stored some of their dismantledwarheads.
What Russia will do with the thousands of nuclear warheads it haspledged to dismantle remains uncertain. It may be cheaper and safer forRussia to do what the United States is doing and store the actualwarheads rather than process the plutonium and uranium, experts said.Both options, however, require the funding and construction of storagefacilities and security.
This week's meeting is likely to lay these issues on the table. When thetalks started Tuesday,U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith met privately with ColonelGeneral Yury Baluyevsky, first deputy of the General Staff, who isleading the Russian delegation, and then they joined their teams in athird-floor conference room at the Pentagon, Reuters reported fromWashington. No details of this round of talks were expected before theywere completed late Wednesday. Baluyevsky said before leaving Moscowthat the aim was to reach an agreement on the arms cuts before Bushvisits Moscow later this spring.
Also on the agenda this week are prospective joint military exercisesand possible cooperation against new terrorism threats, The AssociatedPress reported, citing a senior official in the Bush administration.Weldon said Tuesday that the United States and Russia should worktogether on missile defense to protect themselves from countries such asNorth Korea and China, AP reported. "Russia wrote the book on missiledefense systems," Weldon said, citing the missile shield that protectsMoscow. return to menu
1. Iran: Daily Says US And Israel Want To Damage Tehran-Moscow Ties
Tehran Times via BBC Monitoring Service
January 17, 2002
(for personal use only)
Reuters reported on Tuesday [15 January] that the US assistant secretaryof state is going to visit Israel in the next few days, where he willmeet Zionist officials in order to formulate coordinated plans againstIran. In particular, Washington and Tel Aviv are trying to underminecooperation between Iran and Russia, the two major powers in the region.
Washington's siding with the Zionist regime to damage Iran-Russiacooperation also coincides with a Russian military delegation's trip tothe US, which is part of an attempt by Moscow to improve its relationswith Washington following the 11 September attacks.
Current evidence indicates that Washington, in claiming that Russia isproviding Iran with military and nuclear technology, is trying to setcertain conditions for expanding its ties with Moscow, one of which isthe severance of Tehran-Moscow cooperation. The fact is that under thepretext of fighting terrorism, the US is looking to expand its militarypresence in different parts of the world, which requires an increase inits military budget. Therefore, the Bush administration is trying tojustify its 318bn dollar budget bill by claiming that foreign elementsare threatening its national security.
Therefore, recent Iran-Russia cooperation, which involves only peacefulnuclear activity for uses such as energy, agriculture and theenvironment, has come under attack from the US government. Iran'snuclear operations are under the control and supervision of theInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has sent a group of itsinspectors to monitor the activities in Iran.
Time and again, the IAEA has rejected US claims that Iran aims todevelop a nuclear arsenal and have confirmed the peaceful nature of theIslamic Republic's nuclear facilities.
According to article 4 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),any country has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.In light of this, the pressure exerted by the US and the Zionist regimeon Iran is completely unjustified.
On the contrary, the question arises of how Russia's cooperation withIran in the peaceful use of nuclear energy is a risk to security, whilethe Zionists' possession of 200 nuclear warheads is apparently not athreat to the region. return to menu
2. US-Israel Talks To Focus On Iran's Missile Program
The Jerusalem Post
January 16, 2002
(for personal use only)
The US and Israel will hold high-level discussions on Iran's attempts toacquire nuclear technology and advanced conventional weaponry, primarilyfrom Russia, in Tel Aviv tomorrow. The talks are a follow-up todiscussions here in October.
Officials will also discuss Iraq and proliferation attempts in countrieslike Syria, Libya, and Sudan. The Syrians are "working on nuclear stuff.They're working on biological weapons and chemical weapons, too," asenior administration official said on Monday.
An American delegation of roughly 12 diplomats, defense experts, andintelligence officials is being led by Undersecretary of State for ArmsControl and International Security John Bolton. Bolton arrives today andis due to meet with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and other ForeignMinistry officials.
Israel will be represented by Minister Dan Meridor, National SecurityAdviser Uzi Dayan, and Gideon Franks, head of the Atomic Energy Agency.
The senior administration official said the Palestinian Authorityattempt to smuggle in a cache of Iranian-made weaponry makes the subjecteven more pressing.
"The main purpose is to talk about where we are with the Russians andthe Iranians," he said. "And obviously now with this boat, whatever youwant to say about [PA Chairman Yasser] Arafat's involvement - it seemspretty clear that he knew about it - the Iranian connection is notdisputed by anybody.
"The issue of Iranian conventional weapons, advanced conventionalweapons, nuclear missiles is even more timely than it has been."
He said the sides will try to "deepen our coordination about how to dealwith the problem" of Russian support for Iranian weapons programs.
The US, in the context of its missile defense talks with the Russians,has been trying unsuccessfully to persuade them to halt unsanctionednuclear cooperation with Iran.
During a December trip to Moscow, when the US informed Russia it wouldpull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Secretary of StateColin Powell told President Vladimir Putin while in 2001 the US wasfocused on missile defense, "questions of non-proliferation are going tobe higher on the US-Russia agenda this year than they had been,"according to the official.
"Russia wants to get closer to the West. Russia's behavior on a lot ofissues needs to change, specifically on proliferation questions. Theyneed to behave more the way we do," he added.
A two-part series in The Washington Post this week played down themissile threat posed by Iran, particularly to the US. It highlighteddifficulties Iran has had in development of its Shahab 3 missile, whichhas a range of 1,500 kilometers, and said weapons transfers betweenRussia and Iran have been overstated.
It also argued intelligence forecasts are misguided by "a concertedcampaign by the Republican dominated Congress, supported by Israel, tofocus attention on the leakage of missile technology from Russia toIran."
"A detailed analysis of all allegations of missile component transferbetween Russia and Iran over the past decade suggests that transfershave been sporadic, low-level, and largely confined to dual-usematerials that can be used for missile construction rather than entiremissile systems or even sub-systems such as engines or guidancepackages," the Post story said.
The stories went on to say despite Iranian setbacks, "most experts agreethat Iran will perfect and eventually deploy the Shahab-3 missile,enabling it to reach targets in Israel."
Since the last US-Israel consultations, delegations from Iran havecontinued to visit Russia and work on its missile program has continuedunabated. Discussions, however, on Iranian proliferation will go beyondthe Russian supply. Bolton plans briefing on North Korea's and China'scontributions, too.
"Even if we solve the Russia-Iran problem on missiles, we haven't solvedthe Iran missile problem," the official said. return to menu
E. Nuclear Terrorism
1. US: Signs Seen Of Efforts To Get Terror Weapons (excerpted)
The Boston Globe
January 17, 2002
(for personal use only)
After sifting through dozens of suspected weapons facilities inAfghanistan, US officials said yesterday that there is mounting evidencethat the Al Qaeda terrorist network sought to acquire chemical,biological, and nuclear weapons, but the officials have yet to find hardevidence of a usable arsenal.
Nevertheless, they said the investigations remain incomplete and ahandful of suspected sites and materials still have to be searched andtested. Among them are two cannisters found several weeks ago thatappeared to contain chemical agents, possibly from Russia.
''We have found a number of things that show an appetite for weapons ofmass destruction - diagrams, materials, reports that things were askedfor, things that were discussed at meetings,'' Secretary of DefenseDonald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday at a Pentagon briefing. ''In terms ofhaving hard evidence of actual possession of weapons of massdestruction, I do not have that at this stage.''
But the search continues. ''There's still a few yet to explore, ahandful, and there's still some information to come back,'' Rumsfeldsaid. ''The number of facilities keeps going up. ... and it's nowsomewhere in the low 50s,'' of which about 45 have been thoroughlysearched.''
Of particular interest are 6-inch-high cannisters that may containchemical toxins that could be used as offensive weapons. The cannistershave Cyrillic writing on them indicating they may have come from aRussian source, defense officials said.
''Externally, they appear to be weapons of mass destruction,'' Rumsfeldsaid. Asked to explain, he said, ''They've got stuff on them that makereasonable people think there's something not good in there, and we'regoing to check them out.''
Later in the day, a spokesman at the US Central Command in Tampa, Fla.,played down Rumsfeld's concerns.
''There's nothing inside'' the cannisters, Army Colonel Rick Thomas toldreporters. He said, however, that the two containers unearthed nearKabul had a skull-and-crossbones symbol as well as warnings in Russianthat referred to nuclear material.
Other officials who asked not to be identified stressed that Al Qaeda isbelieved to have made a number of transactions for a variety of itemsmade to look like weapons of mass destruction. Last month, Pentagonofficials said they had taken radioactive readings at one site inAfghanistan but the source turned out to be depleted uranium weaponsrounds, commonly used by militaries to strike hardened targets. They donot, however, pose a substantial risk of radiation. return to menu
2. Russian Minister Says Miniature Nuclear Charges Out Of Reach OfTerrorists
Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey via BBC Monitoring Service
January 17, 2002
(for personal use only)
Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev believes thatindividuals cannot build miniature nuclear charges in such countries asAfghanistan and a number of Arab states. The minister told Interfax onThursday [17 January] that these countries simply lacked the necessarypotential and materials. "You cannot make such a charge on your lap," hesaid. Moreover, major nuclear powers have an effective system of controlover miniature nuclear charges, which weigh a total of several dozenkilograms, "and all of these are registered", he said. "It istechnically impossible for such charges to find their way into the handsof terrorists," Rumyantsev said. return to menu
3. Belarusian KGB Foils Attempt To Sell 1.5 Kg Of Uranium
Belarusian TV via BBC Monitoring Service
January 16, 2002
(for personal use only)
[Presenter] KGB officers have foiled an attempt to sell radioactiveuranium in Minsk. An undercover agent was sent into a crime ring,disguised as a foreigner. The total cost of the deal stood at 250,000dollars for 1.5 kg of the dangerous substance.
[Correspondent] After a tip-off on a group of businessmen that activelylooked for opportunities to sell a large consignment of radioactiveuranium was received, an undercover agent was sent into the criminalenvironment disguised as a foreigner who allegedly wished to acquireradioactive substances.
Thus, detectives could study the situation from inside and dictate theirbargaining conditions. The total cost of the deal was agreed beforehand:the sellers demanded 250,000 dollars for 1.5 kg of uranium. A testpurchase showed that the substance the criminals offered was nothingelse but radioactive uranium. The traders were also aware of the dangerposed by the substance.
[Officer, in Russian] What were you carrying?
[Seller, in Russian] Well, what were we carrying?
[Officer] What was inside?
[Officer] How it is called?
[Seller] Fuel. Your analysis.
[Officer] What is the name of the chemical element?
[Corespondent] A preliminary expert examination says that thesecylinders are part of a nuclear reactor's fuel elements. After thetests, the buyer - the KGB agent - agreed to purchase the rest of theradioactive substance. The place and time of the deal were fixed, duringwhich one of the traders was detained. During further search anddetection operations, KGB officers detained five more people who tradedin radioactive substances. Criminal proceedings have been instituted andan investigation is under way. return to menu
1. POGO Urges Department of Energy to Restore Access to Web Sites
The Project On Government Oversight
January 14, 2002
(for personal use only)
Today POGO urged Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to restore citizenaccess to the Department of Energy's web sites. "Withholding documentssuch as risk and environmental assessments only serves to create abarrier to real safety and security improvements by impeding meaningfuldialogue," said POGO's Executive Director Danielle Brian in the letter.
Since taking down many of its web sites in November, the Department ofEnergy (DOE) has had two months to determine whether citizen access toweb pages poses a threat to national security. A detailed list on thestatus of DOE's web pages compiled by the New Mexico-based Nuke Watch,the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and its members can be found at:http://www.nukewatch.org/nwd/DOEweb.html.
On October 3rd, POGO wrote to Energy Secretary Spencer Abrahamexpressing concern about detailed maps showing the exact locations ofstores of weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium in nuclearweapons facilities. In the wake of September 11th terrorist attacks,POGO was concerned that these documents provided a virtual road map toweapons-grade plutonium and uranium at nuclear bomb facilities. In thefollowing weeks, the Department of Energy took numerous web sites downcompletely and, has since, failed to restore many of them. return to menu
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