1. Russia, U.S. to put forward coordinated nonproliferation initiative ï¿½ Lavrov
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Russian and U.S. presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush reaffirmed in Hanoi their commitment to accelerate work to dovetail the two countries' initiatives in strengthening the nonproliferation regime, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the press.
Russia has proposed setting up international uranium-enrichment centers that would offer nuclear fuel to all law-abiding signatories to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, ha said.
"The United States' initiative has the same substance, and both countries are working on specific aspects of these initiatives," he said.
"I and Condoleezza Rice have been instructed to coordinate the work to dovetail these initiatives, so Russia and the United States could propose a uniform initiative to the world community," Lavrov said.
1. UN atomic agency decision on Iran put off until Thursday
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The UN atomic agency will put off until Thursday deciding whether to help Iran build a nuclear reactor that could provide plutonium for weapons but the project is still expected to be rejected, diplomats have told AFP.
The UN atomic agency will put off until Thursday deciding whether to help Iran build a nuclear reactor that could provide plutonium for weapons but the project is still expected to be rejected, diplomats have told AFP.
Western and non-aligned states have been unable to reach a compromise on the matter at a session on technical cooperation running from Monday to Wednesday of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors, diplomats said Tuesday.
Diplomats said the plan now was for the technical session to make no recommendation, as it usually does, on a package of aid projects and for the matter to be taken up fresh when the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors meets in a regular political session Thursday and Friday.
"G-77 nations (developing states) are saying that approving aid is a technical decision but that removing a project is a political decision," a Western diplomat told AFP.
IAEA deputy director for technical cooperation Ana Maria Cetto had Monday told the board that technical aid for Iran's Arak reactor, which Tehran is going ahead with in any case, did not pose a proliferation threat and so could not be denied by the agency.
The European Union, however, argued that while the aid might be benign, the reactor itself would produce significant quantities of plutonium and would involve "a significant proliferation risk."
"We cannot support providing technical assistance to a heavy water research reactor project that the board has several times asked Iran to reconsider," Finnish ambassador Kirsti Helena Kauppi said on behalf of the EU.
Kauppi said Iran's request for IAEA funding was "not consistent" with the resolutions of the board of governors and the UN Security Council, which has threatened sanctions to get Tehran to rein in its nuclear program.
US ambassador Gregory Schulte said "the reactor, once completed, will be capable of producing plutonium for one or more nuclear weapons each year."
Iran is requesting technical help in guaranteeing safety at the heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak, 200 kilometres (120 miles) south of Tehran.
Schulte said the United States would however not oppose seven other projects for Iran which are in the package of 832 projects being considered.
Other Iranian projects include aid for "human resource development and nuclear technology support" and helping start up the Bushehr nuclear power reactor, according to IAEA data.
The United States, the EU, Canada and Israel were among those calling on the IAEA to block the Arak aid, while Russia, China and non-aligned states argued that it should be granted in speeches on Monday.
The non-aligned states were particularly anxious to protect the principle of the transfer of peaceful nuclear technology to developing countries.
The West has a majority on the board but is working for a consensus decision.
Diplomats said a compromise being hammered out was to defer a decision on Arak, rather than reject the idea of technical cooperation outright.
"The Arak project will be removed from the (technical cooperation) list so that the list can be adopted," one diplomat said.
"The Arak project will be deferred without a deadline," the diplomat said, adding that Iran was pushing however for a deadline for aid to be forthcoming.
The IAEA had in February asked Iran to "reconsider" building the Arak reactor.
This was re-stated in a UN Security Council resolution in July, which also called on Iran to suspend making enriched uranium, which like plutonium can fuel civilian reactors but used in highly enriched form to make atom bombs.
The Security Council is now working on a resolution to impose sanctions on Iran, as Tehran has refused to suspend uranium enrichment.
Iran says it is building the Arak reactor to produce medical isotopes and to replace a smaller, ageing, light-water reactor in Tehran.
2. Ahmadinejad says Iran will be self-sufficient in nuclear fuel by next year
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Iran will be self-sufficient in nuclear fuel in 2007, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday, days after he admitted his country was far from producing enough fuel to power a nuclear reactor.
To reach the goal outlined by the president, Iran would need to dramatically accelerate its capacity for uranium enrichment, a process that the United Nations and the West are demanding Tehran suspend or face possible sanctions.
"Iran will produce its required nuclear fuel next year," the president said during a visit to Iran's Broadcasting Company, according to the company's Website.
"Pressure by the U.S. and Israel aimed at violating the rights of the Iranian nation will not succeed," he added, referring to international opposition to Iran's uranium enrichment program.
Iran is seeking to produce all the fuel it requires for a Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which is due to come on stream next year. It has rejected European offers of buying nuclear fuel from abroad, and has incurred international censure for its repeated refusal to cease enrichment ï¿½ a process that can produce fuel for nuclear bombs as well as reactors.
Iran needs to put 54,000 centrifuges into operation enriching uranium to produce enough fuel for Bushehr. Earlier this year, officials said they planned to have 3,000 centrifuges running by late 2006.
But it does not appear to be near that goal. In February, Iran announced it had successfully enriched uranium for the first time using a cascade of 164 centrifuges. It later announced that it had launched a second cascade, without saying how many centrifuges were being used.
The process of connecting tens of thousands of centrifuges to spin uranium gas and enrich it is a highly delicate and technical one.
Uranium enriched to a low level produces fuel for a reactor, but the West accuses Iran of secretly planning to produce highly enriched uranium capable of being used to build a nuclear weapon. Iran denies it seeks to develop a warhead, saying its program is aimed only at generating electricity.
Ahmadinejad did not say on Monday how Iran would manage to reach the continuous operation of 54,000 centrifuges by the end of 2007.
Last week, he told a press conference that while Iran had mastered the techniques of enriching uranium for consumption in a reactor, it was a long way from doing so in the large quantities required. He said Iran was aiming for up to 60,000 centrifuges, but acknowledged, "We are still in the first stages."
In his comments Monday, Ahmadinejad brushed aside the threat of sanctions, which the world powers are discussing owing to Iran's defiance of an Aug. 31 deadline for the suspension of enrichment.
"Due to our domestic capabilities, efforts by some Western countries to impose sanctions, if realized, will not create any problem for our nation," the president said.
He also downplayed the threat of possible military action against Iran as mooted in the Western press.
"This is psychological warfare. The U.S. government does not have the power for that. And I do advise American leaders to put hostility against Iran out of their mind. Israel is also busy with its domestic problems and has no possibility of making a move," the president said.
Israel attacked and destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, and Israeli military leaders have not ruled out a strike against Iran if international diplomatic moves fail. Many parts of Iran's nuclear facilities have been built underground to protect them against airstrikes.
The world has been increasing concerned about Iran's nuclear program since more than three years ago when it was revealed that the country had kept secret for many years certain aspects of its nuclear development.
While the U.N. Security Council's Big Five powers agree that steps must be taken against Iran for its enrichment, they disagree on the penalties ï¿½ with Russia and China seeking softer measures than the Western allies.
"Our nation has found its place next to the eight countries (of the nuclear club) and they cannot do anything," Ahmadinejad said Monday.
3. White House brushes off CIA draft on Iran: report
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The White House dismissed a classified CIA draft assessment that found no conclusive evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program, The New Yorker magazine reported.
The article by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said the CIA's analysis was based on technical intelligence collected by satellites and on other evidence like measurements of the radioactivity of water samples.
"The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency," according to the article.
"A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the CIA analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it," it said.
The United States has accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy program.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino did not respond directly to Hersh's assertions, but said the article was another "error-filled piece" in a "series of inaccuracy-riddled articles about the Bush administration."
"The White House is not going to dignify the work of an author who has viciously degraded our troops, and whose articles consistently rely on outright falsehoods to justify his own radical views," she said on Monday.
The article, in the current issue of the magazine, discussed how Vice President Dick Cheney believed the Bush administration would deal with Iran if the Republicans lost control of Congress -- as they did in the November 7 election.
"If the Democrats won on November 7th, the vice president said, that victory would not stop the administration from pursuing a military option with Iran," Hersh wrote, citing an unidentified source familiar with the discussion.
If you think Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes outlandish comments, consider what Mao Tse-tung said to a visiting head of state in 1954: "If someone else can drop an atomic bomb, then I can too. The death of 10 or 20 million people is nothing to be afraid of."
Nonetheless, 15 years later, a nuclear-armed China was not only contained by the world, it opted for normalization of relations with its archenemy, the United States. Today, it is fashionable to equate Ahmadinejad with Hitler, yet the lesson of the 20th century is that rash leaders can, in fact, be deterred. And Iran's president will prove no exception.
Remember that Ahmadinejad's comments are not even unique in the context of Iranian discourse. In 2001, the former Iranian president and putative moderate, Hashemi Rafsanjani, declared that although Israel would be destroyed by an atomic bomb, the Islamic world would only be damaged by one and therefore "such a scenario is not inconceivable." Nevertheless, four years later, when Rafsanjani was running for president, Washington and its European allies were eagerly hoping that he would win.
Ahmadinejad is considered nutty in the United States because of his denial of the Holocaust ï¿½ but that's nothing new in the Islamic Republic either. The foremost ruler of the country, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has declared: "There are documents showing close collaboration of Zionists with Nazi Germany, and exaggerated numbers relating to the Jewish Holocaust were fabricated to lay the groundwork for the occupation of Palestine and to justify the atrocities of the Zionists." Yet today, it is quietly hoped in Washington that Khamenei will be the one to restrain the intemperate Ahmadinejad.
All this suggests that in dealing with Iran, American officials have historically discounted its bluster and paid attention to its actual conduct. And they were right to do so. Khamenei and Rafsanjani, despite their irresponsible assertions and pernicious support for a variety of terrorist organizations, have pursued a relatively pragmatic foreign policy that has sought to eschew direct confrontation with the U.S. and Israel.
Ahmadinejad's behavior suggests continuity with his predecessors: incendiary rhetoric and restrained conduct.
The fact is that today, unlike the 1980s, Iran is not challenging the legitimacy of the region's political order or calling for the overthrow of regimes in places such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Tehran's support for groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas is not an Ahmadinejad innovation but a long-standing Iranian policy.
To be sure, Iran is intervening in Iraq and arming various Shiite militias ï¿½ but such conduct is designed not to export Iran's model of governance but to prevent the rise of a state dominated by Sunni elites whose pan-Arab aspirations have in the past led to tense relations, and even war, with Iran. Tehran has no delusions that the Shiites of Iraq will subordinate their communal interest to Iran's national ambitions, but it does hope that a Shiite-dominated regime will provide it with a suitable interlocutor.
Even the nuclear issue has to be viewed in the context of continuity rather than change. The decision to resume the nuclear program after a long period of suspension was taken not by Ahmadinejad but by the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami before leaving office in 2005. What's more, Iran's pursuit of the bomb has less to do with the destruction of Israel than with deterring a United States that has invaded two states that border Iran in the last five years. This is a moment of heightened tension between the U.S. and Iran, with the Bush administration routinely calling for a change of regime in Tehran, so perhaps it's not so surprising that the Islamic Republic feels it requires a deterrent capability to ensure both regime survival and territorial integrity.
So then, why has Ahmadinejad persisted in his contemptible denials of the Holocaust and his repeated calls for the eradication of Israel if, in fact, they are more bluster than anything else? As a cagey politician, Ahmadinejad appreciates that his incendiary denunciations actually enhance his popularity in the Middle East. The carnage in Iraq, the failure to broker a peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab rulers' inability to stand up to Washington have generated a popular clamor for a politician willing to defy the U.S. and Israel.
Ahmadinejad has taken on that role, successfully capturing the imagination of a region prone to rely on conspiracies to explain its predicament. In this context, his persistent religious exhortations are designed not to prepare the path for the return of the Hidden Imam ï¿½ the Messiah-like figure of Shiite Islam who some believe will reappear in a period of global war, chaos and bloodshed ï¿½ but to advance himself and the cause of Iranian influence.
It is a peculiar American fascination to continually look for the next Hitler. Josef Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and even Saddam Hussein were all touted at one time or another as Hitler incarnate. Ahmadinejad is simply the latest figure to be contemplated for that role. Evidently, many in Washington simply cannot grasp the fact that Hitler was a uniquely evil politician and that he is in fact dead. The United States ï¿½ the country that won the Cold War and contained its adversaries ï¿½ should be able to deter a second-rate power with an intemperate leader.
It has been four years since that country's secret nuclear program was brought to light, and the path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere.
First, we agreed to our allies' requests that we offer Tehran a string of concessions, which it spurned. Then, Britain, France and Germany wanted to impose a batch of extremely weak sanctions. For instance, Iranians known to be involved in nuclear activities would have been barred from foreign travel ï¿½ except for humanitarian or religious reasons ï¿½ and outside countries would have been required to refrain from aiding some, but not all, Iranian nuclear projects.
But even this was too much for the U.N. Security Council. Russia promptly announced that these sanctions were much too strong. "We cannot support measures ï¿½ aimed at isolating Iran," declared Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov.
It is now clear that neither Moscow nor Beijing will ever agree to tough sanctions. What's more, even if they were to do so, it would not stop Iran, which is a country on a mission. As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put it: "Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisenï¿½. The era of oppression, hegemonic regimes and tyranny and injustice has reached its endï¿½. The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world." There is simply no possibility that Iran's clerical rulers will trade this ecstatic vision for a mess of Western pottage in the form of economic bribes or penalties.
So if sanctions won't work, what's left? The overthrow of the current Iranian regime might offer a silver bullet, but with hard-liners firmly in the saddle in Tehran, any such prospect seems even more remote today than it did a decade ago, when students were demonstrating and reformers were ascendant. Meanwhile, the completion of Iran's bomb grows nearer every day.
Our options therefore are narrowed to two: We can prepare to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, or we can use force to prevent it. Former ABC newsman Ted Koppel argues for the former, saying that "if Iran is bound and determined to have nuclear weapons, let it." We should rely, he says, on the threat of retaliation to keep Iran from using its bomb. Similarly, Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria points out that we have succeeded in deterring other hostile nuclear states, such as the Soviet Union and China.
And in these pages, William Langewiesche summed up the what-me-worry attitude when he wrote that "the spread of nuclear weapons is, and always has been, inevitable," and that the important thing is "learning how to live with it after it occurs."
But that's whistling past the graveyard. The reality is that we cannot live safely with a nuclear-armed Iran. One reason is terrorism, of which Iran has long been the world's premier state sponsor, through groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Now, according to a report last week in London's Daily Telegraph, Iran is trying to take over Al Qaeda by positioning its own man, Saif Adel, to become the successor to the ailing Osama bin Laden. How could we possibly trust Iran not to slip nuclear material to terrorists?
Koppel says that we could prevent this by issuing a blanket warning that if a nuclear device is detonated anywhere in the United States, we will assume Iran is responsible. But would any U.S. president really order a retaliatory nuclear strike based on an assumption?
Another reason is that an Iranian bomb would constitute a dire threat to Israel's 6 million-plus citizens. Sure, Israel could strike back, but Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who was Ahmadinejad's "moderate" electoral opponent, once pointed out smugly that "the use of an atomic bomb against Israel would totally destroy Israel, while [the same] against the Islamic world would only cause damage. Such a scenario is not inconceivable." If that is the voice of pragmatism in Iran, would you trust deterrence against the messianic Ahmadinejad?
Even if Iran did not drop a bomb on Israel or hand one to terrorists, its mere possession of such a device would have devastating consequences. Coming on top of North Korea's nuclear test, it would spell finis to the entire nonproliferation system.
And then there is a consequence that seems to have been thought about much less but could be the most harmful of all: Tehran could achieve its goal of regional supremacy. Jordan's King Abdullah II, for instance, has warned of an emerging Shiite "crescent." But Abdullah's comment understates the danger. If Iran's reach were limited to Shiites, it would be constrained by their minority status in the Muslim world as well as by the divisions between Persians and Arabs.
But such ethnic-based analysis fails to take into account Iran's charisma as the archenemy of the United States and Israel and the leverage it achieves as the patron of radicals and rejectionists. Given that, the old assumptions about Shiites and Sunnis may not hold any longer. Iran's closest ally today is Syria, which is mostly Sunni. The link between Tehran and Damascus is ideological, not theological. Similarly, Iran supports the Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which are overwhelmingly Sunni (and as a result, Iran has grown popular in the eyes of Palestinians).
During the Lebanon war this summer, we saw how readily Muslims closed ranks across the Sunni-Shiite divide against a common foe (even as the two groups continued killing each other in Iraq). In Sunni Egypt, newborns were named "Hezbollah" after the Lebanese Shiite organization and "Nasrallah" after its leader. As Muslim scholar Vali Nasr put it: "A flurry of anti-Hezbollah [i.e., anti-Shiite] fatwas by radical Sunni clerics have not diverted the admiring gaze of Arabs everywhere toward Hezbollah."
In short, Tehran can build influence on a mix of ethnicity and ideology, underwritten by the region's largest economy. Nuclear weapons would bring regional hegemony within its reach by intimidating neighbors and rivals and stirring the admiration of many other Muslims.
This would thrust us into a new global struggle akin to the one we waged so painfully with the Soviet Union for 40-odd years. It would be the "clash of civilizations" that has been so much talked about but so little defined.
Iran might seem little match for the United States, but that is not how Ahmadinejad sees it. He and his fellow jihadists believe that the Muslim world has already defeated one infidel superpower (the Soviet Union) and will in time defeat the other.
Russia was poor and weak in 1917 when Lenin took power, as was Germany in 1933 when Hitler came in. Neither, in the end, was able to defeat the United States, but each of them unleashed unimaginable suffering before they succumbed. And despite its weakness, Iran commands an asset that neither of them had: a natural advantage in appealing to the world's billion-plus Muslims.
If Tehran establishes dominance in the region, then the battlefield might move to Southeast Asia or Africa or even parts of Europe, as the mullahs would try to extend their sway over other Muslim peoples. In the end, we would no doubt win, but how long this contest might last and what toll it might take are anyone's guess.
The only way to forestall these frightening developments is by the use of force. Not by invading Iran as we did Iraq, but by an air campaign against Tehran's nuclear facilities. We have considerable information about these facilities; by some estimates they comprise about 1,500 targets. If we hit a large fraction of them in a bombing campaign that might last from a few days to a couple of weeks, we would inflict severe damage. This would not end Iran's weapons program, but it would certainly delay it.
What should be the timing of such an attack? If we did it next year, that would give time for U.N. diplomacy to further reveal its bankruptcy yet would come before Iran will have a bomb in hand (and also before our own presidential campaign). In time, if Tehran persisted, we might have to do it again.
Can President Bush take such action after being humiliated in the congressional elections and with the Iraq war having grown so unpopular? Bush has said that history's judgment on his conduct of the war against terror is more important than the polls. If Ahmadinejad gets his finger on a nuclear trigger, everything Bush has done will be rendered hollow. We will be a lot less safe than we were when Bush took office.
Finally, wouldn't such a U.S. air attack on Iran inflame global anti-Americanism? Wouldn't Iran retaliate in Iraq or by terrorism? Yes, probably. That is the price we would pay. But the alternative is worse.
After the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1917, a single member of Britain's Cabinet, Winston Churchill, appealed for robust military intervention to crush the new regime. His colleagues weighed the costs ï¿½ the loss of soldiers, international derision, revenge by Lenin ï¿½ and rejected the idea.
The costs were avoided, and instead the world was subjected to the greatest man-made calamities ever. Communism itself was to claim perhaps 100 million lives, and it also gave rise to fascism and Nazism, leading to World War II. Ahmadinejad wants to be the new Lenin. Force is the only thing that can stop him.
Russia's current and future nuclear energy investments in Iran may be hindered by the fallout from the ongoing international row over the Islamic republic's alleged nuclear weapons ambitions, which Moscow has a key role in resolving.
Russia is constructing the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran with an eye on future Iranian development worth billions more.
But Iran's determination -- or sovereign right to self-determination over its civilian nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says -- to enrich uranium (a process for making both civilian and weapons grade material) has the United States calling for harsh sanctions and the U.N. Security Council debating action.
And so Russia, a re-empowered nation a decade after a low following the fall of the Soviet Union and boosted to "energy superpower" status with high prices for its oil and gas resources, plays its hand as intermediary.
"Like all countries they are doing what's in their best interest," said Charles Esser, energy analyst at the International Crisis Group. "Russia's not looking for what's in Iran's interest or what's in the United States' interest. They're looking out for Russian interest."
That's the large arms trade with and oil investment in Iran.
And that's the $1 billion Bushehr contract, with the 10-year fuel supply deal it signed last year.
"There's no indication that Russia wants a confrontation. They'd like a solution that doesn't make them lose their investment in Bushehr," Esser said.
Russia has agreed to a ban on weapons materials and technology sales to Iran but says it will veto U.N. sanctions that hinder Bushehr's construction or fueling contract. It largely agrees with Ahmadinejad's claim that Iran has a sovereign right to peaceful nuclear energy.
But a restriction on Iran's uranium enrichment facility would suit Moscow's pocketbook well.
"Russia currently controls about a third of the world's nuclear fuel supply and makes a tremendous amount of money exporting," said Cliff Kupchan, director of Europe & Eurasia for the Eurasia Group, a global political risk analyst firm.
"The core issue being Russia's national interest in maintaining and building its relationship with Iran in the civilian nuclear sector. That's a big problem with the United States and getting Russia to agree to sanctions."
Kupchan says Russia could pull in up to $4 billion on the next two nuclear reactors Iran is considering.
"Russia is one of the only countries in the world that is willing to aggressively build nuclear plants for Iran right now."
Russian diplomats aren't throwing their entire weight behind Iran, though its limited sanction approval irks the United States and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday the International Atomic Energy Agency, not the Security Council, is the proper venue for ensuring all sides gets what they want.
"They are walking a careful line," said Mary Beth Nikitin, a fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Atomstroyexport, Russia's nuclear export arm and contractor for Bushehr, told Iran in September technical issues would delay the completion of the plant -- as well as the first shipment of fuel -- until late next year.
"Some of the outside observers detect a certain degree in purpose in these delays to not have Russian actions misinterpreted as a reward for Iran," she said. Iran has called it Russian "incompetence" while Arms Control Today reports U.S. and European officials said it was a tactic urging Iran to tone down.
"It's generally recognized now that the reactor itself is not a proliferation threat," Nikitin said, but possible Iranian misuse of the fuel is. Under the contract signed last year, Russia would be responsible for both delivery and reclamation of the fuel, thus eliminating proliferation concerns. (They offered earlier this year to enrich all the uranium Iran wants, providing they would also retrieve it, as a negotiating tactic, but Tehran said no.)
Iran is moving ahead with its uranium enrichment facility, part of a secret nuclear program exposed in 2002 and the main spark in the debate.
"The Russians would like to continue selling fuel to Iran and understandably Iran doesn't see it that way," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org. He said Tehran sees itself at the mercy of someone else if it can't control its own fuel production, part of what Pike calls "the complex web of transactions and relationships."
"Fueling Bushehr has been pretty large on America's priority list for some time," he said.
And "undoubtedly," the issue has been a bargaining chip for both Moscow and Washington in their talks over Russia's admittance to the World Trade Organization, a deal that's to be finalized Saturday.
"The Americans would have been leaving money on the table if they didn't play it that way," Pike said.
"It's inconceivable to me that there is not some de facto linkage between bilateral agreement of the WTO and efforts to enlist the Russians to support U.N. sanctions," said the Eurasia Group's Kupchan.
Russia is building two reactors each in India and China -- with more tenders to come, Sergey Shmatko, president of Atomstroyexport, told United Press International. And it just signed a deal for a dual-reactor plant in Bulgaria, so with or without the lucrative Iranian deals, Russian nuclear energy investment has no plans to slow soon.
China has unfrozen some North Korean accounts in a Macau bank that have been suspected of being linked to money laundering and other financial irregularities, Yonhap News Agency and KBS reported, quoting a Beijing-based diplomatic source yesterday.
The move, which seems to have been conducted with the understanding of the United States, is likely to oil the wheels in the expected resumption of the six-party talks on North Koreaï¿½s nuclear programs, reports said. The multilateral talks, which have been stalled for one year, are expected to resume as early as next month, as Pyongyang said it would return to the negotiation table late last month.
China ordered its banks to stop financial dealings with Banco Delta Asia (BDA) in the Chinese territory of Macau, after the U.S. ordered similar measures for its financial institutions in September 2005. About $24 million of the Northï¿½s holdings have been frozen. Angered by the U.S. move, Pyongyang withdrew from the six-party talks.
But a diplomatic source in Beijing requesting anonymity was quoted as saying yesterday that China unfroze some accounts of North Korean companies in the BDA, allowing them to conduct normal financial transactions with Chinese banks again.
The amount of the unfrozen accounts is estimated at a little less than $12 million. The accounts suspected of illegal activities remain frozen, according to the source.
A North Korean official active in Beijing also confirmed the measures, adding ``it seems the United States has partly accepted our demand,ï¿½ï¿½ according to Yonhap.
Some observers interpret the move as reciprocity from the U.S. as North Korea agreed to resume the six-party talks on Pyongyangï¿½s nuclear programs late last month. Pyongyang had repeatedly demanded U.S. lift the ``financial sanctionsï¿½ï¿½ first before reviving the multilateral talks.
The move comes ahead of U.S.-China talks expected today. Christopher Hill, the top U.S. nuclear negotiator, arrived in Beijing yesterday to meet with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei during his 24-hour stay in the Chinese capital.
U.S. President George W. Bush dispatched Hill following a summit of Pacific Rim leaders in Hanoi, Vietnam, where North Korea's nuclear weapons program was on the agenda.
Watching seemingly new U.S. carrots dangling in front of North Korea, some people might think Pyongyangï¿½s nuclear brinkmanship is working. To diligent diplomatic watchers, however, Washingtonï¿½s offer last week was neither new nor directly triggered by the Northï¿½s atomic detonation in October. Still, the latest U.S. renewal of a proposal to sign a peace treaty that would officially end the Korean War represents a positive first step back toward the right direction. At least, the two sides could restart on it.
Turning the shaky armistice into a peace treaty has often been the subject of regional conferences since it was signed in 1953. It was also one of the key points of the Sept. 19, 2005, joint declaration, the reinforcement of which has never started due to a lack of follow-up talks. Strictly speaking, therefore, it is not the lack of such a proposal that has blocked the progress of the six-nation meeting. Rather, the suspension of the disarmament talks was the reason for stalling discussion.
Still, the White House spokesmanï¿½s comment, backing up President Bushï¿½s promise of security arrangements and economic incentives if Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear weapons program, signifies a change of atmosphere in Washington from confrontation to conversation. It was also something that the North has always called for. In short, the U.S. is giving the Stalinist regime a chance to abandon nuclear gamble without losing face. Though it is same old olive branch, Pyongyang should accept it.
Even so, the shift to a peace treaty has a long way to go before becoming a reality. The biggest obstacle is the U.S. precondition that the reclusive regime first give up its nuclear ambition once and for all. Pyongyang, regarding itself as a proven nuclear power, reportedly plans to toughen its negotiating stance when the six countries meet again soon. There are also technical difficulties, such as how the other five countries confirm whether the North abandons atomic weapons even if it promises to.
Taken together, the latest U.S. offer would likely fall short of resulting in any complete or immediate change of position in Pyongyang, but it is a modification of Washingtonï¿½s own policy for the long run. The Bush administration is advised in this regard to listen to calls from Democratic Congressional leaders for reopening bilateral talks with Pyongyang in and outside of the multinational forum. Bush should heed the Democratsï¿½ advice for switching from ineffective sanctions to soft diplomacy, while dropping ideology and religious faith from diplomacy.
Pyongyang should correctly grasp the changing international atmosphere around its life-or-death nuclear game at the expense of its peopleï¿½s basic subsistence. Seoul for its part needs to fully prepare for the changing situation or it will remain a spectator alienated from the peace treaty discussion.
3. APEC condemns NKorea nuclear test, urges new WTO talks
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Asia-Pacific leaders called for an early resumption of six-nation talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program and pledged fresh efforts to revive negotiations to free up global trade.
Wrapping up a two-day summit in communist Vietnam, the 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum expressed "strong concern" over Pyongyang's nuclear test and endorsed the raft of UN sanctions it triggered.
Officials had debated for days about how the group should address the international standoff with the Stalinist state, and ultimately, Pacific Rim heads of state and government heard an oral statement behind closed doors.
The North's shock October 9 atom bomb test posed "a clear threat to our shared interest of peace and security," said Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, who first read the statement to APEC leaders and later to reporters.
"We did not avoid this issue, but it is not the major item or major issue of the leaders' meeting," he told a press conference, amid suggestions the lack of a written statement had weakened the message.
After the summit, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark told AFP: "When any country steps outside the non-proliferation regime, it's a huge concern."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper chimed in: "The unanimous feeling was that pressure must be put on North Korea to pursue denuclearization."
Although North Korea dominated the week-long APEC gathering in Hanoi, trade also figured large on the agenda, and efforts to scrap subsidies, tariffs and other barriers to free global commerce won support from APEC leaders.
Emphasizing the urgent need to kickstart the Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, which collapsed in July, they issued both a special statement Saturday and highlighted the issue in Sunday's final communique.
Leaders said they should "spare no efforts to break the current deadlocks and achieve an ambitious and overall balanced outcome of the round".
They warned that if the Doha round -- launched in late 2001 -- failed, the consequences "would be too grave for our economies and for the global multilateral trading system."
APEC's criticism of North Korea capped several days of hectic diplomacy by the leaders of the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea -- the five parties involved in the drawn-out negotiations with Pyongyang.
US President George W. Bush met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to persuade Beijing and Moscow to ramp up the pressure on Pyongyang.
Bush and Hu said the regime of Kim Jong-Il "should get the message" that the world community will not tolerate it possessing nuclear weapons, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.
"China is a very important nation, and the United States believes strongly that, by working together, we can help solve problems such as North Korea and Iran," Bush said.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier warned the international community not to push the North "into a corner".
North Korea agreed last month to return to the negotiating table, but a date has yet to be set for the resumption of six-nation talks.
Washington's pointman on North Korea, Christopher Hill, was due in Beijing on Monday for further consultations, US officials said.
The APEC economies, which account for nearly half of world trade, also said they would study a US-led push for a cross-Pacific free trade zone stretching from China to Chile.
Leaders also called for increased cooperation to tackle bird flu and other pandemics, as well as efforts to draft post-disaster contingency plans.
Bush arrived late Sunday in the former Saigon, where he will visit the Pasteur Institute to highlight the fight against diseases such as bird flu, on the last leg of his visit to Vietnam.
He will head to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, late Monday to wrap up a tour of Asia.
On the sidelines of the summit, the US and Russian trade ministers signed an agreement giving US backing for Moscow's WTO membership bid, the last major hurdle to its entry into the organization.
Putin thanked Bush for that support, while Lavrov said afterward that Bush had also announced a lifting of US sanctions against Russian jetmaker Sukhoi, imposed in August for providing Iran with potential weapons equipment.
Vietnam, East Asia's fastest-growing economy after China, has itself just won WTO membership approval and proudly pulled out all the stops for the APEC meeting.
In a series of closed-door meetings on the edges of the economic summit meeting of Asian nations here, President Bush and his aides have signaled that they will dangle a new set of incentives for North Korea to give up nuclear weapons and technology, American officials said. But the offers would hinge on the Northï¿½s coming to talks next month agreeing to begin immediately dismantling some of the equipment it is using to build an arsenal.
The stepped up diplomatic effort was made as Mr. Bush met leaders of the four countries that surround North Korea for the first time since the North conducted a nuclear test on Oct. 9. The meetings included a warm session with Japanï¿½s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and a frosty one with the South Korean president, Roh Moo-hyun.
At the end of the meeting with Mr. Roh, who has been fundamentally at odds with Mr. Bush on North Korea strategy, the South Korean president repeated his insistence that while his country accepted the ï¿½principles and goalsï¿½ of an America-led initiative to intercept shipments in and out of the North, it would not participate in parts of the effort, American and Korean officials said. That left murky the critical question of whether Mr. Roh would permit a North Korean ship traveling in the Southï¿½s waters to be stopped and searched.
American officials at the meeting would not publicly discuss their discussions with Japan, China, South Korea and Russia over what steps they were demanding that North Korea take before resuming negotiations. Even in discussing broader points, most would speak only on condition of anonymity. But Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bushï¿½s national security adviser, said the North needed to take ï¿½concrete steps.ï¿½
He declined to confirm three steps that American and Asian officials said were now being debated: an immediate shutdown of North Koreaï¿½s 5 megawatt reactor, whose spent fuel can be turned into weapons; the closing of the reprocessing facility that manufactures plutonium fuel; and immediate inspections led by the International Atomic Energy Commission. The agencyï¿½s inspectors were thrown out of the country in 2003.
ï¿½Generically, those are the kinds of things one might think about,ï¿½ Mr. Hadley said when asked about them.
The combination of incentives and demands on North Korea were expected to be the focal point when President Bush met President Hu Jintao of China. But in their statements to reporters as they sat down in a South Korean-owned hotel here on Sunday, Mr. Hu never mentioned North Korea, instead citing new trade statistics showing a 25 percent jump in American exports to China and noting renewed joint maneuvers between the Chinese and American Navies for search and rescue operations. Mr. Bush mention the North only in passing in the public comments.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also dangled a new incentive: the prospect of North Korea one day being allowed to join this Asia-Pacific economic forum. During a speech to business leaders, she said North Korea could follow the example of Vietnam and overcome its adversarial relationship with the United States. ï¿½I can assure you we would welcome them, too, to a future of hope and prosperity,ï¿½ she said. ï¿½We could then all realize the promise of a true community in the Asia-Pacific region.ï¿½
North Korea is one of the very few Pacific nations not part of APEC, the group of 21 Asian and Pacific countries holding its annual summit meeting here in Hanoi.
But for all the talk of regional economic cooperation and trade expansion that peppered the official agenda, the focal point of the behind-the-scenes huddles here was the package the United States was trying to put together to make sure that coming six-nation talks aimed at reining in North Koreaï¿½s nuclear ambitions would not fail.
Wary that the off-again-on-again talks risk irrelevancy ï¿½ they began in 2003 and have yet to produce anything ï¿½ American officials said they did not want to sit down for another round until they had prepared a successful outcome. A senior Bush administration official said the United States was close to agreement with Russia, China, South Korea and Japan on what steps to ask North Korea to take.
Part of the debate has centered on what the five countries, but especially the United States, would give North Korea in return. In the past, American officials have talked about signing a peace treaty that would officially end the Korean War. Now they are hinting at the prospect of a ceremony to commemorate the event, hoping to capitalize on the desire of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, for American recognition.
But few diplomats say the promise of a peace ceremony one day and eventual membership to a trade organization will be enough to get Mr. Kim to start dismantling the nuclear program that his country has spent the last 50 years building. A senior Bush administration official said the five countries were also working on ï¿½more immediate elementsï¿½ of an incentives package.
One big thing that North Korea has signaled it wants is for the United States to lift the financial restrictions it placed on a Macao bank, Banco Delta Asia, last year, that was a main hub of the Northï¿½s international financial transactions. Last year, the Bush administration accused Banco Delta Asia of helping North Korea to launder money from drug smuggling and other illicit activities and to pass counterfeit $100 bills manufactured by the Northï¿½s government.
Officially, American diplomats say they will lift the restrictions when North Korea stops counterfeiting American currency. But privately, they acknowledge that they hope to find ways to work on the problem with their North Korean counterparts. The American hope is to use the prospect of a resolution of the counterfeiting issue to get at an overall nuclear agreement.
The United States endorsed a statement from the Asia-Pacific group that strongly criticizes North Koreaï¿½s October nuclear test and its July missile launchings. Mr. Bush spent Saturday afternoon at the brand new convention center that Vietnam built for the forum, and Saturday night at a gala dinner and cultural performance.
This is his first trip abroad since the midterm elections, and administration officials were dogged by questions about the Iraq war. After her speech to business leaders, Ms. Rice was challenged by an American questioner who drew a parallel between ï¿½our recent misadventures in Iraq and the tragedy of the Vietnam War some 30 years ago.ï¿½
ï¿½How can we resolve this quagmire?ï¿½
Ms. Rice, who had been giving fairly bland answers to questions, became animated, embarking on a lengthy discourse that touched on the history books she read last summer (biographies of Americaï¿½s founding fathers), an exploration of the Iraqi psyche, the 1948 coup in Czechoslovakia that ï¿½ended the last free society in Eastern Europe,ï¿½ and reflections on her own life growing up in the segregated South.
ï¿½Think about Japan, prostrate at the end of World War II, now the vibrant second-most important economy in the world,ï¿½ she said. ï¿½Think, too, about Korea, South Korea: after years of military dictatorship, finally a vibrant democracy.
ï¿½And think also about where weï¿½re standing. Thirty years ago, what American would have thought that you would be standing in Vietnam at a conference of the Asia-Pacific Economic Council talking about free markets and open trade and the need to better integrate our economies? Who would have thought it?ï¿½
She concluded that if the Iraqis work at it, with Americaï¿½s help, one day an American secretary of state would stand on a podium somewhere and say: ï¿½How could it ever have been thought that the Iraqi people werenï¿½t capable of democracy? How could anyone have ever questioned that freedom and liberty would reign in the Middle East?ï¿½
The Pentagon has extended its timeline to destroy its aging chemical weapons arsenal until 2023, despite concerns by Congress and watchdog groups that the stockpiles raise the risk of an accident or theft by terrorists.
The new schedule, outlined in Pentagon documents obtained by USA TODAY, means the military won't eliminate its stock of deadly nerve gases and skin-blistering agents until 11 years after the 2012 deadline set by the international Chemical Weapons Convention. The U.S. government had already asked for a five-year extension from an earlier 2007 deadline.
Communities near the seven sites where weapons are stockpiled have long complained about the delays. Congress echoed those concerns this year, when it called eliminating the stockpiles "a homeland security imperative" and directed the Pentagon in a defense bill to "make every effort" to destroy them by the convention deadline or "soon thereafter."
Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib said the delay is the result of several factors, including technological challenges in developing and building disposal plants, regulatory delays, and safety and security issues. Even so, he said the military remains committed to the job and that the war in Iraq has not drained money from the effort.
"Destroying these weapons safely is not a fast or simple process," Isleib said.
Disposal facilities, mostly incinerators, are operating at five sites. The new Pentagon plan, however, would slow construction and operating schedules for two remaining plants near Pueblo, Colo., and Richmond, Ky. Those plants, which will neutralize chemical agents instead of burning them, won't finish that work until 2020 and 2023, respectively, the plan shows.
The Pentagon "is again backsliding on its commitment," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement.
The projections "are simply unacceptable," he said. "They would subject the people living near (stockpiles) to the dangers of chemical weapons until well into the 2020s."
The military has destroyed 41% of its 31,500-ton chemical arsenal, which includes weapons such as rockets and caches of raw chemical agents. A Pentagon report in April showed that projected costs for destroying all stockpiles have climbed from $2 billion in 1986 to $32 billion today.
Critics say the plan to slow spending and stretch construction at the remaining disposal plants will raise costs and create needless risks of an accidental chemical release or terrorist attack.
"To intentionally put tens of thousands of Americans at an unnecessary risk by continuing to store these weapons is reprehensible," said Craig Williams of the Chemical Weapons Working Group, a Kentucky-based coalition of citizen groups from stockpile sites. "Not only are they ignoring our international treaty obligations, they are undermining the military's ... obligation to protect U.S. citizens."
The interim report from the Federal Government's committee into nuclear power, chaired by Ziggy Switkowski, is to be released today. It is widely expected to support pursuing the development of nuclear energy, which raises the question: is it possible to develop an environmentally friendly, ethically acceptable nuclear strategy for the benefit of all?
The advantages of nuclear-powered electricity production are that it is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuel-based energy because it generates less greenhouse gases, and that Australia has some of the world's largest reserves of the raw material needed - uranium-235 (U-235).
Proponents also say that the high-level waste produced can now be safely dealt with, through technology such as synroc (synthetic rock) which chemically binds radioactive waste elements so they cannot leach out.
However, uranium-based fission reactors still have significant environmental issues to deal with, and perhaps always will.
Is this the only option for non-fossil fuel based nuclear power? Is it possible to enjoy the benefits of nuclear power without the potentially toxic waste and diversion of nuclear programs to produce material for weapons of mass destruction? The answer, potentially, is yes.
A new generation of nuclear power reactors is being developed using thorium-232 as their fuel, instead of uranium, which may be a solution.
Early designs and prototypes for thorium reactors use uranium as the source of neutrons, but an ingenious design uses a particle accelerator and elemental lead instead. These are referred to as "accelerator-driven" thorium reactors.
The beauty of this approach is that the reaction and energy production is only sustained as long as the proton beam is on.
With this type of thorium reactor there is no possibility of fission continuing when the proton beam is off. This means that thorium reactors are sub-critical devices which cannot maintain a self-sustaining chain reaction, and hence there is no chance of Chernobyl-style meltdown.
Australia has abundant supplies of thorium. Unlike uranium, thorium doesn't need significant enriching because it is more than 500 times more abundant in nature than uranium, which should make it cheaper to extract and process.
Thorium reactors produce lower volumes of shorter-lived waste products than conventional reactors. Accelerator-driven thorium reactors do not produce significant quantities of plutonium-239 or U-235 either, so the technology could be supplied to countries such as North Korea and Iran in the knowledge that it could not be used to produce nuclear weapons.
In addition, and this is a real bonus, thorium reactors can be used to convert stockpiled long-lived, high level nuclear fission radioactive waste into harmless, stable or shorter-lived, less dangerous products. So the energy-producing thorium reactor can also be used as to dispose of high-level toxic radioactive waste.
Thorium reactors are being investigated in Britain, the United States, India, Germany, Canada, Japan and Russia. India, in particular, is investing heavily in developing thorium-based reactors because it faces difficulties importing uranium. India also has large reserves of thorium, second only to Australia.
Thorium-based reactors are not yet a commercial reality. However, as we debate a nuclear industry that could include nuclear power, we should put this promising technology on the agenda. With a lead time of 10 to 20 years before a nuclear power facility could be brought on-line, we should be investigating this more environmentally friendly form of nuclear power production as an alternative.
If we really do aspire to being a "clever country", we should actively investigate the pros and cons of thorium reactors.
The question is, have we got the vision to invest the time and money required? Can we afford not to?
2. Deal to build world's first fusion power reactor signed
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An international agreement to build the world's first fusion power reactor, known by the acronym ITER, has been signed in Paris.
Russia, the United States, Japan, the European Union, China, South Korea and India signed the document in Paris Tuesday.
The $12.1 billion project will be launched in January 2007 and is designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological potential of nuclear fusion amid concerns over growing energy consumption and the impact of conventional fossil fuels on the environment.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project is expected to produce clean and safe energy by 2016 for 20 years in Caradache, in the south of France.
But the leader of the Russian Green Party said he doubts the practical expediency of building an ITER reactor.
"I, as well as all independent experts, have serious doubts that this project will have any practical value. There will be none in the next 10-20 years, although, needless to say, it does have some scientific value," Alexei Yablokov said.
He said talk about the project has been going on for about 30 years now, but things have not moved much beyond that.
He criticized the participants in the project for what he described as incorrect prioritization in developing energy resources.
"The money should go instead into providing environmentally clean sources of energy," he said, adding it would be better to spend the funds (about $10 billion) to develop renewable sources of energy.
He also queried the safety of the construction project.
"When I ask physicists whether they can provide at least a 90% guarantee that they can build an environmentally clean reactor, they scratch their heads and say 60% is the best they can do," he said, adding the technology will never be entirely safe.
But former Nuclear Power Minister Viktor Mikhailov said nuclear and especially thermonuclear energy is safer and more environmentally friendly than fossil energy sources, although he said an industrial fusion power reactor will not be built until the 22nd century.
"I still believe that thermonuclear energy should be developed and promoted. At the same time I am convinced that this is technology of the 22nd century," he said.
He also said Russia has made a very substantial contribution to the ITER project.
"Russia's lead in this realm is not contested by anyone in the world, and I believe that the thermonuclear reactor is a very important step in developing mankind's energy strategy," he said.
The idea of ITER began when the Soviet Union suggested that the four most advanced nuclear nations - the U.S.S.R., the U.S., Europe and Japan - create a "tokamak" reactor, a doughnut-shaped chamber to confine in a magnetic field incandescent plasma that no material can withstand. Thermonuclear fusion of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium then proceeds in the plasma.
In mid-June, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded three researchers the prestigious Global Energy prize for their work on an experimental nuclear fusion reactor.
Japan's Masaji Yoshikawa, France's Robert Aimar and Russian Academician Yevgeny Velikhov won the prize for developing the scientific and technical foundations for the ITER project.
Established in 2002 on Russia's initiative, the international prize has been granted for outstanding theoretical, experimental and applied research, development, inventions and discoveries in the field of energy development and power generation.
In 2006, the prize was worth $1.1 million and was shared among the scientists.
Russia and Vietnam agreed Monday to step up economic cooperation and work together to combat terrorism during a visit by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, meant to fortify ties between the two Cold War allies.
Russia could extend cooperation in the energy sector to include nuclear power, Putin said.
"The possibilities of the Russian economy and of individual Russian companies are significant," Putin said, adding that he hoped "our traditional partners and friends" would take advantage of the opportunity.
The joint pledge on fighting terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction was among six agreements between the two governments, most of which focused on cooperation in energy and finance.
In a joint statement, the two sides also called for a resolution of the diplomatic impasse over North Korea's nuclear program "by political and diplomatic means."
In his first visit to Vietnam in five years, Putin scheduled meetings with President Nguyen Minh Triet and other top officials on Monday after a weekend summit of Pacific Rim leaders.
Cooperation has been most active in the energy sector.
"We are prepared not only to continue this cooperation but to expand it also into the atomic energy sector," Putin told reporters after his meeting with Triet.
China and India are poised to sign a civilian nuclear cooperation deal during President Hu Jintao's four-day state visit to the South Asian giant that begins today, Indian officials said yesterday, similar to the recent agreement between the United States and India.
The deal would foster the exchange and purchase of nuclear technology between the two emerging Asian powers, and is expected to be announced in a joint statement at the end of Hu's visit on Thursday, according to two officials familiar with the impending accord who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Chinese nuclear specialists are in India conducting meetings with Indian counterparts, one of the officials said.
While the exact terms of the potential China-India nuclear agreement have not been finalized, they are expected to be similar to the terms of the civilian nuclear agreement India concluded with the United States on July 18 last year, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India visited Washington.
That deal also was announced in the joint statement the two sides issued at the end of Singh's visit, and gives India access to high-tech nuclear technology it was denied previously.
If China and India enter into a nuclear cooperation agreement, it will mark a new stage in the increasing competition between China and the United States for India's friendship.
President Bush branded China a "strategic competitor" as soon as he came to office in 2001. Since India's burgeoning economy and muscular military can tip the balance of power in Asia, over the last year the United States and China have been trying to build closer ties with India, said Sun Shihai, deputy director of the Institute for Asia Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
"The US always said it wants to use India to balance China," Sun said. "China feels it needs to engage India more [and] develop some kind of Russia-China-India cooperation" that can balance US hegemony. "So there is some kind of competition happening."
The White House's July 2005 decision to enter into civilian nuclear cooperation was widely seen as a critical step in attracting India into the US orbit.
India and Pakistan had conducted tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998 and refused to join the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, so the global community, led by the United States, had denied them formal recognition as nuclear power states. This limited both countries' ability to procure the latest nuclear technology.
Bush's willingness to provide India with new civilian nuclear technology -- while refusing to do the same with India's archrival, Pakistan -- was widely seen as a de facto acceptance of India as a nuclear weapons state.
Initially, China had criticized the Indo-US deal and said it violated international nonproliferation principles. India and China had fought a brief but bitter war in 1962, and New Delhi had pointed to the threat it faced from a nuclear-armed China when it conducted its nuclear tests in 1998.
But Sun said Hu persisted in repairing ties with India, and an official in New Delhi knowledgeable about the nuclear negotiations with China said the nuclear deal would largely be the fruit of Hu's efforts.
"We had been talking to the Chinese for a while but China's military, foreign ministry, and defense ministry had all been against the deal" the official said. "Hu and the Communist Party were the ones pushing it through, and they seem to have taken control of China's India policy."
On the Indian side, it was Mayankote Kelath Narayanan, Singh's national security adviser, who brokered the deal, the official said.
One reason many Indian officials want a deal with China is that they believe it will restore some balance to India's foreign policy.
"Traditionally, India's always been nonaligned and had an independent foreign policy," said an official in New Delhi familiar with the negotiations. "Recently, India had been moving very close to the US and with this deal India will become equidistant between the US and China."
India is also worried that the deal Bush signed with Singh still needs to be ratified by the US Congress. "One reason we went for the Chinese offer is that we think the final [nuclear cooperation] bill Bush signs, after all the amendments from Congress tags onto it, will not be acceptable to India," said a senior Indian intelligence official.
Although the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill supporting nuclear cooperation with India last Friday, Singh has said the process of reconciling the Senate and House bills could end up changing the original terms of the pact he signed with Bush. For example, the Senate bill added a stipulation that would cease nuclear supplies to New Delhi if it did not cooperate "fully and actively" in helping to contain Iran's nuclear program. India has close energy and defense ties with Tehran.
Another factor is that just as China apparently hopes its warming ties with India will draw India away from the United States, India hopes closer relations with China will dilute Beijing's close relationship with Pakistan. Over the last two years, China had indeed cooled ties with Pakistan. While Hu is also expected to sign nuclear agreements with Pakistan when he goes there straight after his India visit, "the Pakistanis will get much much less than what they want," an Indian official said.
Blessing a nuclear buildup doesn't make good sense, at first glance. A U.S. Senate vote to supply India with nuclear material seems crazy, given that nation's hair-trigger relations with Pakistan and tensions over similar work in Iran and North Korea. Why help anyone join the mushroom-cloud club?
But, on balance, the agreement reflects reality and cements a crucial strategic alliance between Washington and New Delhi.
This deal to sell nuclear fuel and technology could be much tougher. Conditions to pull India away from links with Iran -- currently bristling at suggestions it stop nuclear research -- were shot down in the Senate. Thank you, Sen. Barbara Boxer, for pushing such an amendment to the deal, one that unfortunately failed.
Yet, overall, this pact reflects the obvious: India has a fledgling nuclear industry that includes power plants and weapon research facilities. It's hungry for more fuel to feed a booming economy, and its leaders are looking for allies who will help. After 30 years of neglect on the subject, President Bush was right to take up the issue. He has resolved to cultivate a powerful new friend -- the world's largest democracy, a surging industrial power and regional counterweight to China and Russia.
The charge of inconsistency will be made about this deal. How can Washington oppose the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea while cutting a deal that allows such work in India?
The answer isn't hard to fathom. India is a seasoned, secular democracy. It already has both the bomb and the reactors, and its leaders will go elsewhere if Washington balks. It will agree, in broad outline, to permit inspections it has shunned before.
There are other consolations to draw from this deal. The 85-14 Senate vote was that much-promised example of bipartisanship. The two ï¿½minences grises of foreign policy -- Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana and Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware -- both supported it. India's future plans to expand nuclear-power generation could be a $100 billion market for American firms.
The vote also brought notice to the "Indian lobby," citizens of Indian background, who made the case that sizable numbers here want closer ties with the giant nation and support for its future.
With the agreement will go a new level of responsibility for both countries. India must show it can negotiate -- and not bluster -- in disputes with Pakistan. Both countries tested nuclear devices eight years ago, and India suffered 200 dead in a wave of railway bombings last July attributed to Pakistani terrorists.
For the United States, the deal should open up diplomatic channels that will get India to play a bigger role in fighting international terrorism, both around the world and on its own dangerous Asian block. That could be a real win in this pact.
India successfully tested a nuclear-capable ballistic missile from a test range in the eastern state of Orissa, defence sources said.
The test of the Prithvi-1 missile took place at the Chandipur-on-sea test site about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Orissa's state capital, Bhubaneswar.
The missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher at 9:55 am (0425 GMT) Sunday, the sources said on Sunday.
The 8.5-meter (28-foot) surface-to-surface missile covers 150 kilometers in 300 seconds and has a range of up to 250 kilometers.
The test was part of an air defence exercise and trials of the missile are likely to be carried out next week as well, the sources said.
Nuclear-capable India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars, two over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, routinely carry out missile tests and normally notify each other in advance under an agreement.
The missile, which can carry conventional or low-yield nuclear warheads, was last tested on June 11 this year. The missile is designed for battlefield use against troops or armoured formations.
Prior to the test, local authorities temporarily evacuated more than 2,700 people from nearby areas.
1. India and Pakistan get their ï¿½nuclear dealsï¿½
The Daily Times
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One of the first things the new US Senate has done is to approve ï¿½overwhelminglyï¿½ the US-India nuclear agreement allowing India access to American nuclear technology. Pakistan had objected to the deal because the US was not being even-handed between India and Pakistan. On Thursday General Ehsanul Haq, chairman joint chiefs of staff, said that ï¿½the United States should extend civilian nuclear cooperation beyond India and include Pakistanï¿½, arguing that the economic growth it would spur would help defeat extremism and terrorism.
The Bush administration has expressed the opinion that its agreement with India cannot be replicated with Pakistan: it sees India as a strategic ally who deserves the deal, despite the fact that, in the eyes of many Americans, it has long undermined the regime of restraints set up by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But Pakistan, an ally in the war against terrorism, apparently does not deserve to get a similar deal. Like India, it has gone on to build additional nuclear power plants despite the NPT ban, but unlike India it cannot be trusted because it has secretly proliferated via Dr AQ Khan.
According to the latest reports, Pakistan has decided to go ahead and sign more nuclear power plants with China after Chashma-1 and Chashma-2, although General Haq admits that the ï¿½Chinese help to Pakistan on nuclear energy might not be able to fill all our requirementsï¿½. The Chinese president, Hu Jintao, is due in Islamabad next week. He is expected to unveil an ï¿½extensive nuclear cooperation plan with Pakistanï¿½ and sign up for six additional power stations which could be double the size of the earlier Chashma types, which were 300 MW each. This may not please Washington and President Bush might even complain about this when he meets his Chinese counterpart at the APEC summit this week.
If the US has overcome its reservations in regard to Indiaï¿½s non-membership of the NPT club, its discrimination against Pakistan is bound to fail in achieving its objectives. Pakistan does not have any moral choices. Its plans for building more dams for cheap electricity have been scuttled by its southern province, Sindh, and its efforts to get an Iranian gas pipeline to run its power plants has been opposed by the US which used its nuclear deal with India as a persuasion to diminish the latterï¿½s enthusiasm for the pipeline. In simple survival terms, Pakistan has to increase its national power generation capacity from the present installed capacity of 19,540 MW to 162,590 MW by the year 2030.
At present, Pakistan has two nuclear power plants with a cumulative net capacity of 425 MW, whereas a third reactor of 300 MW capacity is to come on line shortly. The countryï¿½s first nuclear power plant (KANUPP) of 125 MW capacity, was established at Karachi but has already completed its ï¿½design lifeï¿½. The second plant, Chashma-1 ï¿½ of 300 MW output ï¿½ was built by China and started commercial operations in 2000. Chashma-2, to come on line in 2007, will add another 300MW to the national grid. Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) wants to install another 10 to 12 nuclear power plants to achieve its target of generating total 8,800 MW.
There have been concerns about nuclear plants both in India and Pakistan. It appears that despite all the frightening things that environmental scientists say about these plants dotting the countryside, the two states have no choice but to ensure their high growth rate future by allowing their construction. Hydroelectricity, too, is rejected by conscientious environmentalists because of the damage the dams do to human habitat. But new revelations about the effect of hydrocarbons on global warming have now reduced these arguments to absurdity. The question boils down to this: should we save the earth or save our people from dying of starvation?
But the distinguished nuclear scientist, Zia Mian, has been drawing Pakistanï¿½s attention to the negative aspects of the Chashma series of nuclear plants. He says Chashma-2, on the banks of the Indus River, about 30 miles from Mianwali, will create problems. Spending a billion dollars each for 300 MW plants is not financially feasible since it adds expensive electricity to the national grid. Already WAPDA is protesting at the high rates it has to buy the Chashma power at ï¿½ higher even than the rates it gets from the IPPs in the private sector. Compared to any hydroelectric project, the cost of nuclear electricity is forbidding: it is more than twice the cost incurred per MW by Ghazi Barotha, for instance, opened by President Pervez Musharraf in 2003.
The other arguments against the Chinese type of power stations relate to the location of the Chashma 1 and 2. The site is supposed to be located on a fault-line and is under threat from earthquakes. But there is a clash of views on this point. The government insists that the plants are seismically tested and are safe. The other objection is worrisome too. Says Zia Mian: ï¿½Chashma-1 and Chashma-2 plants are based on a Chinese prototype reactor that was built in 1990. Owing to serious design problems, China decided not to build any more for itself. Instead, it first sold one copy, and now a second, to Pakistan. The original Chinese reactor (at Qinshan) suffered an accident in 1998. The reactor had to be shut down for a year. China could not fix the problem, and had to contact a US company to do the repair workï¿½.
Pakistan has been pushed into a corner and its plight is not very different from Indiaï¿½s. Given its geography it could have solved the problem by building dams; and it could have prospected for more gas in Balochistan. But both these possibilities are blocked by bad nationalist politics. The nuclear plants were banned under the NPT, but after Indiaï¿½s deal with the US, this one door is now open. Let us therefore hope that, once the ï¿½nuclear clubï¿½ has overcome its dismay at the US deal with India, there might be a wider range of nuclear technology to choose from for Pakistan.
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