1. Deputy Atomic Energy Ministers Shift To New Agency
Radio Free Europe
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The government approved on 30 June a provision detailing the responsibilities of the newly created Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Interfax reported. Among the agency's duties is the provision of licenses to legal entities that use nuclear materials and radioactive substances. Meanwhile, "Profil" reported on 28 June that two former deputy atomic energy ministers for atomic energy, Ivan Kamenskikh and Anatolii Kotelnikov, have been named deputy directors of the new agency. Boris Yurlov, a former financial officer for Gazprom, was also named a deputy. Yurlov will oversee the nuclear-energy industry's finances.
2. RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER ENDORSES PROVISIONS ON FEDERAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY
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Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov has endorsed provisions on the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, the Russian government's press service has reported. The document stipulates that until amendments to the adequate enactments are made, the agency is responsible for licensing legal entities to use nuclear materials and radioactive substances when conducting work to use atomic energy for purposes of defense, including development, production, testing, transportation, exploiting, storage, elimination and scrapping of nuclear weapons and military nuclear energy units.
Until the Russian government endorses the list of the Agency's subordinate federal organizations, its jurisdiction will embrace all agencies that were subordinate to the abolished Atomic Energy Ministry.
The Agency is an authorized federal body of executive power that carries out functions of conducting state policy, streamlining legal regulations, providing state services and managing state property in the sphere of use of atomic energy, development and safe functioning of nuclear power industry, nuclear weapons industry, nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear science and technology, nuclear and radioactive safety, non-proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies, as well as international cooperation in the sphere, the provisions read.
The Agency is a state competent body for nuclear and radioactive safety in transportation of nuclear materials, radioactive substances and their products.
The Russian government directs the activities of the Agency.
1. Construction of Chemical-Weapons-Disposal Plant Begins
Radio Free Europe
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A ceremony was held on 29 June in the Udmurtia town of Kambarka to mark the beginning of construction of a new chemical-weapons-disposal facility, the Military News Agency reported on 30 June. One of Russia's seven chemical-weapons storage depots is located in the town. The facility is expected to begin functioning in December 2005, Regnum reported on 28 June. The European Union will spend 300 million euros ($366 million) on the project, including 33 million from Germany. Russia has earmarked 6 billion rubles ($206 million). Regnum reported that all of the weapons stores in Udmurtia are scheduled for destruction by 2012.
2. Russian chemical weapons destruction program to be revised
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Russia's chemical weapons destruction program is currently being revised by the Russian State Commission for Disarmament along with interested ministries, NGOs, regional officials and other agencies.
Alexander Kharchenko, who serves as secretary of the State Chemical Disarmament Commission and head of the domestic policy department in the office of the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, told Interfax on Wednesday that the program had to be revised because Russia's foreign partners have failed in their commitments to aid Russia in destroying its backlog of chemical weapons.
"The existing program is expected to be financed with federal money and with foreign aid in equal amounts. In recent years, however, foreign aid accounted for just 20% of the total. Had all the promised aid arrived, the program would not need revision, because we would have had at least three chemical weapons destruction plants in Gorny, Shushchye and Kambarka," he said.
If you're thinking about hopping aboard a nuclear-powered icebreaker and heading to the North Pole, environmentalists are urging you to reconsider, as is the Russian government, albeit for different reasons.
With demand waning for its traditional service -- clearing Arctic shipping lanes -- the Murmansk Shipping Co., which operates the world's only fleet of atomic icebreakers, has started offering tourists a chance to chill out at the top of the world for $20,000 per head.
The business has outraged environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth Norway, which is urging would-be ticket buyers to consider the damage a nuclear accident can do to the pristine region's fragile ecosystem.
Operating the ships also adds to the already massive stockpiles of nuclear waste encased in the rusting shells of decommissioned navy submarines, the group says.
"We want the icebreakers decommissioned," said Dag Arne H?ystad, who heads Friends of the Earth Norway's Russia project.
"But since we've gotten no reaction from the Russian government we've targeted Western tourists who make the market," H?ystad said by telephone from Oslo.
The green group has found an unexpected ally in the Russian Audit Chamber. Parliament's budgetary watchdog, after investigating partially state-owned Murmansk Shipping's finances earlier this year, urged the government to revoke the company's license to operate the fully state-owned icebreakers because it had "improperly used $79 million worth of state property and cheated the state out of $7.3 million in revenues," auditor Yury Tsvetkov said Tuesday.
Based on the chamber's report, prosecutors in Murmansk earlier this month began probing company officials for allegedly exceeding their authority and for infringing ownership rights, according to Olga Vasilchenko, a spokeswoman for the Murmansk prosecutor's office.
"A list of names of suspected bureaucrats is still being put together," Vasilchenko said by telephone.
In his report, Tsvetkov said Murmansk Shipping rented some of its six nuclear-powered ships to foreign companies for months at a time without the government's permission.
These actions "created a real risk to Russia's national security in the Arctic and increases the likelihood of a radioactive terrorist attack," Tsvetkov wrote.
"These people are walking around nuclear-powered ships taking pictures, a whole group of terrorists posing as tourists could take it over. This is not what these ships were made for," Tsvetkov said.
Murmansk Shipping declined to comment Tuesday.
Earlier this week, Izvestia quoted a Murmansk Shipping official as saying the charges were unfounded and that the ships were safe from terrorist attack because the Federal Security Service had approved the tourist trips and that sensitive areas on board were well protected.
Last month, the company's workers' union published a statement alleging the Audit Chamber orchestrated its investigation at the behest of major corporations that are interested in acquiring the nuclear fleet.
"The interests of heavyweight oligarchs representing LUKoil, Norilsk Nickel, Gazprom and Rosneft have crossed with those of Sevmorput-Kapital, core shareholder of the Murmansk Shipping Company ... we sailors do not want to be hostages of a battle between oligarchs," the workers' union said.
Arctic tourism is apparently a lucrative field.
According to Tsvetkov, Murmansk Shipping netted $1 million per month renting the ships to foreign companies, who then netted $3 million per month selling cruise packages at $20,000 per head.
One such company, Quark Expedition, bills itself on its web site as being the only company in the world to operate "powerful, polar icebreakers for expedition cruises."
"This voyage to the top of the world is the ultimate journey of adventure and discovery," Quark says on its web site, touting Murmansk Shipping's Yamal ship as its own.
1. PUTIN CONGRATULATES CANADA GOVERNOR GENERAL AND PRIME MINISTER
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent congratulatory messages to Canadian Governor General Andrienne Clarkson and Prime Minister Paul Martin on the national holiday - Canada Day, the Kremlin press service reports.
In his message, the Russian president was pleased to point out that Russia highly valued good-neighborly, friendly relations between the two countries. He particularly noted that Russian-Canadian relations were developing consistently on the basis of partnership and mutual understanding.
"This is a firm basis for our close cooperation in such essential areas as the fight against international terrorism and WMD proliferation, development of trade and investment ties, and exploration of the Arctic," stressed the Russian leader.
Putin expressed confidence that multifaceted Russo-Canadian cooperation would gradually advance in the interests of both peoples, security and progress in the world.
1. Arab scientists launch initiative to rebuild Iraqi scientific community
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The Emirates-based Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF) announced here Tuesday the launch of an initiative aimed at engaging and developing Iraq's scientific and technology community. Organisers of the initiative told a news conference in Amman that the scheme, prepared in cooperation with UNESCO, the UN's educational and scientific organisation, was aimed at bolstering 12 key sectors in Iraq.
They identified them as health, water resources, environment, engineering, energy, agriculture, veterinary and livestock, biotech and genetics, communications, applied material science, basic science and IT.
The president of ASTF, a non-governmental organisation, Abdel Aziz Najjar, told reporters that planning for the initiative took several months, during which time a team criss-crossed Iraq and interviewed 200 experts and academics.
The team comprising 16 Arab and Iraqi experts also visited scores of Iraqi facilities, including universities and research centers to identify their needs, he said.
Their findings set the basis for the initiative called "Engaging Iraq's Science and Technology Community in the Development Process".
The ASTF estimates it will need 50 million dollars in the short-term to carry out several projects in Iraq, which suffered a brain drain during more than a decade of international sanctions under Saddam Hussein's rule.
It also plans to set up an international fund later this year, Najjar said.
Iraqi scientist Dakhel Jrio said he expects the initiative to create jobs for Iraq's renowned scientific community as well as help rebuild the country's battered infrastructure.
"Iraqi scientists need to be reassured concerning Iraq and their future," said Iraqi physicist Jaafar Jaafar.
The transfer also might help the Iraqi scientific community, which has been suffering from drastic unemployment since the U.S. military action, said Arian Pregenzer, a senior scientist for Sandia National Laboratories' Cooperative International Programs.
"Right now, we have thousands of Iraqi scientists with no work to do," Pregenzer said. "We estimate there are 75,000 scientists in Iraq and most are unemployed. We've been trying to find scientific projects for them and get them funded, but it's been difficult with the instability. In the long term, I think the transition - and the stability it brings - can only help."
From June 29th till July 2nd the Hague will be hosting the 37th session of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The session will be attended by a Russian delegation, headed by Russia's permanent representative to the OPCW, Russia's Ambassador to the Netherlands Kirill Gevorkyan.
According to a source in the OPCW, the participants will focus on the organization's budget and preparations of a decision on the budget to be adopted at the forthcoming OPCW Conference in November.
Besides, they will consider a document on changes to the organization's financial regulations designed to ensure that the OPCW costs for inspections are covered in time.
The Executive Council will hear three important reports of the technical secretariat: on inspections, on chemical weapons-related objects and industrial enterprises; on providing assistance to OPCW member states in case of use or threat of use of chemical weapons against them; on the organization's activities to develop international cooperation on peaceful use of chemical achievements.
On requests from Libya and Albania the session will consider a possibility of extending transitional periods for them to eliminate chemical weapons. It is a routine request as the countries announced they had chemical weapons after several transitional deadlines stipulated by the Chemical Weapons Convention had expired.
At the same time, both countries intend to eliminate all their chemical weapons by the time envisaged in the Convention, April 29, 2007.
The Executive Council will also consider detailed plans of chemical weapons elimination submitted by the USA and Libya, including to see how they are complied with.
The session's participants will endorse four agreements on the order of inspections on some objects, two agreements being concerned with the USA, one with Singapore and one with Austria.
The Executive Secretariat comprises 41 states. The OPCW today comprises 164 nations, including Russia, who signed and ratified the Convention that came into force on April 29, 1997.
4. U.S. to Bear All Expenses in Abolishing N. Korea's Nuclear Program
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Once North Korea announces that it will abolish all the nuclear programs, including the Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) program, the United States would bear all the expenses needed in abolishing the nuclear programs, said a diplomatic source Sunday. The official said, ï¿½During the third round of six-nation talks held in Beijing that lasted six days from June 21, the U.S. proposed to apply the Nunn-Lugar program to North Korea, which was applied to Ukraine and other countries when abolishing the nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union, which will take care of all costs needed in abolishing the nuclear program, and will give economic support to the North.ï¿½
Along with such supports, the U.S. said that it would provide re-education of North Korean scientists related to nuclear weapons and will mediate new jobs once all nuclear programs within the North are abolished.
The official said that James Kelly, head of the U.S. delegation and Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said about the proposal that, ï¿½It is a very interesting proposal and we will be able to find meaningful parts through consideration.ï¿½
During the third round of six-nation talks, which ended on Saturday, North and South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia agreed on holding a working group conference next month, at the earliest, and discussed the range, period and methods to verify a nuclear freeze and compensation measures, and to discuss those matters further at the fourth round of the six party talks. The participating countries agreed to hold the fourth round before end-September. The six countries adopted a statement made by the chairman that includes all the discussed matters.
The Russian government considers efforts to enhance the nonproliferation regime one of its top priorities, a diplomatic source told RIA Novosti after IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei completed his visit to Moscow.
The official reason for Dr. ElBaradei's trip to Russia was to attend a conference on the 50th anniversary of the world's first nuclear power plant being put into operation in Obninsk. Conference delegates discussed the history and the future of the nuclear power industry. This theme was also examined during Dr. ElBaradei's talks with Russian officials.
Russia and the IAEA agree that the nuclear power industry has a future and that everything possible should be done to ensure that nuclear power is used peacefully. Dr. ElBaradei negotiated with high-ranking Russian officials, such as Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, who also attended the conference; Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; and President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Putin and Dr. ElBaradei first met in November 2000 in Moscow, two months after Mr. Putin suggested at the UN Millennium summit that the global nuclear power industry stop using enriched uranium and pure plutonium. Mr. Putin's initiative implied that nuclear power plant safety must be a priority of the nuclear power industry over the next few decades, countries must solve the problem of disposing of radioactive -waste and the technological aspects of the nonproliferation regime must be enhanced. Dr. ElBaradei supported Russia's proposals.
During his recent visit Dr. ElBaradei thanked Russia for its support regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.
Moscow believes that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction weapons (WMD) is a global threat. According to Mr. Ivanov, the international community must ensure "strict international control over these processes so that nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of those who would use them to destabilize the situation."
Russian diplomats have repeatedly noted that international terrorism, organized crime and illegal trade in nuclear, chemical and biological materials, are interrelated. Moscow believes that the existence of black markets for WMDs is a problem that deserves special attention.
In this context, the situation in Iraq is more dangerous than anywhere else. International inspectors failed to locate and destroy all of the WMDs in Iraq before the occupation began in the spring of 2003. Over the last year, the occupation authorities did not have adequate control over the Iraqi facilities that stored dangerous materials and equipment and as a result, many of them were looted. It is unknown who obtained these materials and equipment. In an effort to stop this process, Moscow insisted that UN Security Council resolution 1546 on Iraq have a provision on revising Unmovic and IAEA mandates in Iraq. Russia believes that international inspections in Iraq must resume as soon as possible.
Interstate efforts to enhance the nonproliferation regime are yet another aspect. Accodring to Mr. Ivanov, "Russia is categorically against the appearance of new states with nuclear weapons." This is why, he said, Russia "is cooperating actively with other countries and the IAEA and helping solve the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula, as well as the nuclear problem involving Iran."
Moscow's unchanging position is that both Pyongyang and Tehran have the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, if they cooperate closely with the IAEA. The United States and Israel have criticized Russia for allegedly helping Iran with its nuclear program. Russian officials respond by saying that Moscow does not want Iran, which is located near Russia's borders, to develop its own WMDs. Russia is prepared to do everything possible to prevent such a scenario. (Russia has the same position on North Korea.)
Moscow views Iran's nuclear program and Russians helping to construct the first power unit of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant as two different issues, diplomatic sources told RIA Novosti. Replying to questions from journalists, Dr. ElBaradei stressed that the Bushehr issue was not raised during his talks with Russian leaders because it did not worry the international community. At the G8 summit in early June, Mr. Putin said, "Russia might stop building the Bushehr nuclear power plant, if Iran violated specific IAEA terms concerning the transparency of its nuclear program." However, "Iran still abides by these requirements and we see no reason to terminate this construction project," Mr. Putin stressed.
While in Moscow, Dr. ElBaradei also discussed the possibility of building an international center in Russia to store and process spent nuclear fuel. Russian leaders are analyzing various aspects of this project because they believe that it is necessary to establish control over spent nuclear fuel. Russia is not the only country where such a facility can be built. The final decision on this issue will be adopted, after IAEA and Russian experts finish studying the problem.
Dr. ElBaradei praised Moscow's serious approach toward nonproliferation issues: "Russia and the IAEA maintain excellent bilateral cooperation, we are working to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy and we appreciate Russia's support."
Mr. Putin noted, "the IAEA's highly professional activities lacked any political motivations." This is what Russia values most of all.
President Vladimir Putin has met with Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at his Novo-Ogaryovo country residence. Mr ElBaradei said the nuclear plant Russia was constructing in Bushehr, Iran, was a matter for Moscow and Tehran. This means, according to Izvestia, that the West no longer takes a negative view on Russia's role in the project. However, this is nothing compared to the other news: an international dump for spent nuclear materials may be built in Russia.
The IAEA chief said Russia had impressive experience in processing spent nuclear fuel just like France, Britain, the United States, Japan and Germany. France and Britain are the world's leaders in spent nuclear fuel processing today (they compete with each other in this sphere), then come Russia and the United States.
According to the London Uranium Institute, the world's uranium reserves total 4.4 million tons. Experts believe importing spent nuclear fuel could be highly profitable for Russia. The country can receive up to 20,000 tons of spent fuel (not exceeding 1,000 tons a year) for storage and processing in the next few years, according to the Federal Nuclear Energy Agency. This is around 10% of the world's overall spent nuclear fuel reserves.
The market value of this "boon", writes the paper, is an average of $20 billion. Russia could earn the money by importing spent nuclear fuel alone. The nuclear energy agency noted that processed fuel could be then used again at nuclear power plants.
3. PUTIN, IAEA HEAD DISCUSS PROPOSED NUCLEAR-FUEL STORAGE FACILITY
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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei met on 29 June with President Vladimir Putin and senior Russian officials to discuss a proposal to construct a radioactive-waste storage facility in Russia, "Izvestiya" and other Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June 2004). "Unfortunately, many people are already talking about this as if it were an accomplished fact," Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Aleksandr Rumyantsev told reporters following the meeting. "This proposal will be worked over at the expert level of the IAEA for several years." El-Baradei said that Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Japan, and Germany all "have considerable experience handling reprocessed nuclear fuel," "Izvestiya" reported. ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June that the head of the Natural Resources Ministry's environmental-policy department, Amirkhan Amirkhanov, said his agency does not object to the proposed storage site. He added, however, that Russian law would have to be amended to allow the import of nuclear fuel that did not originate in Russia. RC
Russia does not intend to store in its territory foreign radioactive waste, but it may store and recycle spent foreign nuclear fuel, spokesman for the Federal Atomic Energy Agency Nikolai Shingarev told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.
Shingarev was commenting on media reports alleging Moscow's support for the initiative by the International Atomic Energy Agency to build an international storage facility for foreign radioactive waste near Krasnoyarsk.
"In fact, the IAEA's proposal implies not a mortuary, but a modern, high-tech international complex for storing spent nuclear fuel and making it reusable," he stated.
Earlier, Agency director Alexander Rumyantsev said such a center could be accommodated in Russia or other countries, which can handle spent nuclear materials and have the necessary legislative basis.
Great Britain, France and the United States have been importing spent nuclear fuel from other countries for years, earning much money, Rumyantsev said.
The United States controls up to 80 percent of the international market of spent nuclear fuel, and has no particular wish to let Russia onto this market," he noted.
The IAEA's initiative therefore will give Russia an opportunity to make a breakthrough to the world market of spent nuclear fuel. However, this will take time, as IAEA experts will be working on the proposal in question for several years.
According to the IAEA, the world has piled up 200,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel. Four hundred and twenty nuclear plants the world over annually unload 12,000 tonnes of spent fuel. The cost of services to store and recycle 1,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel -- on the condition of returning production waste to the country of origin -- amounts to 600 to 800 million dollars.
If no return of fuel is stipulated, the price for recycling of this amount of fuel increases up to two billion dollars.
Russia has accumulated 15,000 of spent nuclear fuel, including the fuel brought to the country from the plants built under Russian projects.
"But despite the legislation permitting imports to Russia of spent nuclear fuel of foreign origin, not a single kilogram of it has been brought to the country so far," according to the Federal Atomic Energy Agency spokesman.
5. Russia's plans for spent nuclear fuel site spark howls of protest
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Russia's willingness to build the world's first international depository for spent nuclear fuel Wednesday sparked howls of protests from opponents of the plan. "Russia should not be reprocessing nuclear waste and most certainly should not be importing it," Igor Chestin, director of the Russian branch of the WWF global environmental group, told AFP Wednesday.
"Russia cannot ensure security" of such an installation, he said, becoming the latest in a line of environmental leaders and politicians to blast the plan, which the government has estimated will earn Russia billions of dollars.
The protests flared after Mohammed ElBaradei, chief of UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Russia was willing to construct the facility.
Russia is willing to build a "state of the art" geological depository for spent nuclear fuel and be the first in the world "to accept foreign spent fuel," said ElBaradei in Moscow, where he attended a conference on atomic energy.
A day later, the head of Russia's nuclear energy agency Alexander Rumyantsev said that he did not see any obstacles to construction.
"Russia has experience in reprocessing combustible waste" as well as the appropriate legislation, Rumyantsev told reporters after attending a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and ElBaradei.
But Rumyantsev said the final decision on the facility has not been made and would likely take years.
"Experts at IAEA will be discussing the proposal for several years," Rumyantsev was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. "And there isn't even agreement that the storage site will be created."
In June 2001, Russia's parliament adopted amendments to environmental legislation that authorized the import of spent nuclear fuel, provoking protests from environmental campaigners.
At the time, the energy ministry estimated that the Russian budget could earn up to 20 billion dollars over 10 years from the project, according to the respected Vedomosti business daily.
Regional authorities in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk Region, which currently houses the nation's largest nuclear waste facility and is likely to house the international center, emphasized the financial gains from the project this week.
"This is billions of dollars to the Russian budget, half of which will be allocated to the region," an unnamed regional official was quoted as saying by Vedomosti.
But environmental groups have vowed to fight the plan.
"Russian Greenpeace, like 90 percent of Russia's population, is against such projects that are effectively turning the country into a nuclear dump," Vladimir Chuprov, of the international group's Russia chapter, said.
"Russia is turning into the only country in the world that is opening its borders for such projects."
Said Sergei Mitrokhin, of the Yabloko opposition party that lost its parliamentary seats during a December election: "Russia's future generations will have to pay for waste handling during the next hundred years, if not longer."
6. TERRORISM POSES A GREATER THREAT TO WORLD THAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS - IGOR IVANOV
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The secretary of Russia's Security Council believes that at the present time terrorism represents for the world a greater threat than nuclear weapons. Ivanov expressed this view in an interview with journalists as he replied to the question what should be considered the greatest menace to the human race.
"Undoubtedly, it is international terrorism and everything linked with it," Ivanov said.
He said that at their meeting on Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin and IAEA Secretary-General Mohamed Albaradei "discussed the strengthening of the regimes of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)".
"Appropriate decisions were also taken at the last summit of the Group of Eight, since mankind cannot give up the development of nuclear energy," Ivanov noted.
After acknowledging that the danger of WMD proliferation remains, the Security Council secretary described as a common task "joint efforts to promote the non-proliferation regime".
"Here we actively cooperate with all countries, with the IAEA, and take part in these processes of regulating the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula and the nuclear problem around Iran. We will continue participating in this process," Ivanov said.
He said that "Russia is categorically opposed to the emergence of states possessing nuclear weapons".
"Loss of control over this process may lead to the most catastrophic consequences, but, of course, terrorism is more dangerous, because today the nuclear potential is under control. We know countries where such weapons may appear. But terrorists are invisible. We do not know where and when they can strike a blow, we do not yet have dependable preventive mechanisms of countering the terrorist threat," Ivanov explained.
At the same time he thinks that "restrictive or forcible measures will not solve the problem".
Ivanov called for a comprehensive approach in solving the problem: "First of all, it is necessary to look for the prime cause. Perhaps it is connected with the continuing intensification of social and economic inequality in the world (there are large zones with an economically unfavourable situation where people for a small payment become cannon fodder for terrorists)".
"The second aspect concerns unsolved inter-ethnic and inter-confessional relations. We need a dialogue between civilisations. The third reason is the large number of unresolved regional conflicts. Iraq, for example, has turned into a centre of global terrorism, something it was not before the start of the war," Ivanov said.
"Terrorism is a transboundary phenomenon. To combat it the international community should above all coordinate its efforts in information exchanges. Here too mutual trust is required. It is necessary to understand that we have a common opponent," Ivanov remarked.
In his view, the war in Iraq has complicated the counteraction to terrorism. "Here everything is interconnected - drugs, crime, terrorism. They are to be cut down all together. An iron curtain is unlikely to solve the problem. Here the approach should be more serious, and, most important of all, on a collective basis," Ivanov emphasised.
1. IGOR IVANOV TO DISCUSS NON-PROLIFERATION ISSUES IN TEHRAN
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Russia's Security Council secretary, Igor Ivanov, is to pay a working visit to Tehran on July 4-5 at the invitation of Hasan Rowhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. Tehran and Moscow maintain intensive diplomatic contacts. For example, Iranian Foreign Minister Dr Seyyed Kamal Kharrazi visited Moscow in mid-May and Mr Rowhani visited Moscow in November 2003. Igor Ivanov's return visit was entirely expected, but current circumstances mean that it would have been difficult to find a better time for it.
Ivanov's visit will take place two weeks after the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) board of directors passed a new resolution on Iran (June 18, 2004). Tehran, which had expected the IAEA to close its nuclear file, was unhappy that the Agency chose not to do so. Consequently, the Iranian leadership announced that it intended to resume producing components for centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium. This statement could not but alarm the international community and the issue, as well as the Iranian nuclear programme as a whole, were discussed during IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei's Moscow visit in late June. Ivanov will undoubtedly raise these issues in Tehran, where he will also discuss some other top-priority issues in the sphere of international and regional security.
Moscow believes that Iran has every right to develop its civilian nuclear power industry. However, uranium-enrichment technologies seem to be less important, as it merely complicates Iran's dialogue with the international community. At the same time, it would be erroneous to state that the international community's position in regard to Tehran is based on prejudice.
The world is now beginning to understand that each country does not necessarily have to establish its own nuclear-fuel production facilities. Several countries, namely, Russia, the US, France and Britain, which supply nuclear fuel elsewhere, can meet global demand for such fuel. A status quo should be observed, facilitating worldwide stability and benefiting nuclear-fuel importers, too. Among other things, Iran would spend less on importing Russian nuclear fuel for its Bushehr nuclear power station than it would by producing its own. It is hardly surprising that the international community is apprehensive about Iran's uranium-enrichment experiments given that the expediency of this move in open to question.
Such actions may prove detrimental to Iran's attempts to close its nuclear file. Accordingly, Russia and other countries that maintain political and trade and economic contacts with Tehran would like the Iranian side to freeze its entire uranium-enrichment programme, even though the IAEA does not believe the experiments are in breach of Iran's international commitments.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the complete implementation of the IAEA resolution will make it possible to completely remove all issues pertaining to the transparency of Iran's nuclear programme from the IAEA board's agenda. The IAEA has listed all the remaining problems that are cause for concern and need further clarification.
Moscow does not believe that the latest IAEA resolution on Iran contains any tough-worded provisions. On the contrary, this document emphasises Tehran's cooperation with the IAEA. Moreover, Dr ElBaradei noted during his latest Moscow visit that the Iranian side was fulfilling all of its commitments. The Iranian nuclear file remains open for purely technical reasons, so one should not perceive this fact as malicious intent with regard to Tehran.
The point is that Iran has signed an additional protocol to the nuclear-guarantees agreement with the IAEA, thus enabling IAEA inspectors to oversee its nuclear programme more actively. Naturally, subsequent experiments give rise to new questions.
For its own part, Moscow would like Iran to implement a completely transparent nuclear programme. This would spell the end to regular US and Israel reproaches to the effect that Russia's assistance within the framework of the Bushehr project enables Iran to acquire nuclear technologies. In response, Russian officials always say that, considering Iran's proximity to Russia, Moscow does not want Tehran to develop weapons of mass destruction and is ready to do everything possible to prevent any such development. Moscow is currently proceeding from the premise that the lack of evidence about alleged Iranian violations of its non-proliferation commitments enables Russia to cooperate with Tehran in the nuclear energy sphere.
At the same time, Russian officials in Moscow have repeatedly said that Russian-Iranian cooperation in this sphere is restricted to completing one Bushehr power unit alone; and anything else is out of the question. Moreover, the Iranian station is being constructed under IAEA supervision and in full compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Accordingly, the Bushehr project and Iran's nuclear programme are two absolutely different issues and the IAEA completely supports this position. Talking to reporters in Moscow, Dr ElBaradei said that Bushehr had not been raised during his talks with the Russian leadership. The international public is not concerned about this issue because it is connected with the civilian nuclear power industry and Iran's spent nuclear fuel should be returned to Russia under an agreement, Dr ElBaradei stressed.
It should be pointed out that Moscow is demanding that the two countries sign a document stipulating the return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia. Commercial aspects of an additional protocol on returning nuclear fuel to Russia (for subsequent storage and processing) are currently being finalised. Alexander Rumyantsev, general director of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, noted, "nuclear fuel for launching the Iranian station has been prepared and will be delivered to Iran after this document is signed." This will most likely happen during Rumyantsev's scheduled visit to Tehran, the terms of which are now being coordinated through diplomatic channels.
Moreover, Russia's Atomic Energy Agency claims that Tehran has asked Moscow to study the possibility of jointly building the second power unit at Bushehr. Iran plans to hold the relevant international tender this autumn. However, no official statements have been made on this score so far. It is clear that Iran now views Russia as its priority partner in the field of nuclear-energy cooperation. However, it would be premature to discuss any new projects at this stage.
Russia and Iran must now sign an agreement on returning all spent nuclear fuel to Russia and this is seen as a top priority of bilateral relations. The Iranian nuclear file must be closed, as well. Tehran hopes that the Russian Federation will play a more active role in this process, but a great deal depends on Iran itself.
2. RUSSO-IRANIAN COOPERATION ON BUSHEHR PROJECT ISN'T AN ISSUE WITH IAEA-ELBARADEI
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Russia's involvement in the construction of nuclear reactors in the Iranian port of Bushehr is not an issue with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told a news conference after his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow Tuesday.
The construction of the reactors was not on the agenda of the ElBaradei-Putin talks today. This is a matter of bilateral relations between Russia and Iran, not one of global concern, the IAEA chief explained. The project is about using nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Also, Russia and Iran have an agreement on the return of nuclear waste. Russo-Iranian cooperation in the nuclear industry is therefore fully consistent with the two countries' international commitments, ElBaradei said.
Russian specialists started working on the first leg of the Bushehr plant in the mid-1990s. The United States has ever since been pushing for the closure of the site, for fear that Teheran will get access to nuclear weapons technologies. Financial gains aside (the contract tops $800 million), Moscow resents being pressured into ceding its sovereign right to cooperate with Iran in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It also cites obligations assumed by the signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Unlike the Americans' main ally in the region-Israel-Iran is party to both the NPT and the Additional Protocol to that accord, thereby agreeing to surprise inspections of any of its nuclear sites by IAEA inspectors. And then again, reactors at Bushehr are being constructed under the strict supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. President Putin pointed out earlier that Russia would go on cooperating with Iran as long as its nuclear programs remained transparent and controllable.
ElBaradei spoke for parallel efforts toward restoring security and peace to the Middle East. According to him, the IAEA advocates a universal approach to maintaining the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Iran is signatory to the NPT while India and Pakistan are not, the IAEA chief reminded his audiences. These latter two are approached differently, he said. "I advocate a universal approach to this problem and for the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East," he emphasized.
According to the IAEA Director-General, Israel puts peace first whereas to other countries, security is more important. "I personally believe that these two problems should be addressed concurrently," ElBaradei said, adding that both would feature prominently on the agenda of his forthcoming talks with Israeli officials. According to him, security-related issues include the ban on weapons of mass destruction, restrictions on the manufacture of conventional armaments, and confidence-building measures.
The head of the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, Alexander Rumyantsev, said in reply to a question from RIA Novosti that no decision had yet been made as to the construction of an international nuclear waste storage facility in Russian territory. His comment came following ElBaradei's pronouncements about the planned construction of such a facility in this country.
"The idea, expressed at the 47th IAEA conference, where the possibility of building such a storage facility was brought up for discussion, is now undergoing expert preparation," Mr. Rumyantsev said at a news conference. The United Kingdom, France, and Japan are as experienced in handling nuclear waste as Russia is, he pointed out. He expressed regret that the construction of a nuclear waste storage facility in Russia is talked about as if it were an accomplished fact. "There's no agreement as yet that such a storage facility will come into being. The proposal thereon will be discussed at the IAEA expert level in the next few years," Mr. Rumyantsev said. Russia has all enabling legislation, but this does not mean it will give consent to the construction of a nuclear waste storage facility in its territory, the official pointed out.
3. U.N. Unconcerned by Russia's Atomic Work in Iran
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The U.N.'s nuclear chief Tuesday said he was unconcerned by Russia's construction of a nuclear reactor in Iran, brushing aside U.S. allegations that the facility could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Washington has strongly criticized Russia for pushing ahead with construction of the $800 million reactor near the Iranian port of Bushehr, saying Tehran could use Moscow's atomic know-how to develop nuclear weapons.
"Bushehr is not apparently at the center of international concern because Bushehr is a project to produce nuclear energy," Mohamed ElBaradei, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief, said after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"It's not something that is of any concern on our part," he told reporters at Putin's country residence outside Moscow. He said Bushehr was not mentioned in his hour-long talks with Putin and Russia's top atomic and security officials.
Washington, which says Iran is part of an "axis of evil" of states seeking weapons of mass destruction, has called on Russia to ditch the project. It also fears Iran would use Bushehr as a cover for the transfer of other sensitive nuclear technology.
Iran says it has no atomic weapons plans. Moscow denies any suggestion that Tehran could make a bomb on the basis of the technology to operate the power station.
A Moscow source involved in the Bushehr project said ElBaradei's support was crucial at a time when Washington seemed to be stepping up criticism of Iran's nuclear program.
"He publicly threw his weight behind Russia, and that's really important for us to keep the project rolling," the source said.
To allay U.S. concerns Iran could extract plutonium from Bushehr's spent nuclear fuel and make bombs, Russia has pledged to sign a deal with Iran to oblige it to return all fuel to Russia after a decade of use at Bushehr.
ElBaradei said the fuel "could be a concern" but praised Russia's resolve to get it back.
A Western diplomat who follows nuclear issues said it might not be wise for countries to cooperate in the nuclear field with Iran while it was not living up to its obligations.
"The more important problem at the moment is Iran's failure to satisfy obligations under the (Non-Proliferation Treaty) and obligations to other countries," the diplomat said.
He was referring to Iran's announcement last week that it was resuming production and testing of centrifuges, which can be used to enrich uranium, after promising France, Britain and Germany to suspend all uranium-enrichment related activities.
1. Ballistic missile successfully fired from a nuclear-powered submarine of the Russian Northern Fleet
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A nuclear-powered submarine of the Russian Northern Fleet on Tuesday made a combat training launch of a ballistic missile from the Barents Sea, a Defence Ministry official told Itar-Tass.
The missile fired from the Yekaterinburg submarine has successfully hit a target at the Kura testing ground on Kamchatka, an aide to the Russian Navyï¿½s commander, Captain Dygalo, told Itar-Tass.
He said the ï¿½crew of the nuclear-powered missile carrier has shown high training in the course of fulfilling the set taskï¿½.
The Yekaterinburg shot the RSM-54 missile at 11:25 Moscow times.
A mock-up of its warhead reached the Kura ground in Russiaï¿½s Far East in 28 minutes.
ï¿½The successful firing of the ballistic missile from the underwater position has been another confirmation of the effectiveness of the combat control system and reliability of the naval strategic nuclear forces,ï¿½ Dygalo said.
1. Bank Failure Endangering Nuclear Plants ï¿½ Companies
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The heads of several Russian energy companies have said that backlogged payments from the under-fire Dialog-Optim bank may lead to ï¿½emergency situationsï¿½ at some of the nationï¿½s nuclear plants which the energy companies supply.
The energy companies have called on the Central Bank to take ï¿½immediate measuresï¿½ to regulate the conflict, a Dialog-Optim spokesman told MosNews.
He said, however, that the transactions involving the companies were between their own banks, and could not have affected atomic energy plants.
The four companies ï¿½ Khimenergo, Energokaskad, Energogigant, and Spetsenergoprodukt-95 ï¿½ are all clients of the Dialog-Optim bank and say the bank has frozen their accounts and is not making transfers.
The companies have not informed Dialog-Optim directly, however, the spokesman told MosNews.
As a result of the delays, repair work at several nuclear electric plants is under threat of cancellation, Ekho Moskvy radio quoted the letter as saying. The postponement of repairs at the Kalininskaya Nuclear Electric Plant, which is located only 300 kilometers from Moscow and is as powerful as the late Chernobyl plant, may lead to disaster, the letter says.
The companies say they renounce all responsibility for the nuclear stations if the Central Bank fails to take appropriate measures.
The bankï¿½s troubles began when clients issued complaints earlier this month that Dialog-Optim bank is limiting payouts on deposits and processing all client payments with delays. The problems sparked further fears of a liquidity crisis among banks that started when Sodbiznesbank was stripped of its banking license.
Dialog-Optim, meanwhile, denies its role. ï¿½We cannot influence atomic energy in Russia,ï¿½ the bankï¿½s spokesman told MosNews. ï¿½[Nikolai Shinkarev of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency] said it is unacceptable to mention atomic energy in the context of the liquidity crisis.ï¿½
The Central Bank, quoted by Ekho Moskvy radio, has also said that nuclear plants are under no risk as of yet.
1. Russian-Chinese Consultations on Strategic Stability
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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On July 1 Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Kislyak held consultations in Beijing with PRC Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui. The consultations, which bore a keen and constructive character, were devoted to questions of strategic stability. The sides held an in-depth exchange of views on issues related to the current situation in the fields of international security, regional hot spots, multilateral arms control, prevention of the spread of WMDs, and so on.
The sides emphasized that, under today's conditions, the enhancement of mutual trust between states, the peaceful settlement of international conflicts, the maintenance of strategic stability and the strengthening of the system of arms control and nonproliferation are their common priorities in the context of the efforts for the maintenance of peace and international security. The sides agreed to continue their close cooperation on the above issues.
Taking part in the consultations from the Russian side was Yuri Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
It was agreed that consultations on these issues, which have already acquired a regular character, will be continued.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meeting in Moscow with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei 29 June, Russian President Vladimir Putin lauded the Agency's work in expressing his country's continuing and full support.
"The IAEA has become a very prestigious, powerful organization, which fulfills a very important function and has enormous authority," President Putin said. "We in Russia, like with many of our colleagues around the world, note that the activity of the IAEA is professional in the direct sense of this word and lacking any political bias, which in my view is extremely important.
We hope that the IAEA will increase its activity. On its part, Russia will do everything it can to support the development of the IAEA."
Dr. ElBaradei said Russia's support is of key importance to the IAEA's work.
"Russiaï¿½s support has had key importance for us in all aspects, including the peaceful use of atomic energy and the non-proliferation regime," he said in Moscow.
"Nuclear energy is very important in providing energy to the countries of the world. It is also necessary to ensure that nuclear energy is used safely, and is not used for military purposes. And in all these areas, Russian help has been extremely important. I hope that during my visit to Russia, we will be able to widen our cooperation."
3. Meeting with the general director of the International Atomic Energy Agency Muhammed Al-Baradei
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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Dear Mr. General Director, allow me to wish you a warm welcome to Moscow. Above all, I want to thank you for agreeing to come to this event connected with the launch of the first atomic energy station. I am certain that your visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg will be beneficial for you. You know, Mr. General Director, that we have always actively supported the activity of your agency, and your activity personally.
The IAEA has become a very prestigious, powerful organization, which fulfills a very important function and has enormous authority.
We in Russia, like with many of our colleagues around the world, note that the activity of the IAEA is professional in the direct sense of this word and lacking any political bias, which in my view is extremely important.
We hope that the IAEA will increase its activity. On its part, Russia will do everything it can to support the development of the IAEA.
MUHAMMED AL-BARADEI: Mr. President, I am very grateful to Russia for giving me the opportunity to visit your country and meet once more with you. This morning I had very constructive meetings here in Moscow; in the afternoon I will go to St. Petersburg, and I hope to hold constructive meetings in that city.
Russiaï¿½s support has had key importance for us in all aspects, including the peaceful use of atomic energy and the non-proliferation regime.
We expect that there will be a provision for peaceful nuclear energy, as it is very important in providing an energy supply to the countries of the world.
It is also necessary to ensure that the nuclear energy is used safely, and is not used for military purposes. And in all these areas, Russian help has been extremely important. I hope that during my visit to Russia, we will be able to widen our cooperation. I very much hope that the advice and consultations received from you will help us in this matter.
I am grateful to you for the support you showed to our agency, and me personally, in your opening address.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: We need your advice no less than you need ours.
4. On Allocation by Australia of Funds to Implement G8 Global Partnership Projects
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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At the recent Sea Island summit, the G8 leaders welcomed the fact that Australia and a number of other countries had joined as donors the Global Partnership, established in 2002 at the G-8 summit in Kananaskis, Canada. The government of Australia has taken a decision to allocate even in 2004 10 million Australian dollars to carry out Global Partnership projects in the Russian Federation involving the disposition of decommissioned Pacific Fleet nuclear submarines.
In order to speed up the putting of these funds to use, Australia will channel them via the Russian-Japanese Agreement in force since 1993 on cooperation to assist with the liquidation of nuclear weapons to be reduced in the Russian Federation. Under this Agreement a joint project with Japan is being carried out for the disposition of one such nuclear submarine in Russia's far east.
On June 24 a decision of the Board of the Russian-Japanese Cooperation Committee - the joint executing agency for the 1993 Agreement - was signed in Moscow, by which a special escrow account of the secretariat of the Committee will be opened to which Australia will transfer the allocated funds. Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Yoriko Kawaguchi took part in the signing ceremony. Now specific projects are to be agreed upon, to which the Australian assistance will be directed.
Thus, a step of no small importance has been taken towards the practical implementation of the obligations of Australia under the Global Partnership. One should especially note that Canberra supports a top-priority area of this initiative, disposition of the nuclear submarines. We believe all this will serve as a good example for the other donor countries that have joined the Global Partnership recently as concerns a prompt switching of political accords onto lines of practical cooperation.
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