MOSCOW (Oleg Nechiporenko, General Director of the National Anti-Crime and Anti-Terrorist Foundation of Russia, for RIA Novosti) - American Special Forces, police and fire fighters recently cordoned off the election headquarters of presidential candidate John Kerry after a letter with unidentified powder was delivered to the premises.
Americans have every reason to worry, as they still remember letters with anthrax spores mailed to different US organisations in September and October 2001. Expert analysis showed this time that the letter to Kerry's headquarters was a practical joke: the letter contained powdered garlic. The Washington FBI department confirmed that the contents of the letter were harmless but said it would carefully investigate the incident.
This is a justified measure, as the possibility of biological attacks by terrorists is quite real. Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service warned the world about the possibility of bioterrorism ten years ago in its analytical report, "New Challenge after the Cold War: WMD Proliferation." This open report was certainly carefully analysed by foreign security services, which nevertheless did not heed the warning about the possibility of "agricultural terrorism" in peacetime in conditions of "economic warfare." The issue was taken up eight years later, when there was a theory that mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth in Western Europe (mostly in Britain), which was initially thought to have had natural causes or to have been provoked by careless Dutch or Belgian farmers, could have been a project of biological terrorism.
Viktor Zuyev, vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences and full member of the New York Academy of Sciences, thinks the potential arsenal of biological weapons includes 13 viruses, 7 bacteria, 3 rickets that provoke typhoid and other dangerous infectious diseases, and 12 microbe toxins. The most dangerous biological agents are viruses of the plague, tularemia, anthrax, brucellosis, eastern equine encephalitis, cholera, yellow fever, and botulism.
Russia's Defence Ministry inherited from the Soviet era three centres that are the only holders of the state "collection" of viruses that can be potentially used in biological warfare. Scientists are working to create vaccines and other defences against them. The collection is standard in all other respects, but with a special register. The strains are used to check the effectiveness of the means against them. In view of the growing possibility of the use of biological materials for terrorist purposes, Russia has launched a federal programme to create methods and means to protect the population and the environment from dangerous and highly dangerous pathogens in natural disasters and industrial accidents for 1999-2005. A commission on biological security was set up at the expert advisory council on national security under the speaker of the State Duma (the lower chamber of parliament). Additional measures have been taken to raise the effectiveness of task groups in anti-plague establishments at the Health Ministry and the sanitary and epidemics departments of the Defence Ministry.
A visiting session of the State Duma committee on security was held in Pushchino outside Moscow, where bio-technological research institutes, laboratories and design bureaux are located. MPs, scientists and representatives of security services discussed ways of combating bioterrorism in Russia. On the initiative of law enforcement agencies, two international forums were held in Moscow to analyse new challenges of modern terrorism and exchange experience of precluding and fighting it. The USA, Britain, Germany, France, Israel, Belgium and many other countries sent their delegates to these conferences.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the efforts of the security services are not enough to do away with the biological danger. Now that international terrorism is devising new weapons, no country must remain an aloof observer in the struggle against it.
1. NATIONAL CHEMICAL WEAPON DESTRUCTION PROGRAM ONLY HALF FINANCED
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The national program for destruction of chemical weapons is being financed by half, though its first stage was realized in time, presidential plenipotentiary to the Volga federal district Sergei Kiriyenko, chairman of the State Commission for Chemical Disarmament, said on Friday.
"The Russian chemical arsenals are now found in the Bryansk, Penza, Saratov, Kirov and Kurgan regions, as well as in Udmurtia. The chemical weapon destruction process is now under way only in the Gorny settlement in the Saratov region," he said.
As of now, the reserves of yperite have been eliminated in full and about 80 tons of lewisite destroyed, he said.
"The next plant to be commissioned is in the Kabarka settlement in Udmurtia. The deadline is December 2005," Kiriyenko said.
Russia is getting from the United States only a third of the sums for the destruction of chemical weapons: the American monitoring organizations consume the rest.
"Only 30 percent of the sums allocated by the United States are reaching Russia. Seventy percent is consumed by the American organizations monitoring and inspecting the provision of such help," Kiriyenko said. He supposes that the federal financing for the program should be increased.
"Above all, cooperation with Germany should be given its due," the presidential plenipotentiary noted. It is entirely different from cooperation with the United States, with which Russia is having endless political discussions.
The governmental military-industrial commission, chaired by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, will consider problems of destruction of chemical weapons on July 28, Kiriyenko added.
2. NEW WORDING OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS DISPOSAL PROGRAM
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The state commission of the Russian Federation for the destruction of chemical weapons will consider the new wording of the program for the destruction of chemical weapons at its session on Friday in Moscow. It will be presided by commission chairman Sergei Kiriyenko, the Russian presidential plenipotentiary in the Volga Federal District.
After the state commission will consider the new wording of the program it will be submitted to the government session.
According to the information of the plenipotentiary's press secretary Sergei Novikov, the new wording of the program provides for increasing the financing on the part of Russia because of the actual cutting of the aid from the international community, first of all from the United States. As a result, the press secretary said, the procedure and the priorities of putting into operation the facilities for the destruction of chemical weapons will be revised.
"Earlier it was planned to start eliminating chemical weapons in 2005 at a plant in the town of Shchuchye in the Kurgan region (the Trans-Ural area). But now it has become clear that the plant will begin functioning much later. In 2005, it is expected that the plant in Kambarka in the Udmurtian Republic (Southern Ural area) will be put into operation," Novikov explained.
The first stage of the destruction of the war gases of the first category of danger was completed on April 26, 2003 at the plant in the township of Gorny in the Saratov region (the middle reaches of the Volga River area). More than 400 tons of yperite, or 1 percent of Russia's entire stock of chemical weapons, were destroyed.
In 1997, Russia ratified the international Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.
According to this convention, the Russian Federation committed itself to destroy all its stocks of chemical weapons which it had inherited from the Soviet Union. Under the convention, the destruction of chemical weapons is carried out in four stages. The first stage - the destruction of one percent of chemical weapons; the second stage - 20 percent, the third stage - 45 percent, and the fourth stage - 100 percent of the chemical weapons stocks.
International aid in 2002 amounted to $14 million, in 2003 - to $60 million; in 2004 it is expected at $310 million.
The total amount of the stocks of chemical weapons (war gases) in Russia is 40,000 tons which are kept in seven arsenals: 15.9 percent in Kambarka, 2.9 percent- in Gorny. 14.2 percent - in the township of Kizner (Udmurtian Republaic), 17.4 percent - in the township of Maradykovsky, 18.8 percent in the town of Pochep (Bryansk region), 17.2 percent - in the township of Leonidovka (Penza region) and 13.6 percent in the town of Shchuchye (Kurgan region).
3. Russia plans to increase chemical disarmament program funds 2.5-fold in 2005
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Funds, to be earmarked for the chemical disarmament program in 2005, will be increased more than two- fold, Sergei Kiriyenko, Presidential Envoy to the Volga Federal District, told reporters after the meeting of the State Chemical Disarmament Commission on Friday.
"The request, submitted by the Federal Industry Agency and coordinated with the Economic Development Ministry, envisions allocating RUB13.2bn (USD454m) in 2005. This year we have allocated a total of RUB5.36bn (USD184m). Thus, the funds will increase more than two-fold," Kiriyenko said.
He noted that in addition to budget funds Russia expected to receive RUB2.2bn (USD75.6m) in foreign financial aid.
According to Kiriyenko, such a considerable increase in funding the chemical disarmament program has been primarily caused by more expensive equipment, and inefficient foreign financial assistance.
"Even the money, allocated by foreign partners, does not reach Russia intact," he said. At the same time he noted that if Russia did not have sufficient foreign assistance, it had to finance the program on its own.
Boris Alyoshin, head of the Federal Industry Agency, who also participated in the meeting, said that the funding of the chemical disarmament program in 2005 would feature a ratio of one to four (foreign assistance to state funding).
"Given the fact that the budget will bear the greatest burden, we believe that the program will comply with the timeframe in 2005, and we will be able to adhere to chemical disarmament stages," Alyoshin said.
He noted that one could not work under pressure all the time. "Today we are shifting to a more organized approach," he said.
The Tu-142M ground-based anti-submarine aircraft was dismantled at the Ukrainian Air Force state aviation research center, the press service of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported.
The aircraft was dismantled under the Strategic Reduction and Limitation of Nuclear Arms Treaty of December 25, 1993, being implemented within the framework agreement on aid to Ukraine in eliminating its strategic nuclear weapons and also preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The process of dismantling the Tu-142M aircraft was observed by a group of American experts headed by William Youngstrom, the head of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program for Ukraine. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry noted that the four other aircraft of this type, now deployed in Nikolayev, must also be dismantled.
The Tu-142M with the Korshun automatic submarine search-sighting system was developed in 1969. In 1980, the aircraft was phased into service under the name of Tu-142MK and later, Tu-142M. Today, the latest modifications of the Tu-142 aircraft are in service of the Northern and Pacific Fleets of the Navy of the Russian Federation and in the Indian Air Force.
U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., joined a bipartisan coalition calling for a special session of Congress to quickly respond to the 9/11 Commission's final report, which was released Thursday.
"The 9/11 Commission has done a national service in determining what led to the tragedy," Bayh said. "Their work will be for naught unless we translate their recommendations into action."
Bayh joined U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., in calling for a special session of Congress to pass legislation affirming several of the report's recommendations. They called for the session to occur later this year, regardless of the outcome of the November elections, and for action on the findings to begin as early as next year.
The commission recommended centralizing the intelligence community into one agency, possibly led by a Cabinet-level official; aggressively tracking and finding terrorists; expanding the international coalition against terrorism to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan; heightening border security with new identification methods; and reforming government offices, especially when transitioning between administrations.
In pushing for a bipartisan response to the report, the senators also acknowledged there would be opposition to some of the commission's recommendations. One stumbling block they predicted would be a proposal to create a congressional intelligence committee with its own budget and appropriations process.
U.S Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., was not part of the coalition calling for a special congressional session and instead called upon the government to focus on the future.
"Topping our priorities must be to make certain that all weapons and materials of mass destruction are identified, continuously guarded and systematically destroyed so as to keep them out of the hands of terrorists," he said.
The report recommended expansion of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which has helped destroy more than 6,000 nuclear warheads and protect chemical and biological facilities in the United States and abroad.
Six members of the House also announced intentions to introduce legislation to support the commission's recommendations.
The final report, unanimously adopted by the 10-member commission, was critical of the Clinton and Bush administrations' failures in preventing the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It chastised the intelligence community for failing to track several of the hijackers who carried falsified documents and attended flight schools.
Many in Congress were concerned an election fervor would result in parties politicizing the report and even cause gridlock over making necessary changes. Bayh was more concerned that the current public focus on the issue would fade during the August recess and presidential election.
"I don't think the greatest risk is any politicization, but the passage of time," Bayh said. "The fear of something else happening is our greatest ally in getting something done."
1. ALTAI COMPANY PUZZLED OVER U.S. ECONOMIC SANCTIONS
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According to Nikolai Dochilov, the first deputy director general of the Federal Research and Production Center Altai, the center's senior managers are going to appeal to the Federal Agency for Industry and Rosoboronexport (a state mediator for military exports) to explain the situation regarding the United States' economic sanctions.
"Altai has not yet been provided with substantiation for such measures," Mr. Dochilov said. "Therefore, we are going to try and solve this situation with higher agencies - the Federal Agency for Industry and Rosoboronexport, a state structure that directly mediates all our foreign contacts."
According to him, Altai observes all international obligations related to nonproliferation of missile and other technologies as well as all relevant international obligations and therefore the United States' position "has no real basis."
Mr. Dochilov also noted that the enterprise had several dozen licenses in the major areas of its activity and its developments have made it possible to explore and introduce hundreds of new products and over 100 new technologies in serial production.
The resolution on the sanctions came into force on July 22, 2004. According to the official report published by the Federal Register Office, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Nonproliferation decided to impose sanctions on the Altai Center on July 15. The next day, the decision was put into writing and signed by Susan Burk, the assistant secretary of the State Department Bureau of Nonproliferation. According to the document, Altai violated the nonproliferation regime of missile technologies and therefore economic sanctions were introduced against the organization. The sanctions include a two-year ban on any export contracts with the U.S. Federal Government and that Altai will be denied export licenses for two years.
Altai mostly specializes in explosive substances - composite materials, ultra-disperse diamonds and technologies of their use, fire fighting substances, instrumentation, automated workstations and medical equipment.
In response to the sanctions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said: "It is not the first time that Moscow is faced with an arbitrary introduction of U.S. sanctions against Russian enterprises that Washington suspects of violating nonproliferation regimes."
According to the document, typically the issue is the fully legitimate cooperation between Russian enterprises and foreign partners, which does not violate any Russian or international restrictions and that in every case, the sanctions were introduced against actions that fully complied with U.S. law. "Anyway, in regard to these or any similar sanctions," the ministry said, "we would like to emphasize that if the United States finds it correct to limit its contacts with the leading Russian military and industrial sector enterprises, then it is the United States' choice."
2. Commercial interests behind sanctions on Altai - Russian officials
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The Altai territorial authorities believe commercial interests stand behind U.S. sanctions against the Federal Research and Production Center Altai. Altai is currently making weapons components for India, which is not a state secret, the press service of the territorial authorities said citing Chairman of the territorial Industry Committee Mikhail Stoyankov. "U.S. sanctions are nothing more than U.S. commercial interests," the press service said, citing Stoyankov. Stoyankov was also reported as saying that the terms, schedule and quality of the products being made for India are better than the terms offered by the U.S. "The plant is not manufacturing any products banned by the law," Stoyankov said. Earlier reports said that the U.S. Federal Register announced the U.S. authorities' decision to impose sanctions on Altai on July 22. Altai was accused of spreading missile technologies. Altai employs about 2,000 workers and, according to the territorial authorities, mostly makes civilian products.
The United States has slapped trade sanctions on another Russian defense plant, the Federal Research and Production Center Altai, accusing it of knowingly spreading missile technology.
The U.S. State Department's decision came into effect Thursday, the U.S. Federal Register reported on its web site.
The plant, located in the Altai city of Biysk, denied the U.S. allegations. "The company observes all international obligations related to nonproliferation of missile and other technologies," acting general director Nikolai Tochilov said Friday, Interfax reported. "In my view, these accusations are not substantiated."
The Foreign Ministry also defended the company. "There are no grounds to consider the projects of this center as contradicting Russian law and Russian obligations in the area of nonproliferation," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said, Interfax reported.
Under the sanctions, in effect for two years, U.S. companies will be denied licenses to export equipment or technology to the company, and no U.S. government contracts involving the company will be entered into.
The United States did not specify the target country of the alleged technology transfer.
Ruslan Pukhov, editor of Moscow's Defense Brief magazine, said it was most likely Iran. Altai lists many products on its web site, including some that Pukhov said can be used to make missiles: explosives, generators and gauges.
A regional official, Mikhail Stoyankov, was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying Altai exports weapons components to India, The Associated Press reported. He accused the United States of trying to punish a successful competitor.
Calls to Altai went unanswered on Friday afternoon.
The sanctions will have little practical effect because Altai, like most Russian defense companies, does no business with the United States, Pukhov said.
By imposing them, the United States, "the only country that fights proliferation with sanctions," wants to show its disapproval of the alleged proliferation activities, he said.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Altai knowingly sold technology that can be used to make missiles.
"We will continue to work hard with the Russian government to prevent Russian entities from contributing to weapons of mass destruction, missile programs or conventional weapons programs of concern that could aid terrorists or threaten the United States or our friends and allies," the spokesman said.
Six other Russian companies are currently under similar sanctions. Two of them, blacklisted in the spring, were accused of passing technology for weapons of mass destruction to Iran, but were not named.
The other four are the Baltic State Technical University of St. Petersburg, Glavkosmos of Moscow, the Moscow Aviation Institute and the D. Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology of Russia.
Also in the spring, the United States removed sanctions from six other Russian companies and a scientist: chemical weapons expert Anatoly Kuntsevich.
4. US sanctions against Altai cause trouble to American companies
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The top management of the Federal Research and Production Center ´┐ŻAltai´┐Ż issued an official statement on Monday in connection with the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. state department against the Center.
The managers told Itar-Tass that they had learned about the sanctions from the mass media publications but the Center had not received any official explanation of the move from the United States.
The statement reads, ´┐ŻAltai is carrying out its external economic activity in strict compliance with Russian legislation. At present the enterprise is working under contracts with many countries, including NATO members for research and development of solid fuel sources of selective cold gases, such as nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, which are widely used in fire fighting, medicine and technologies of production of superdispersed diamonds for biomedical and technical applications (the so-called nanotechnologies).
Altai is now conducting pre-contact negotiations with a number of foreign countries, including American companies, on the use of gun-powered pressure generators for the purpose of increasing oil and gas well output.
The results of testing such generators in the United States in 2000 showed their high economic effectiveness and attracted the attention of American, Iranian, Romanian and Indian oil companies, the statement said.
An Altai source stressed, ´┐Żnot being a subject of military-technical cooperation, the enterprise is carrying out this activity in line with the inter-governmental agreements, such as the agreement with the United States on burning up the solid-fuel sea-based rocket engines, or with the contracts signed with foreign customers by the Rosoboronexport Company. As regards these latter contracts, Altai obtains pertinent permissions from the federal bodies of state authority for export operations.´┐Ż
The U.S. State Department decision on imposing economic sanctions against the Federal Research and Production Center ´┐ŻAltai´┐Ż ´┐Żis nothing other but an attempt at edging our enterprise out of the world market of advanced and science-intense technologies. This action leaves the American companies, which have already made upfront payments under the external economic contracts signed with the Federal Research and Production Center ´┐ŻAltai´┐Ż, in a quandary,´┐Ż said the Center managers.
5. U.S. ARMY COUNTS ON COOPERATION WITH RUSSIAN GENERAL STAFF
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The deputy Commander of the U.S. Army European Command, General Charles Wald highly assesses the appointment of Yuri Baluyevsky head of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces.
In Gen. Wald's words, there are established relations between Commander of EUCOM Gen. James Jones and Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky.
We think that Russia is a strategic partner for us, especially in the military sphere, and we would like to have more contacts with the Russian side; I think General Jones and General Baluyevsky will work jointly in this direction, Gen. Wald told RIA Novosti.
As for us, I will say it straight - we have done with the past and we don't have negative reminiscences anymore, added the general.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees to relieve Gen. of the Army Anatoly Kvashnin of the post of head of the Russian Federation Armed Forces General Staff and first deputy Defense Minister, as well as to appoint Col.-Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky head of the Russian Federation Armed Forces General Staff and first deputy Defense Minister.
Replying to RIA Novosti's question about the possibility of the U.S. Army participating in ensuring security of American sportsmen at the Olympic Games in Greece, Gen. Wald once again noted that this mission will be carried out within NATO framework.
I think this is a very wise idea and I am glad that Greece decided to ask NATO for help in this issue, and we will do everything possible acting within the NATO framework, he said.
In the general's words, the efforts Greece is making in ensuring security at the Olympic Games may "make terrorists think twice" before committing terrorist acts in that country.
Terrorists are cowardly and try to avoid places where security is established, he emphasized.
6. "ARBITRARY": RUSSIA'S FOREIGN MINISTRY ON U.S. ALTAI SANCTIONS
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The US Administration has on many previous occasions suspected Russian-based companies of violating nonproliferation arrangements to introduce arbitrary sanctions against alleged culprits, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says in a statement. It was made after the USA introduced sanctions, yesterday, against the Altai federal research-cum-production centre, based in Biisk, West Siberia's south.
As things really are, the Altai and its affiliates have aboveboard partnership with overseas companies, and has never trespassed Russian and international limits. As on all previous instances, the USA is proceeding for sanctions from its national legislation alone, points out the statement.
It is certainly up to the United States to limit its contacts with cutting-edge companies of the Russian military-industrial complex, the ministry sarcastically remarks.
Early April last, the George Bush Administration determined to introduce sanctions against two Russian-based companies, whose names it chose not to specify. They were suspected of violating nonproliferation measures in their exports to Iran. The sanctions are to expire, March 31, 2006.
The US Administration made a resolution for sanctions against a total 13 companies based in six countries-Belarus, China, North Korea, Macedonia, Russia and the United Arab Emirates-plus Taiwan, says Adam Early, deputy spokesman of the Department of State.
After thorough analysis of the situation, the Altai federal scientific and production center will determine its possible response to the economic sanctions the U.S. State Department imposed on the center, said the center's first deputy general director, Nikolai Dochilov.
"We need time to analyze the situation and determine our future actions," he said.
According to information published Thursday in the U.S. Federal Register, the decision to impose sanctions on the center was made by the State Department's Bureau of Nonproliferation on July 15 and the following day was put into writing and signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Susan Burk.
The document asserts that the center engaged in proliferation of missile technologies and that economic sanctions were required.
These sanctions include denying the center new exports licenses for deals with American partners and the United States for two years.
The center's main products are explosive substances, composite materials, ultra-dispersive diamonds and the corresponding technology, fire fighting devices, instrument engineering, automated workstations and medical drugs.
Russia has indicated that an agreement on delivering nuclear fuel rods - which can be used to obtain plutonium - could be finalized this year. Last week, the head of Russia's nuclear energy agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, told the Iranian ambassador to Russia that the deal on the return of spent rods to Russia could be clinched during his upcoming trip to Tehran, tentatively set for October.
This agreement was reported as close to being signed last September, but nothing happened. The deal would open the way for Russia's nuclear supplies to Iran. Moreover, in October, Russia and Iran are expected to sign a protocol of intent on the construction of Bushehr-2 reactor, according to Russian media reports.
Russia has said it would freeze construction on the US$1 billion Bushehr nuclear plant and would not begin delivering fuel rods for the reactor until Iran signed an agreement that would oblige it to return all of the spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing and storage. Sending the spent fuel out of the country would ensure that Iran could not reprocess it into material that could be used in nuclear weapons.
According to Russia's Federal Nuclear Energy Agency, the first power unit of the Bushehr nuclear station is 90% ready: all heavy equipment, including the reactor, has been brought and assembled. The Russian agency noted that what was left to do was "assemble and tune up control equipment as well as control in the reactor zone".
Russia has long been under fire for its help in building the Bushehr nuclear plant. Russian President Vladimir Putin has brushed off repeated US demands that it cancel the Bushehr 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear-reactor project.
Last month, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed ElBaradei, said Russia's construction of Iran's first nuclear reactor was "no longer at the center of international concern". Bushehr was a bilateral project between Russia and Iran to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he said after talks with Putin in Moscow.
Yet Moscow's insistence on its nuclear deal with Tehran continues to cause lively debate internationally as the US and Israel accuse Iran of seeking to produce nuclear weapons. This month, US Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed at a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Washington that Iran was "pursuing nuclear-weapons development, or worse, acquiring a nuclear weapon".
Iran's Foreign Ministry said Powell's remarks were "a source of disgrace" for the US administration. "The US is not following an independent policy towards Iran's nuclear programs but instead is toeing the line of the Zionist regime," said a ministry spokesman.
Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani has warned that the Islamic Republic will abandon its commitments to the IAEA if its nuclear installations are attacked. "If there is a military attack, that would mean that the IAEA has been collecting this information to prepare for an attack," he said.
There has been widespread speculation that Israel might attack Iran's nuclear facilities, and it has reportedly conducted military exercises for such a preemptive strike by long-range F-15I jets, flying over Turkey. An Israeli defense source in Tel Aviv told the London Sunday Times that Israel would on no account permit the Iranian Bushehr reactor to go critical. The Sunday Times also quoted a senior US official warning of a preemptive Israeli strike if Russia continued cooperating with the Iranians. He said Washington was unlikely to block Israeli attacks against Bushehr and other Iranian targets, including a facility at Natanz, where the Iranians have attempted to enrich uranium, and a plant at Arak.
Under the Iranian deal with Moscow, waste produced at the Bushehr plant containing plutonium that could be used in bomb-making would be shipped back to Russia for storage, but the material must first be "cooled", providing Iran with what Washington fears could be up to two years in which to extract the plutonium.
Israel estimates that Iran will be able to build a nuclear bomb by 2007, said an intelligence report delivered to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in private and recently leaked in part to the media.
A senior US official told the London Times that the United States would take action to overturn the regime in Iran if President George W Bush is elected for a second term in November. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the newspaper that Bush would provide assistance to Iran's population to help them revolt against the ruling theocracy.
Iran has remained a sore point in Russian-US relations, despite a new wave of cooperation after September 11, 2001. Although Russia's insistence on its nuclear ties with Iran seems inflammatory, to say the least, Moscow still insists it is driven by mainly commercial interests. Russia's nuclear executives have claimed that "competitors" were trying to undermine Russia's nuclear energy exports.
Obviously, the $1 billion Bushehr reactor is a big deal for Russia financially. But in addition the issue fuels Middle Eastern volatility, which keeps crude-oil prices high, something of true interest to Moscow.
Oil and natural gas account for about one-fifth of Russia's economy and bring more than half of its export revenue. Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer in the first five months of this year. Because of booming exports and high crude prices, Russia's currency reserves have reached an unprecedented $90 billion, a nearly ninefold increase in little more than five years. Russia's private oil companies (except embattled Yukos) are also flush with cash.
However, Russia's growth in oil output and exports could falter next year as companies deplete fields and pipelines run at full capacity. Therefore, sustaining high oil and other commodity prices by any means could be of interest to Moscow.
2. RUSSIA, IRAN PREPARING TO SIGN TEN-YEAR COOPERATION PROGRAM
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Russia and Iran are preparing to sign a ten-year program for economic, scientific and technological cooperation, envisaging the implementation of joint projects worth a total $10 billion, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram in an interview.
Russia is determined to continue its cooperation with Iran in the nuclear industry, Mr. Lavrov said. But the prospects and the scale of that cooperation will depend on Tehran's fulfillment of its obligations to the International Atomic Energy Agency, he stressed. Another factor to determine Russo-Iranian nuclear cooperation in the years ahead will be Russia's decision as to the possibility of accepting the Bushehr plant's nuclear waste for storage, said the minister.
Mr. Lavrov said officials in Moscow were pleased with how Russo-Iranian cooperation was developing. "Iran is a neighbor and a traditional partner of ours. Our two countries are interested in developing political dialogue and cooperating in a variety of areas," he said.
The Russian Foreign Minister then went on to recall his Iranian counterpart's latest official visit to Russia, during which the sides had agreed to strengthen their economic ties, including through the implementation of the Agreement on the International Transportation Corridor North-South and through cooperation in power engineering and aviation.
Very soon the Admiral Kuznetsov air-capable cruiser will begin performing cruise missions after emergence from preventive maintenance, the headquarters of the Northern Fleet told RIA Novosti over the telephone on Saturday. "Supposedly, on August 6 the Admiral Kuznetsov will be released from repair. Its equipment and armaments are in a perfect state and, after some preparations, the cruiser will be able to perform missions set to it," the headquarters said. Carrier-based aircraft will begin their training sessions soon. The emergence from scheduled repair coincides with the 100th birth anniversary of Admiral Kuznetsov. The flagship of the Northern Fleet, the Pyotr Veliky, heavy nuclear guided-missile cruiser, also fresh from repair, is already carrying our missions so as to be in what is called "first-line" readiness in the second half of August.
A Cosmos-3-M launch vehicle inserted a military satellite into a preset orbit at 10.50 p.m. Moscow time July 22. However, confirmation wasn't received before 11.40 p.m. Moscow time because that spacecraft had left the radio-visibility zone. This was disclosed here the other day by a spokesman for the Russian Space Force.
The rocket blasted off from the Plesetsk space center's No. 132 launch site (launch pad No. 1) at 9.46 p.m. Moscow time. This is the first Cosmos-3-M rocket, as well as the fifth Cosmos satellite, to lift off this year, the spokesman went on to say. (The Plesetsk test space center is located in the Arkhangelsk region, northern Russia)
This spacecraft will beef up Russia's military-satellite cluster.
The Cosmos-3-M two-stage light-weight launch vehicle is designed to place satellites into low, medium and high orbits. The Polet production association assembles such rockets. Each Cosmos-M-3 rocket, which has a lift-off mass of 109 tons, orbits 1,500-kg payloads. The first such rocket had lifted off in 1967, with the Soviets adopting it in 1971.
For five months on its Web site, the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy polled visitors on what they thought of a project to develop floating nuclear power plants in Russia. The results of the poll are as follows: "It will benefit the country," 44%; "It may have undesirable environmental effects," 39%; "I do not care," 8%; and "I do not have enough information," 7%. In the opinion of Yevgeny Kuzin, the general director of Malaya Energetika, the poll confirmed that the public had a mixed response to the project. He said the project received a positive evaluation from state ecological experts and two independent ecological expert groups as well as gained the backing of State Duma deputies.
Supplying energy to the Far North and the Far East is a strategic problem for Russia and its effective solution is vital for millions of people living in both regions. As a solution, designers have come up with blueprints for a floating low-capacity nuclear power plant that is intended to provide a steady supply of power to consumers. When ready for operation, the unit will be run by rotating crews. Decommissioned units will leave no radioactive waste at the site.
The generating unit can operate for three years on one fuel rod, which is the equivalent of 360,000 metric tons of fuel oil or 600,000 metric tons of coal. The construction time is four years, and the recoupment period is nine years from the start of construction. When the units are produced in quantity, the cost of the second and subsequent units reduces by 15-20%, greatly adding to the plant's efficiency.
1. Kyrgyzstan receives funds for uranium storage facilities
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The government of Kyrgyzstan and the International Development Association (IDA) signed an agreement on Friday to give Kyrgyzstan a grant for rehabilitating its uranium storage facilities.
The $6.9 million grant will be used for rebuilding and reconditioning uranium storage facilities and mines located near the town of Mailuu-Suu, Dzhalal-Abad region of Kyrgyzstan.
Funds for this program will also come from the Japanese government ($1.95 million) and from the World Environment Foundation (WEF) ($999,000).
The total funding for this project will reach $11.76 million, including funds provided by the Kyrgyz government.
The project will involve measures aimed at preventing emergencies as well as isolating and protecting deserted uranium mines from landslides and floods.
The people, animals and plants in the Mailuu-Suu area are currently exposed to radionuclides coming from uranium storage facilities. If they collapse, the storage facilities also pose a danger to people living in the densely populated Fergana Valley nearby. There are 23 uranium storage facilities and 13 mines in Mailuu-Suu.
1. Comment by the Russian Foreign Ministry's Information and Press Department in Connection with a Question Asked by the Russian Press about Sanctions Imposed by the United States Against the Altai Federal Research and Production Center
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
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Question: Could you comment on sanctions imposed by the United States against the Altai Federal Research and Production Center?
Comment: This is not the first time that we are facing arbitrary imposition by the United States of all sorts of sanctions against Russian enterprises suspected by Washington of having breached nonproliferation regimes. Characteristically, if we go to the essence of the problem, it is fully legitimate cooperation between Russian enterprises and their foreign partners which does not fall under any Russian or international restrictions. In each of those cases moves subject to regulation by internal legislation norms in the United States have been the cause for the imposition of sanctions. Anyway we would like to note with respect to these and similar sanctions that if the American side finds it appropriate to limit its own contacts with advanced enterprises in the Russian defense industry, this is the choice of the United States.
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