Iran has successfully test-fired three new models of sea missiles in a show of force to assert its military capacities in the Gulf, military officials said Friday.
Television showed footage of the elite Revolutionary Guards firing the missiles from warships and from mobile launching pads on the shore.
Iranian forces have previously test-fired missiles in the crowded Gulf waters, but the new maneuvers, which began on Thursday, appeared to be Iran's response to a U.S.-led military exercise held earlier this week in the same zone.
``The maneuvers are not a threat to any neighboring country,'' said Gen. Ali Fazli, the spokesman for the Iranian war games.
Iran nonetheless insisted the new sea missiles enhanced its military muscle in the Gulf, where most of the world's oil is extracted.
The weapons are ``suitable for covering all the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian gulf and the sea of Oman,'' said Adm. Sardar Fadavi, the deputy navy chief of the Revolutionary Guard.
Some 20 percent of the world's oil supply passes every day through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The three new types of missiles, named Noor, Kowsar, and Nasr, have a range of about 106 miles and were built for naval warfare, TV reported. Iranian sea missiles previously had a range of 75 miles, TV quoted Fadavi as saying.
The new tests demonstrate Iran's military capacities at sea, the admiral said.
State TV said the new missiles were Iranian-made and could be used in lant-to-sea or sea-to-sea warfare. It did not give more details about the weapons.
The Revolutionary Guards began the maneuvers, named ``Great Prophet,'' on Thursday by firing dozens of long-range missiles in a desert area of central Iran.
Iran insisted the renewed saber-rattling was not intended at intimidating countries in the region. ``We are in good interaction with our neighbors,'' said Fazli, the military spokesman.
On Thursday, however, Iran said it hoped the war games would send world powers a strong message. ``We want to show our deterrent and defensive power to trans-regional enemies, and we hope they will understand the message,'' the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, said in a clear reference to the United States, Britain and France, who were among the six nations that took part in the Gulf maneuvers this week.
Iran called ``adventurist'' the U.S.-led naval exercise that ended on Monday, criticizing Arab states that took part and saying Gulf nations would be safer if they organized their own security alliance -an implicit criticism of American military presence in the region.
The U.S. Fifth fleet is stationed in Bahrain, a tiny oil kingdom located across the Gulf from Iran.
Iran remains locked in dispute with the West over its nuclear program, which Washington says is geared to producing atomic weapons but Tehran says is only for generating electricity.
Asked about Thursday's maneuvers, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she thought the Iranians ``are trying to demonstrate that they are tough.''
The Islamic Republic has already held three large-scale military exercises this year. In its April exercises, Iran tested what it called an ``ultra-horizon'' missile, which is fired from helicopters and jet fighters, and the Fajr-3 missile, which can reportedly evade radar and use multiple warheads to hit several targets simultaneously.
While U.S. officials have suggested that Iran is exaggerating the capabilities of its newly developed weapons, Washington and its allies have been watching the country's progress in missile technology with concern.
The U.S.-led maneuvers that finished Monday focused on surveillance, with warships tracking a vessel suspected of carrying nuclear components or illegal weapons. The nations that took part were Australia, Bahrain, Britain, France, Italy and the United States.
The U.N. Security Council is considering imposing sanctions on Iran, which has ignored demands that it cease uranium enrichment, a process that can produce the fuel for nuclear reactors or material for atomic bombs.
Russia, a veto yielding power at the Security Council, said it opposed the U.N. sanctions in their current form.
Iran does not yet have the capability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, Russia's top army general said Thursday.
Tehran reported earlier on Thursday it has successfully launched several dozen long-range ballistic missiles during its ongoing large-scale military exercises.
"According to our information, Iran does not currently have the technological and technical capability to build an intercontinental [ballistic] missile," Army General Yury Baluyevsky, chief of the General Staff of Russia's Armed Forces, told journalists.
He said Iran's activity, if any, to develop ICBMs will be closely watched by the world's intelligence agencies. Moreover, such activity is restricted by international regulations on the development of cutting-edge missile technology, as well as by Tehran's non-proliferation commitments.
"Taking into account the above-mentioned factors, the international community has enough leverage to control the global situation related to the development of missiles or nuclear weapons," he said, highlighting the International Atomic Energy Agency's role as one of the powerful mechanisms of control.
Iran is believed to possess one of the largest ballistic missile forces in the developing world, and is reportedly running an ambitious missile development program. Many countries likewise suspect it of developing nuclear weapons through its uranium enrichment program.
Tehran is conducting large-scale military exercises November 2-12 in southern Iran involving ground units, the Air Force, Navy and Basij (militia) forces.
An Iranian television station said the first day of the exercises was notable for the successful launch of Shahab-2, Shahab-3 long-range ballistic missiles, as well as of Scud-B, Fateh-110 and other missiles. It added that Iranian specialists had designed all of the missiles.
Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, said Wednesday that the main aim of the maneuvers was to demonstrate the might of the Iranian people and their determination to defend the country from all threats.
The Shahab-2 is an advanced version of Russia's Scud-C missile, with a range of up to 700 kilometers (about 430 miles), and is capable of carrying a 700-kilogram (1,500 pound) warhead.
The Shahab-3 is a modernized version of North Korea's No-Dong ballistic missile, and reportedly has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers (about 950 miles). It can carry a 1,000- kilogram (2,200 pound) payload.
The Six Powers-five UN Security Council members and Germany-started another consultation round on a draft Security Council resolution envisaging sanctions against Iran if it refuses to suspend uranium enrichment. The U.K., France and Germany, principal negotiators with Iran, had drafted the document under debate.
Its premises have by now come through preliminary coordination, so finalizing the details would be a routine job but for a clash among the six, which had brought the draft into the limelight even before the consultations started. The U.S. insists on prompt and harsh sanctions, while others call for step-by-step action adequate to the Iranian response to it. The draft is thus under criticism from opposed sides.
Russian experts do not think it worthwhile to stop or suspend negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program before they exhaust their potential-a standard wording for the following argument: the world owes the current stir around the Iranian nuclear issue to the United States' insistence on acting tough, which experts track down to elections-Congressional mid-term, due next week, and approaching presidential-which both demand that resolute efforts are displayed to the electorate. In fact, even greater popularity would come with demonstrating practical results of such efforts, if there are any.
The new draft again demands of Iran an immediate suspension of uranium enrichment and processing, and requires that the IAEA Director-General reports to the Security Council on Iranian compliance or non-compliance, as the case may be, with that and other resolution premises within thirty days from its adoption.
Iran has stuck to its previous stance-it will under no circumstances give up its lawful right to obtain a full nuclear fuel cycle. To put it differently, it will continue with uranium enrichment, whatever the U.S. Administration does. The Six have been trying for too long and too persistently to force Iran into ceding its formal right. That was why all previous efforts ended in a deadlock.
America "should have stopped scowling at Iran long ago", says Alexei Arbatov, director of the International Security Centre of the World Economy and International Relations Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences. The U.S. has driven itself into a dead end on the Iranian issue, the political scientist remarks as he calls to consider Iranian uranium enrichment "among the other customary arms reduction issues", possibly meaning the parties are to strike the right deal.
Would Iran embark on uranium enrichment? That used to be a pivotal question. It is no longer the crux of the matter with enrichment underway which is an irreversible process. It is high time to ask another question-to what extent will the world put up with the Iranian program? If the issue is regarded in that way, a long-awaited compromise will be possible, Arbatov argues. Iran will be authorized to develop its nuclear industry, which it considers a matter of prestige, while the world will no longer be alarmed with its program. Further talks are imperative if the compromise is to be reached at all. So several countries, Russia the most resolute of them, insist on the talks going on.
A number of European countries cling to the step-by-step option. Their position is close to Russia's, says Vladimir Sazhin, prominent Russian expert on Iran, who took part in an international Iranian nuclear issue seminar recently held by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. However, while evaluating approaches to the issue, one should bear in mind the British mentality, which is much akin to American. The step-by-step pattern appears more instrumental as it envisages sanctions toughened or softened depending on the Iranian response to previous steps, with the continuing negotiations as a necessary precondition.
Russian experts think the UN Security Council-and Moscow, too-were too quick with adopting Resolution 1669. In that, they followed the U.S. If it is to keep its front going, the Security Council now ought to stick to its resolution and mete out punishment on Iran unless it stops uranium enrichment.
Will the sanctions be harsh, American-fashion, or as mild as Europeans would like to see them? To all appearances, the Security Council will choose the latter option with visa limitations for Iranian VIPs and arrested nuke-related bank accounts.
Tough sanctions will most probably mean the end to the talks, while mild ones will be more of a political signal to Iran from Russia and other countries.
4. Iran to step-up sensitive nuclear activities: MP
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Iran is preparing new uranium enriching centrifuges less than a week after starting up its second such cascade despite the threat of UN Security Council sanctions, an influential MP has said.
"Other cascades are underway and we have plans to build many centrifuges in order to supply our nuclear fuel," Kazem Jalai, parliament's national security commission rapporteur, was quoted as saying by student news agency ISNA Wednesday.
Iran on Saturday confirmed it had successfully enriched uranium from a new cascade of 164 centrifuges, the second to be installed at the Natanz nuclear plant in central Iran.
Enriched uranium is at the core of the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme, as it can produce nuclear fuel and, in highly refined form of around 90 percent, be developed to a nuclear bomb.
But Iran says it aims to reach only five percent enrichment in order to make fuel.
Iran would need thousands more such centrifuges to enrich uranium on an industrial scale and its current uranium enrichment work is on a research level only.
"Even if we make 10 164-centrifuge cascades, it still remains at the level of research and development and we want to reach a certain phase in this level and then start the industrial work," Jalali said.
The UN Security Council's five veto-wielding members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- as well as from Germany have been discussing a draft UN resolution on sanctions put forward by European countries.
Jalali said that Iran would "react to such unfair resolutions", adding that a bill was heading to parliament that would suspend inspections by the UN's the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the event of sanctions.
The former head of Iran's nuclear dossier, Hassan Rowhani, who is a close aid to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also said that Tehran could suspend IAEA inspections if sanctions were applied.
"Approval of such a resolution will not remain unanswered and it is possible that one of (Iran's) moves could be a reduction of cooperations with the IAEA," Rowhani was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency Mehr.
1. Bushehr project rules out military use of RF technologies ï¿½ Ivanov
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The Bushehr nuclear power plantï¿½s construction with Russian assistance rules out the use of Russian technologies for military purposes, Russian Vice-Premier and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said in an interview he had granted here on Wednesday to the ï¿½Russia Todayï¿½ English language television.
ï¿½Before deciding on arms deliveries to this or that country, we always examine the situation in it and export there only defensive weapons,ï¿½ Ivanov stated. ï¿½Our cooperation with Iran in this field is insignificant. In terms of value, Iran is only in the third league of the importers of our weapons,ï¿½ the minister noted.
Ivanov said Russia was supplying Iran with spare parts for its military hardware and with anti-aircraft defence complexes. ï¿½Much hullabaloo was raised last December when a contract was signed to deliver twenty-nine medium-range ï¿½TOR-M1ï¿½ anti-aircraft missile complexes to Iran,ï¿½ he recalled. ï¿½I wish to stress that those systems cannot be used for offensive purposes. Firstly, their range of application is rather limited and they are able to defend only a minor part of Iranï¿½s territory,ï¿½ Ivanov stated.
The Russian Defence Ministry recently reported that Russia had begun to deliver ï¿½TOR-M1ï¿½ anti-aircraft missile systems in keeping with an earlier concluded contract.
ï¿½Russia will fully implement the contract to deliver ï¿½TOR-M1ï¿½ systems to Iran, provided there will be no Russia-backed U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran, prohibiting the export of conventional weapons to that country, and in view of the fact that today Iran is not subject to any restrictions on the delivery of conventional armaments,ï¿½ an official of the Russian Defence Ministry told Itar-Tass.
2. Russia says won't back draft text on Iran sanctions
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday Moscow would not support a draft U.N. sanctions resolution on Iran proposed by European states, Russian news agencies reported.
Lavrov's comments, the bluntest so far from Russia regarding the proposed text, underscored the difficulties major world powers are experiencing as they try to agree on a response to Iran's defiance of U.N. calls to scale back its atomic work.
Iran, which says its nuclear intentions are peaceful, has vowed not to be cowed by the threat of U.N. action. A senior official warned on Wednesday Tehran may further scale back co-operation with U.N. inspectors if any sanctions are imposed.
The draft resolution drawn up for U.N. Security Council discussion by European states would outlaw most nuclear and missile cooperation with Iran and impose a travel ban on people responsible for and involved in its nuclear program.
"We cannot support those measures which in fact aim to isolate Iran from the outside world, including the isolation of the people who are charged with leading negotiations on the nuclear program," news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.
The resolution was drafted after Iran rejected repeated U.N. demands to scrap uranium enrichment, which can be used to make material for power stations or warheads.
Washington had hoped to toughen up the resolution, with a senior U.S. official on Tuesday describing it as a more serious security threat than North Korea.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he was optimistic Russia would support a U.N. sanctions resolution.
"While there are still negotiations that will need to be had concerning the contents of the resolution, the process is moving forward and we hope that it will move forward with some speed," he said.
Asked specifically about Lavrov's comments that Moscow would not support the current draft resolution, he said: "All that means to me is that they have some changes to the draft on the table. Certainly that is understandable."
Lavrov said Russia, one of five permanent U.N. Security Council members with veto powers, was "firmly determined" to help establish a dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program.
"We are working on the text of a resolution on Iran and we will try to focus it on the issues highlighted in the report by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," Lavrov said.
Lavrov said the issues that had yet to be clarified included "first and foremost, the uranium enrichment program, chemical processing and a heavy-water reactor." "These are the issues we will concentrate on," he said.
In Tehran, Hassan Rohani, a moderate politician who led Iran's nuclear negotiations until President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office last year, warned on Wednesday of consequences if the European text was approved.
"Iran will give a proper answer if they pass such a tough and bad resolution," the students news agency ISNA quoted Rohani as saying.
"One of the possible answers could be limiting our cooperation with the IAEA," said Rohani, a representative of Iran's most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on the Supreme National Security Council.
Iran ended short-notice checks by IAEA inspectors in February after its case was sent back to the Security Council.
It is difficult to be optimistic about the upcoming resumption of six-party talks with North Korea. Pyongyang's nuclear test just over three weeks ago may have attracted international attention and censure, but it does not appear to have sparked a transformation in negotiating strategy. Indeed, reaction to the test was a bit like the flawed detonation itself: an explosion of interest rapidly decaying to a fizzle.
The willingness to return to a stagnant bargaining framework stems largely from the belief that even if disarmament talks fail, a combination of containment and deterrence will succeed. The logic behind this position is two-fold: first, the United States can credibly deter North Korea from selling any weapons because the fallout from a nuclear blast even by a third party would carry the unmistakable signature of its origin and result in devastating retaliation; second, the United States can successfully contain North Korea by creating a multilateral interdiction regime capable of intercepting any weapons Pyongyang does elect to sell.
This approach is deeply suspect. To begin with, the very intensity with which the United States is pursuing containment measures - such as radiation monitors on the Chinese border - casts doubt on its faith in deterrence.
Even if we can identify the source of a nuclear attack as accurately as some suggest, there are still intermediate forms of proliferation where the red line of deterrence may be less clear. As the Cold War demonstrated repeatedly, adversaries have a knack for finding and exploiting the ambiguities in even the most explicit terms. Indeed, the Korean War itself broke out after confusion over the precise extent of the U.S. "defensive perimeter" in East Asia.
When President George Bush stated that the transfer of nuclear weapons or "material" by North Korea would be considered a grave threat to the United States, just what did he mean? Is Pyongyang free to market tools of the trade so long as it does not sell the finished product? If Kim Jong-il confronts harsh economic sanctions, he may find it worth the risk to test the boundaries of America 's resolve. It would be a harrowing decision to wage war over a small shipment of plutonium, yet there do not seem to be many other escalation options left.
Nor can the United States reasonably rely on containment. It is possible to ship plutonium in containers with lead shielding to confound radiation detectors. And even a robust maritime interdiction regime is only as effective as the intelligence capabilities supporting it.
What this means is that deterrence and containment should be last resorts, not preferred strategies. Returning to the six-party talks is a partial acceptance of this conclusion, but not if there is little hope of a positive outcome. An isolated regime in the crosshairs of the world's most powerful military is likely to bear any burden to retain its ultimate deterrent. Measuring the success of foreign policy toward North Korea based on how many countries agree to slap its wrist with half-hearted sanctions, then, begins to feel like an exercise in futility.
Rather than insist on tepid multilateralism, perhaps the United States should embrace a bilateral dialogue. After all, the only previous breakthrough in negotiations came when President Carter met with Kim Il-sung face-to-face in 1994.
It may be that nothing will suffice to convince North Korea to give up the bomb. But that doesn't mean that trying to break the regime is the answer. Whether the reactors at Yongbyon will continue to churn out plutonium is an open question and a genuine danger - one that we already know will not be curtailed by threats alone. The international community should not fall prey to the siren song of deterrence and containment, but should explore novel methods of negotiation toward disarmament.
The Pentagon has stepped up planning for attacks against North Korea's nuclear program and is bolstering nuclear forces in Asia, said defense officials familiar with the highly secret process.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the accelerated military planning includes detailed programs for striking a North Korean plutonium-reprocessing facility at Yongbyon with special operations commando raids or strikes with Tomahawk cruise missiles or other precision-guided weapons.
The effort, which had been under way for several months, was given new impetus by Pyongyang's underground nuclear test Oct. 9 and growing opposition to the nuclear program of Kim Jong-il's communist regime, especially by China and South Korea.
A Pentagon official said the Department of Defense is considering "various military options" to remove the program.
"Other than nuclear strikes, which are considered excessive, there are several options now in place. Planning has been accelerated," the official said.
A second, senior defense official privy to the effort said the Bush administration recently affirmed its commitment to both South Korea and Japan that it would use U.S. nuclear weapons to deter North Korea, now considered an unofficial nuclear weapon state.
"We will resort to whatever force levels we need to have, to defend the Republic of Korea. That nuclear deterrence is in place," said the senior official, who declined to reveal what nuclear forces are deployed in Asia.
Other officials said the forces include bombs and air-launched missiles stored at Guam, a U.S. island in the western Pacific, that could be delivered by B-52 or B-2 bombers. Nine U.S. nuclear-missile submarines regularly deploy to Asian waters from Washington state.
The officials said one military option calls for teams of Navy SEALs or other special operations commandos to conduct covert raids on Yongbyon's plutonium-reprocessing facility.
The commandos would blow up the facility to prevent further reprocessing of the spent fuel rods, which provides the material for developing nuclear weapons.
A second option calls for strikes by precision-guided Tomahawk missiles on the reprocessing plant from submarines or ships. The plan calls for simultaneous strikes from various sides to minimize any radioactive particles being carried away in the air.
Planners estimate that six Tomahawks could destroy the reprocessing plant and that it would take five to 10 years to rebuild.
Asked about the strike planning, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the U.S. government is seeking a "peaceful, diplomatic solution" to the threat posed by North Korea.
Regarding any military options, Mr. Whitman said, "The U.S. military is prepared and capable of carrying out all of its assigned missions."
The planning does not mean that the United States will attack, only that military forces are ready to do so if President Bush orders strikes. Concerned about threats from rogue states such as North Korea, Mr. Bush called for a ballistic missile defense system, parts of which are operational.
Defense officials said a key factor in the ramped-up planning effort is China's new attitude toward North Korea. Beijing's leaders, upset that North Korea conducted the test, supported a U.S.-led United Nations' resolution.
Chinese opposition to military action had limited defense planning, the officials said. In the past, U.S. military plans required warning Beijing, a move considered likely to compromise any planned action because of the close military ties between China and North Korea.
The Bush administration regards the new level of Chinese support as a "green light" for more aggressive military planning.
U.S. officials think North Korea will conduct another underground test soon because Pyongyang is demanding to be recognized as a declared nuclear power. Both China and the U.S. gauged the test as only partially successful.
The Yongbyon plant, 32 miles from the coast and a half-mile from a river, is considered a key target because U.S. intelligence agencies suspect that it is where the plutonium fuel used in the Oct. 9 test was produced.
Defense planners also said equipment destroyed at Yongbyon would be difficult to replace once newly approved U.N. sanctions are in place.
Another set of targets could be the nuclear test site near Kilchu, in northeastern North Korea. That site includes several research and testing-control facilities in the mountains -- and possibly one more tunnel where a nuclear device could be set off, the officials said.
Recent intelligence reports also provided new information about Pyongyang's uranium-enrichment program, which remains hidden in underground facilities in northern North Korea, the officials said.
The U.S. Special Operations Command has been planning raids against North Korean nuclear facilities for some time. It has conducted training for joint operations with South Korean special forces as well as unilateral U.S. operations.
U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Capt. Jeff Alderson declined to comment on military planning but said the command is continuing to shift forces to the Pacific and has four missile-defense ships deployed in Japan.
Mr. Bush said recently that any transfer of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be a "grave threat," phrasing viewed as diplomatic code for a military response. Defense officials said the military option will be used if North Korea is caught transferring nuclear arms to other states or terrorist groups.
North Korea has the ability to put a nuclear warhead onto a medium-range missile and threaten its regional neighbors, especially Japan, some U.S. experts believe.
With North Korea preparing to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program, scientists and other analysts stress that few facts are known about the reclusive country's capabilities and conclusions depend largely on circumstantial evidence.
U.S. intelligence officials say there is no evidence that North Korea has physically "mated" a warhead to a medium-range Rodong missile, let alone has nuclear-armed Rodongs ready for launch. Some officials believe Pyongyang has yet to meet the engineering challenge of arming a missile.
But word that the North Koreans tested a relatively small nuclear device on October 9 is bolstering assertions that Pyongyang has moved directly to a warhead for its medium-range arsenal.
"We've assessed that North Korea can put a warhead on a Rodong," said physicist David Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.
"What you're trying to do is reduce the diameter to fit inside a re-entry vehicle. You can do that with a crude nuclear weapons design," he added.
John Pike, director of the Alexandria, Virginia, online think tank GlobalSecurity.org, agrees.
"I have never been able to understand why there would be any doubt about North Korea's capacity to put a nuclear weapon on a medium-range ballistic missile. They've had it for several years," Pike said.
The Rodong has a range of 870 miles, which could hit most of Japan and all of South Korea.
Richard Garwin of the IBM Research Center and Princeton professor Frank von Hippel also suggest North Korea could be aiming for a warhead small enough for the Rodong or even its shorter-range Scud missiles.
Until recently, speculation about Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions has concentrated on the long-range multi-stage Taepodong-2 missile, which analysts believe could some day be capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
But the Taepodong-2 exploded just after launch during its first test flight on July 5.
Pyongyang would most likely use nuclear-tipped Rodongs to threaten Japan as a means of deterring any U.S. military action against North Korea, experts say.
"Even if there's only a 10 percent probability that they've produced a few warheads and put them on Rodong missiles, that could still be enough to deter the United States because the possible effect on Japan is catastrophic," said Daniel Pinkston, Korea expert at the Monterey, California-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
But some experts say Pyongyang would be unlikely to use nuclear weapons against fellow Koreans in the South.
Conservative estimates suggest North Korea, which has more than 200 Rodongs and over 600 Scuds, has enough fissile material for six to eight nuclear weapons, though some analysts say the number could top one-dozen.
U.S. intelligence determined over a decade ago that Pyongyang was trying to develop a warhead for its medium-range arsenal but had yet to overcome the engineering obstacles.
Albright and Pike said those hurdles appear now to have been surpassed.
North Korea would have to conduct test a Rodong with a simulated warhead, before deploying a credible medium-range nuclear threat, U.S. intelligence officials said.
Albright and Pike said Pyongyang may have done just that on July 5, when it test-fired seven missiles including Rodongs.
4. Sanctions lifting issue cannot be discuss at 6-way talks-China FM
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told journalists on Thursday that the issue of lifting sanctions against North Korea cannot be discussed at the six-nation talks on the North Korean nuclear issue settlement.
ï¿½Sanctions against North Korea is a decision of the international community and they should be fulfilled by all its members,ï¿½ the diplomat pointed out. At the same time he stressed, ï¿½China sees no necessity to expand it outside the UN Security Council resolution.ï¿½
Liu Jianchao also denied suppositions that Pyongyang has agreed to return to the six-sided consultations under the pressure of Beijing. According to the Foreign Ministry spokesman, at talks between officials of North Korean, the United States and China in Beijing earlier this week the North Korean and American sides ï¿½displayed flexibility, which promotes the improvement of bilateral relations and resumption of the six-party process.ï¿½
ï¿½We welcome the partiesï¿½ efforts,ï¿½ the diplomat noted stressing that thanks to the reached consensus ï¿½North Korea and the United States will be able to jointly work in order to settle the financial sanctions issues within the framework of the six-party talks.ï¿½
North Koreaï¿½s decision to return to the "six party" negotiations on its nuclear program is, first and foremost, a victory for China and its strategy of preserving Kim Jong Il's totalitarian regime. Whether it will contribute to the cause of dismantling the North's atomic arsenal remains to be seen. Beijing hosts the talks, which also include the United States, South Korea, Russia and Japan; the North's refusal to attend for the past year, while testing a long-range missile and then a nuclear warhead, was an embarrassment to its chief patron. It appears China responded toughly: Though it supplies up to 90 percent of North Korea's oil, none was delivered in September. This blunt use of economic leverage -- if that's what it was -- is encouraging, and yesterday's announcement was evidence that it can get results.
The resumption of talks nevertheless falls well short of a breakthrough in the Bush administration's effort to disarm the Kim dictatorship. We hope Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, who conducted lengthy talks with his North Korean counterpart in recent days, is justified in expecting "substantial progress" from the new round. But history suggests that both North Korea and China may have achieved their objectives simply by making yesterday's announcement. Pyongyang no doubt expects that its attendance will result in the relaxation of whatever pressure China has applied and that South Korea will now hesitate to cut back on its own substantial subsidies. U.S. attempts to strictly apply recently approved U.N. sanctions and organize inspections of North Korean cargo ships might falter. While talks continue, China can deflect further pressure from the United States or Japan for steps that might ultimately destabilize a regime it prefers to preserve.
If Mr. Kim really is prepared to give up his nukes, a path has been laid. A "framework agreement" signed by the six parties more than a year ago called for North Korea to dismantle its program and receive aid and security guarantees in return, including normalization of relations with the United States. Critics who harp on the need for the Bush administration to strike a deal with Mr. Kim tend to overlook the fact that this deal has already been struck. The question is whether North Korea is serious about it or whether it agreed to the plan merely to mollify China and South Korea and buy more time to develop missiles and nuclear warheads. The evidence points to the latter explanation: Within weeks of agreeing, Mr. Kim broke off the talks, citing as a reason U.S. action against offshore bank accounts his government was using for criminal activity, including the massive counterfeiting of U.S. currency.
Mr. Hill said yesterday that the Bush administration had agreed to discuss the financial sanctions at the talks, thereby removing Mr. Kim's excuse. Now both he and his sponsors will be tested. If North Korea really wants to act on the framework agreement, that should quickly become clear: The accord calls for the regime to return "at an early date" to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the international inspections it requires. If not, China will face a question: Is it willing to use its now proven clout with the North to put an end to its nuclear program -- or only to require that it attend meetings?
On its face, North Korea's announcement that it plans to return to the six-party nuclear talks marks a victory of sorts for diplomacy. Working with its allies, the United States fashioned a package of U.N. resolutions, economic sanctions and the threat of more to get Kim Jong Il back to the bargaining table.
Ultimately, though, the talks will bear fruit only if North Korea concludes that eliminating its nuclear program better ensures regime survival. The history of nuclear disarmament, coupled with North Korea's unique strategic circumstance, suggest that the possibility remains a long shot.
Compare the North Korean case with three countries that surrendered nuclear ambitions ï¿½ South Africa, Libya and Ukraine ï¿½ and one comes to the conclusion that Pyongyang has yet to reach the requisite underpinnings to do likewise.
Under the veneer of a peaceful nuclear explosives program to dig harbors and oil storage facilities, South Africa ï¿½ under President P.W. Botha ï¿½ manufactured six atomic bombs. The true motivations included international isolation fed by apartheid and the belief that such weapons would deter a Soviet and Cuban threat along South Africa's borders.
Libya never acquired nuclear weapons but spent decades trying. Its leader, Moammar Kadafi, sought to buy a weapon from China, enrichment equipment from France, reactors from the U.S., a nuclear-armed submarine from the Soviet Union and to annex uranium-laden land from Chad.
Tripoli had some success in the 1990s when the smuggling network of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan provided the rudiments of a nuclear centrifuge program and weapons designs, which added to Libya's other black-market acquisitions.
Kiev did not strive for the bomb; the bomb fell into its lap when Ukraine became a nuclear-armed successor state to the Soviet Union. The arsenal included about 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons plus 1,240 strategic nuclear warheads mounted on 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles, making Ukraine the holder of the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal.
What moved these three nations to disgorge their nuclear capital, and what are the implications for North Korea? In South Africa's case, the withdrawal of Soviet and Cuban forces lifted the bomb's raison d'ï¿½tre. Botha's successor, F.W. de Klerk, viewed nuclear weapons elimination as one requirement to end the country's international isolation.
For Libya, such isolation, following the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, posed an increasing strategic burden. Oil revenue plummeted, leaving the economy in disarray. Tripoli, which had been a promoter of terrorism, found itself a target of the new breed of Islamic terrorism, which international assistance could help suppress. Then there was the threat of a preemptive U.S. strike, coupled with events in Iraq. Ending its program provided the lure to get the West to deal.
Ukraine concluded that nuclear status would undermine national identity and security. It would tie Kiev to Moscow's atomic command-and-control system, keeping the newborn country within Russia's orbit. Maturation and upkeep would be a needless economic burden. A nuclear course also would jeopardize economic and political ties with the West.
All three nations came to the conclusion that denuclearization would enhance security and prosperity. The roots of North Korea's program, coupled to the nature of the regime, promote a far different judgment in Pyongyang.
Stirred by U.S. threats to use nuclear weapons to end the Korean War, Pyongyang's impulse to take the plunge gained traction during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. North Korea concluded that it would not suffer Cuba's fate ï¿½ "abandonment" by its Soviet ally. Only juche ï¿½ self reliance ï¿½ would do. After getting a research reactor from Moscow in the 1960s, indigenous talent generated additional plants.
For Kim Jong Il, nuclear weapons provide a means to preserve his fiefdom. They generate international tension that justifies the garrison state. They compensate for conventional military weaknesses, providing a hedge against perceived U.S. military designs. They furnish leverage to extract international humanitarian assistance and economic investment from a nervous South Korea. And they provide an economically failing regime a marquee to demonstrate strength, resolve and modernity.
Unlike Libya, South Africa and Ukraine, North Korea has not arrived at the point necessary for abandoning its nuclear ways: a willingness to reduce self-imposed political isolation. Rather, it continues to view isolation and its nuclear buttress as the key to regime preservation.
This is a fact we likely will have to live with, talks or no talks.
1. Report: Moscow on track to destroy chemical weapons on schedule
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A top Russian arms control official said Wednesday that Moscow was on track to destroy 20 percent of its chemical weapons arsenal by April, the target date set by the world body overseeing the campaign to rid the world of the toxins, Russian news agencies reported.
Viktor Kholstov, deputy head of the Federal Industry Agency, which leading Russia's efforts, said Moscow had already eliminated 13 percent of its 40,000-ton chemical weapons stores, the Interfax news agency reported.
"By April 29, 2007, Russia is to eliminate 8,000 tons of toxic agents, or 20 percent of the arsenal," Kholstov was quoted as saying. "We hope that the work ... will be done on time, and that the entire arsenal of chemical weapons will be eliminated according to plan."
The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted him as saying that Russia "will fully conform" to the schedule.
Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997, the year it was created, pledging to eliminate its arsenal within 10 years. However, international community agreed to extend prolong the deadline to 2012 because of funding problems.
In September, Russia opened its first nerve agent destruction plant. Two other chemical weapons destruction plants are working to eliminate blister agents.
1. Labs study conversion of war material to atomic energy
Scripps Howard News Service
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Finding a way to get rid of 34 tons of extra weapons-grade plutonium poses an interesting challenge.
The United States and Russia -- under an arms reduction treaty -- can't just drop it off at the dump or toss it in the garbage.
And the people who might want to take it off their hands -- say, North Korea and Iran -- probably wouldn't do anything nice with it.
One option in the United States is to carefully treat it, then store it at the nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, if it ever opens. Or, if you're one of New Mexico's national laboratories, you can look at doing something even stranger with it -- recycling it into commercial power.
The United States and Russia cleared a major diplomatic hurdle in September that gets both closer to getting rid of the deadly material through recycling. The two countries agreed on liability protection for the United States so it can help Russia with its part of the equation.
Both countries have been working on efforts to use plutonium to create a recycled nuclear fuel called MOX, or mixed oxide, which can power commercial nuclear plants. But the programs have been stalled for the past several years because there are risks involved and there was no liability agreement to protect either country in case something went wrong with the recycled product, said Randall Erickson, former program manager at the nuclear nonproliferation program office at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Since the early 1990s, Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories have been working on various aspects of making MOX a reality in the United States.
It's tricky, because you have to keep the material out of the wrong hands and you have to tweak it before it can be used in commercial power reactors.
Still, Erickson said he appreciates the ironic twist of turning material for nuclear bombs into something more positive.
"Somebody coined the term that we're taking megatons of nuclear weapons materials and turning it into megawatts to light the cities," Erickson said.
The 34 tons could power a nuclear plant for more than 34 years, he said.
Not everyone agrees that turning bomb materials into fuel is a good idea, including the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said Edwin Lyman, a senior staff member.
"On the surface, it sounds like a good idea, but if you start looking at it in any detail, you realize it can't fulfill that promise," Lyman said. "When you use plutonium in a light-water (power) reactor, there are characteristics that increase the likelihood of certain accidents."
That could include uncontrollable chain reactions leading to a Chernobyl-like accident, Lyman said.
Los Alamos scientists, however, say they've found a mixture of one-third plutonium and two-thirds uranium will work in conventional power plants without damaging them, Erickson said.
Los Alamos has been testing recycled fuel in France as a first step in the U.S. program. The French purified the unclassified combination of plutonium and uranium in 2004 and 2005 and turned it into fuel for a reactor in South Carolina.
That reactor has been test-burning the fuel since summer 2005, Erickson said.
1. Lawmakers could adopt law to form unified nuclear power company
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A law allowing the creation of a unified state company to control Russia's nuclear power sector could be adopted by the lower house of parliament by the end of the year, the head of the State Duma's subcommittee on atomic energy said Friday.
"If there are no discrepancies in terms of amendments to the law, it could be adopted by the State Duma by the end of the year," Viktor Opekunov said.
He said the Duma's energy and transport committee had until November 15 to propose amendments to the law.
Opekunov said the new corporation, which will be named Atomprom, will be 100% state-owned, and its nuclear power facilities will be guarded by Interior Ministry troops.
Russia's reserves of coal and natural gas could be depleted in 50 years. But with around 8% of the world's uranium output, Russia is planning to mine 60-70% of its uranium needs by 2015, with the remainder coming from joint ventures in former Soviet republics, particularly Kazakhstan, which holds 25-30% of the world's uranium reserves.
In mid-September, Russia's nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko said nuclear energy must replace the share of natural gas in Russia's energy balance.
"There is no alternative to the development of nuclear power in Russia, which must replace power generated using natural gas," he said.
On September 25, Kiriyenko said a vertically integrated company, Atomprom, will be formed to comprise all of the country's civilian nuclear industry enterprises as part of a move to divide the industry into military and civilian branches.
He said up to 90% of the profit in Russia's nuclear sector comes from nuclear energy exports, which is why the company will be set up to compete fully with the world leaders on the global market.
"Two-thirds of the companies in the nuclear energy industry are joint stock companies, and therefore Atomprom will have to be based on a joint stock scheme," Kiriyenko said.
Earlier in September, he said the revival of the nuclear sector in Russia was prompted by rising energy consumption, a lack of new energy sources in the foreseeable future, and unjustified hopes that energy-saving technologies can solve energy deficits.
Russia currently has 10 operational nuclear power plants with 31 reactors, but Kiriyenko said Russia will need another 300 gigawatts from new plants to cover a projected energy deficit in the next 30 years.
Kiriyenko highlighted several key areas in the development of the nuclear industry -- the division of the industry into military and civilian branches, budget spending on the construction of nuclear power plants to ensure a two gigawatt annual increase, the adoption of a nuclear and radiation security program, the establishment of a single mining company, international centers for nuclear cycle services, the development of fast-neutron reactors and serial construction of new power units.
In October, Russia and Kazakhstan established their first joint venture to enrich uranium in Angarsk, near Irkutsk, about 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) east of Moscow.
The city "has always been connected with the nuclear sector's civilian side. The enterprise in Angarsk can be put under [the UN's] IAEA control, and it has additional reserve capacities," Kiriyenko said then.
2. The Russian peaceful atom stages a comeback in Europe
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Russia has scored a prestigious victory, winning a tender for the construction of a nuclear power plant at Belene, a small Bulgarian town on the Danube. "This is a big day for Russia," said Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power.
"Russia is returning to the European nuclear-power construction market. This is a great event because we have not built anything in Europe since the Soviet era, and now we're back." Given that Bulgaria will join the European Union on January 1, 2007, the building of a power plant at Belene will be Russia's first construction project on the Union's territory.
The Russian company, Atomstroyexport, had to compete with powerful western corporations: the Czech Republic's Skoda, Japan's Toshiba and the Anglo-American Westinghouse consortium. The tender was very complex; the Bulgarian side invited more than 200 experts from eight countries to vet the projects, including such well-known consultancies as Parsons and Deloitte Central Limited. However, it became clear from the start that Russia was offering the best proposal - technologically effective, safe, durable (60 years of operation) and attractively priced.
What did Russia propose? The best it has to offer: the AES-92 project, which complies with the most stringent international standards. It is based on two new-generation VVER-1000 reactors (water-cooled and water-moderated power reactors with a capacity of 1,000 MW), updated using the latest technologies and ensuring the utmost level of safety, reliability and efficiency.
The project is a unique combination of active and passive safety systems, which guarantee maximum protection of the plant. Designers have anticipated the worst possible emergency scenarios, such as a sudden de-energizing of the plant, rupture of the reactor vessel, or even an aircraft crashing into the plant's building.
One important feature of the design is the reactor building's double protective envelope- steel inside and heavy reinforced concrete outside. The centerpiece of the safety arrangement is the so-called trap for the active zone melt - an original and purely Russian idea.
The world has not yet seen anything more advanced than the Belene project. But why is it cheaper than the foreign bids? The main reason is that the building site is not a green field, but an abandoned project that was launched in 1984 and terminated in 1991 for geopolitical reasons in the wake of the U.S.S.R.'s breakdown. By that time the scheme was 40% complete, with 60% of equipment already delivered, including a reactor, a steam generator and a turbine. It is this "starting capital" that dictated a low price of 2.6 billion euros (the Czech project was three billion euros).
Bulgaria's opposition press had a field day with the low cost of the Russian project, describing it as a "dangerous fact." The newspaper Bankir, for example, kept trying to scare its readers by saying that Russia is "bribing the Bulgarians to pursue its political and expansionist energy aims." But what can Bulgaria fear when it is under the European Union's protection?
Speaking of the historical past, what "awful" things did Russia do to Bulgaria except give it a taste for nuclear energy? It built the Kozlodui nuclear plant on the Danube and trained Bulgarian nuclear specialists at its colleges and universities. As a result, the country has not only guaranteed its energy security, but has also turned into a peaceful atomic nation, exporting, in addition to tomatoes and green peas, a high-technology product - nuclear power - to many Balkan countries.
The first expert "screening" left two strong contenders: Russia's Atomstroyexport and the Czech Skoda-Allianz consortium. Next, the tendering commission worked for 17 more months to compare the finer points of both offers. According to Kiriyenko, "the organizers have gone through the contractors' proposals with a fine-tooth comb." They made 1,580 written inquiries and got the participants to agree on 1,840 points. The Russians provided a total of three tons of documents. But there was still no progress. The Bulgarians wanted more.
In July of this year, Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov issued a virtual ultimatum to Atomstroyexport and Skoda-Allianz demanding that they modify their bids once again. The Bulgarians were pressing for the impossible goal of shortening construction time and reducing building costs. Saying they wanted to see the Belene plant incorporate the best technology in the world, the client was also making overtures to French companies. But Europeans, for whom construction of a nuclear plant is above all a business, were not prepared to meet the Bulgarians' price.
The time when politics took precedence over everything else was gone, and Russian nuclear firms did not want to build for prestige against their own interests. There was even a moment of apathy after waiting so long for Sofia's decision. But in the end, the balance tipped in favor of the Russian project.
The first Belene reactor will be completed in five and a half years. The second reactor will be finished a year later. As a result, Bulgaria will again recover a sense of energy security following the decommissioning of the Kozlodui units, which occurred not for engineering reasons, but under political pressure from the EU. The Belene plant will allow the Bulgarian treasury to go back to nuclear power as a traditional source of export revenue.
The contract for the building of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant is an important moment for Russia: It is returning to Europe. In Soviet times, it built nuclear plants in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Finland. But the Chernobyl tragedy and the radiophobia it unleashed tarnished the image of nuclear power and slowed the development of the nuclear industry. To maintain its scientific and technological capital, Russia refocused its efforts on nuclear construction in India, China and Iran. But today, Russia's hiatus on the European nuclear market is over.
Russia will use a visit by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that began yesterday to pitch for lucrative contracts to help Egypt launch an atomic energy programme.
Egypt has ordered studies into building nuclear power stations after Mubarak said in September nuclear energy was a cheap and clean energy source and called for national dialogue on the issue.
Russiaï¿½s state atomic energy agency, Rosatom, said it was having preliminary discussions with Egypt.
Russian security council secretary Igor Ivanov confirmed Russia was interested in Egyptï¿½s nuclear stations. ï¿½I expect that Egypt will announce an international tender and that, in competitive conditions, Russia will be successful,ï¿½ he said.
Egyptian Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid, on a visit to Moscow last month, said his government wanted to discuss nuclear co-operation with Russia.
A Rosatom spokesman said the Egyptian government had asked the agencyï¿½s export unit, Atomstroiexport, to submit a presentation. ï¿½We have presented information to Egypt about what we can build, not in the form of a tender application, but general information,ï¿½ he said.
Atomstroiexport is building reactors in China and India, as well as the Bushehr reactor in Iran. It has landed a contract to build a new nuclear plant in Bulgaria worth up to $5,1bn.
Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko wants his agency to pick up a growing share of the global market for nuclear power plant construction.
The constituent documents have been signed at the Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom of what is going to become Russiaï¿½s Uranium Ore Mining Company.
ï¿½The companyï¿½s main task will be to ensure long-term and stable supplies of uranium for the Russian atomic energy industry,ï¿½ Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko said on Thursday.
The company is a product of joint efforts by TVEL ï¿½ the monopoly manufacturer of fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants - and the Tekhsnabexport Company ï¿½ the provider of the full range of nuclear fuel cycle products and services worldwide.
Sources at Rosatom have explained there are three main methods of extracting uranium ï¿½ underground mining, strip mining and underground leaching through wells.
Russia does not use strip mining at all. Underground mining is carried out in the Chita Region and the method of leaching, developed in the late 1960s is currently used at Russiaï¿½s newly-discovered deposits Khiagda, in Buryatia, and Dalur, in the Kurgan Region.
5. GE, Siemens, Toshiba in Talks on Russian Nuclear Power Venture
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Russia, the world's second-largest supplier of nuclear fuel, is in talks with General Electric Co., Siemens AG and a unit of Toshiba Corp. on a venture that would build a plant in Russia to produce turbines for atomic reactors.
Russia plans to choose one foreign company to set up the joint venture, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the country's atomic energy agency Rosatom, said today at a conference in Moscow. GE, Siemens and Toshiba's Westinghouse Electric Co. are the companies being considered, Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov said.
Russia intends to build 25 new plants by 2020 and sell fuel and atomic know-how abroad. The country wants to work with neighboring states to develop atomic energy as part of a plan to deepen regional ties, President Vladimir Putin said this year.
Rosatom also expects that Canada's Cameco Corp., the world's largest uranium supplier, will invest in Russia's uranium industry, Kiriyenko said today. Techsnabexport, Russia's state-owned nuclear fuel company, said Oct. 6 that Mitsui & Co. may take part in a $245 million plan to develop a uranium mine in Russia to tap growing demand for the fuel in countries such as China and India.
1. U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer
William J. Broad
New York Times
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Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to ï¿½leverage the Internetï¿½ to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.
But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraqï¿½s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.
Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, said access to the site had been suspended ï¿½pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.ï¿½
Officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearing that the information could help states like Iran develop nuclear arms, had privately protested last week to the American ambassador to the agency, according to European diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issueï¿½s sensitivity. One diplomat said the agencyï¿½s technical experts ï¿½were shockedï¿½ at the public disclosures.
Early this morning, a spokesman for Gregory L. Schulte, the American ambassador, denied that anyone from the agency had approached Mr. Schulte about the Web site.
But former White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. said today that senior officials had been cautioned against posting the information.
ï¿½John Negroponte warned us that we donï¿½t know whatï¿½s in these documents, so these are being put out at some risk, and that was a warning that he put out right when they first released the documents,ï¿½ Mr. Card said on NBCï¿½s ï¿½Todayï¿½ show, according to The Associated Press.
The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.
ï¿½For the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible,ï¿½ said A. Bryan Siebert, a former director of classification at the federal Department of Energy, which runs the nationï¿½s nuclear arms program. ï¿½Thereï¿½s a lot of things about nuclear weapons that are secret and should remain so.ï¿½
The government had received earlier warnings about the contents of the Web site. Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure.
The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nationï¿½s spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents ï¿½ most of them in Arabic ï¿½ would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence.
Mr. Negroponte had resisted setting up the Web site, which some intelligence officials felt implicitly raised questions about the competence and judgment of government analysts. But President Bush approved the siteï¿½s creation after Congressional Republicans proposed legislation to force the documentsï¿½ release.
In his statement last night, Mr. Negroponteï¿½s spokesman, Chad Kolton, said, ï¿½While strict criteria had already been established to govern posted documents, the material currently on the Web site, as well as the procedures used to post new documents, will be carefully reviewed before the site becomes available again.ï¿½
A spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon D. Johndroe, said, ï¿½Weï¿½re confident the D.N.I. is taking the appropriate steps to maintain the balance between public information and national security.ï¿½
The Web site, ï¿½Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal,ï¿½ was a constantly expanding portrait of prewar Iraq. Its many thousands of documents included everything from a collection of religious and nationalistic poetry to instructions for the repair of parachutes to handwritten notes from Mr. Husseinï¿½s intelligence service. It became a popular quarry for a legion of bloggers, translators and amateur historians.
Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Husseinï¿½s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.
European diplomats said this week that some of those nuclear documents on the Web site were identical to the ones presented to the United Nations Security Council in late 2002, as America got ready to invade Iraq. But unlike those on the Web site, the papers given to the Security Council had been extensively edited, to remove sensitive information on unconventional arms.
The deletions, the diplomats said, had been done in consultation with the United States and other nuclear-weapons nations. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which ran the nuclear part of the inspections, told the Security Council in late 2002 that the deletions were ï¿½consistent with the principle that proliferation-sensitive information should not be released.ï¿½
In Europe, a senior diplomat said atomic experts there had studied the nuclear documents on the Web site and judged their public release as potentially dangerous. ï¿½Itï¿½s a cookbook,ï¿½ said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of his agencyï¿½s rules. ï¿½If you had this, it would short-circuit a lot of things.ï¿½
The New York Times had examined dozens of the documents and asked a half dozen nuclear experts to evaluate some of them.
Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist now at the war studies department of Kingï¿½s College, London, called the posted material ï¿½very sensitive, much of it undoubtedly secret restricted data.ï¿½
Ray E. Kidder, a senior nuclear physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, an arms design center, said ï¿½some things in these documents would be helpfulï¿½ to nations aspiring to develop nuclear weapons and should have remained secret.
A senior American intelligence official who deals routinely with atomic issues said the documents showed ï¿½where the Iraqis failed and how to get around the failures.ï¿½ The documents, he added, could perhaps help Iran or other nations making a serious effort to develop nuclear arms, but probably not terrorists or poorly equipped states. The official, who requested anonymity because of his agencyï¿½s rules against public comment, called the papers ï¿½a road map that helps you get from point A to point B, but only if you already have a car.ï¿½
Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private group at George Washington University that tracks federal secrecy decisions, said the impetus for the Web siteï¿½s creation came from an array of sources ï¿½ private conservative groups, Congressional Republicans and some figures in the Bush administration ï¿½ who clung to the belief that close examination of the captured documents would show that Mr. Husseinï¿½s government had clandestinely reconstituted an unconventional arms programs.
ï¿½There were hundreds of people who said, ï¿½Thereï¿½s got to be gold in them thar hills,ï¿½ ï¿½ Mr. Blanton said.
The campaign for the Web site was led by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. Last November, he and his Senate counterpart, Pat Roberts of Kansas, wrote to Mr. Negroponte, asking him to post the Iraqi material. The sheer volume of the documents, they argued, had overwhelmed the intelligence community.
Some intelligence officials feared that individual documents, translated and interpreted by amateurs, would be used out of context to second-guess the intelligence agenciesï¿½ view that Mr. Hussein did not have unconventional weapons or substantive ties to Al Qaeda. Reviewing the documents for release would add an unnecessary burden on busy intelligence analysts, they argued.
On March 16, after the documentsï¿½ release was approved, Mr. Negroponteï¿½s office issued a terse public announcement including a disclaimer that remained on the Web site: ï¿½The U.S. government has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein, or the quality of any translations, when available.ï¿½
On April 18, about a month after the first documents were made public, Mr. Hoekstra issued a news release acknowledging ï¿½minimal risks,ï¿½ but saying the site ï¿½will enable us to better understand information such as Saddamï¿½s links to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and violence against the Iraqi people.ï¿½ He added: ï¿½It will allow us to leverage the Internet to enable a mass examination as opposed to limiting it to a few exclusive elites.ï¿½
Yesterday, before the site was shut down, Jamal Ware, a spokesman for Mr. Hoekstra, said the government had ï¿½developed a sound process to review the documents to ensure sensitive or dangerous information is not posted.ï¿½ Later, he said the complaints about the site ï¿½didnï¿½t sound like a big deal,ï¿½ adding, ï¿½We were a little surprised when they pulled the plug.ï¿½
The precise review process that led to the posting of the nuclear and chemical-weapons documents is unclear. But in testimony before Congress last spring, a senior official from Mr. Negroponteï¿½s office, Daniel Butler, described a ï¿½triageï¿½ system used to sort out material that should remain classified. Even so, he said, the policy was to ï¿½be biased towards release if at all possible.ï¿½ Government officials say all the documents in Arabic have received at least a quick review by Arabic linguists.
Some of the first posted documents dealt with Iraqï¿½s program to make germ weapons, followed by a wave of papers on chemical arms.
At the United Nations in New York, the chemical papers raised alarms at the Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, which had been in charge of searching Iraq for all unconventional arms, save the nuclear ones.
In April, diplomats said, the commissionï¿½s acting chief weapons inspector, Demetrius Perricos, lodged an objection with the United States mission to the United Nations over the document that dealt with the nerve agents tabun and sarin.
Soon, the document vanished from the Web site. On June 8, diplomats said, Mr. Perricos told the Security Council of how risky arms information had shown up on a public Web site and how his agency appreciated the American cooperation in resolving the matter.
In September, the Web site began posting the nuclear documents, and some soon raised concerns. On Sept. 12, it posted a document it called ï¿½Progress of Iraqi nuclear program circa 1995.ï¿½ That description is potentially misleading since the research occurred years earlier.
The Iraqi document is marked ï¿½Draft FFCD Version 3 (20.12.95),ï¿½ meaning it was preparatory for the ï¿½Full, Final, Complete Disclosureï¿½ that Iraq made to United Nations inspectors in March 1996. The document carries three diagrams showing cross sections of bomb cores, and their diameters.
On Sept. 20, the site posted a much larger document, ï¿½Summary of technical achievements of Iraqï¿½s former nuclear program.ï¿½ It runs to 51 pages, 18 focusing on the development of Iraqï¿½s bomb design. Topics included physical theory, the atomic core and high-explosive experiments. By early October, diplomats and officials said, United Nations arms inspectors in New York and their counterparts in Vienna were alarmed and discussing what to do.
Last week in Vienna, Olli J. Heinonen, head of safeguards at the international atomic agency, expressed concern about the documents to Mr. Schulte, diplomats said.
A significantly larger amount of classified information from a nuclear weapons laboratory in New Mexico was discovered in a residential trailer during a police search on Oct. 17 than was disclosed by law enforcement officials, sources close to the investigation said Wednesday.
The search turned up a number of copies of classified documents from Los Alamos National Laboratory in the trailer park where a former employee lived.
Law enforcement officials last week had described finding only three electronic storage devices, known as memory sticks or thumb drives, inside the trailer. It was unclear whether the employee had knowingly removed secret material and placed it on the drives.
The discovery of the documents heightened concerns that the removal of classified information from the laboratory was not purely accidental, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to make public statements.
Spokesmen for the laboratory and the Department of Energy said they would not comment about the classified documents, noting that the matter was in the hands of the FBI.
An FBI spokesman in New Mexico said the agency did not comment on ongoing investigations.
But it was clear that federal officials had grown concerned about the security breach.
Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell and National Nuclear Security Administration chief Linton F. Brooks went to Los Alamos this week to assess the breach and oversee the administrative probe into how the classified information was removed.
The facility has a long history of security and safety breaches. After new management was installed by the Energy Department this year, top officials had hoped the problems were solved. But the current incident is "one of the utmost concern," according to lab director Michael Anastasio.
Despite plans to eliminate most, if not all, of the access that employees have to transfer data from classified computers to removable storage devices, a significant ability still exists to place documents on disks and drives that can be taken from the lab, according to one official.
The existence of a larger amount of classified data at the trailer was first disclosed by Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a watchdog group in Santa Fe, which said it had obtained a detailed summary of a laboratory briefing.
Portions of the information were independently corroborated by The Times.
The summary indicated that police had found 228 documents with information printed on both sides, including classified intelligence and weapons data.
The computer thumb drives contained 408 separate classified documents.
Those numbers could not be independently verified, but sources told The Times it was a "large amount of information."
The documents originated in a classified data vault in the lab's dynamic experiments division, which conducts tests on nuclear weapons components, the summary said.
When Los Alamos police arrived at the trailer in response to neighbors' report of a fight, they found Justin Stone, 20, who was wanted on a probation violation, according to a police report.
Stone was hiding in the trailer owned by former laboratory archivist Jessica Quintana, and agreed to come out only after police promised he could smoke a cigarette before being placed under arrest.
A search of the trailer turned up a sizable amount of drug paraphernalia associated with methamphetamine use, and the classified data. Stone remains in custody.
Quintana, 22, later admitted to police that one of the glass drug pipes was hers, according to the police report. She has not been charged.
Quintana's attorney, Stephen Aarons, told New Mexico newspapers that Quintana did not know the significance of the information on the thumb drives.
1. U.S. Welcomes North Korean Decision To Return to Six-Party Talks
U.S. Department of State
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President Bush welcomed North Koreaï¿½s announcement that it will return to multilateral talks about its nuclear program and said the United States would be sending teams to the region to make sure the upcoming talks, which could resume before the end of 2006, are effective.
Speaking at the White House October 31, the president thanked the Chinese government for its role in convincing North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks, which involve North Korea, China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and the United States, and thanked the other parties to the talks for agreeing to return to discussions with Pyongyang over its nuclear activities and other issues.
ï¿½We'll be sending teams to the region to work with our partners to make sure that the current United Nations Security Council resolution  is enforced but also to make sure that the talks are effective,ï¿½ he said.
The United States is seeking North Koreaï¿½s abandonment of its nuclear weapons program and nuclear weapons ï¿½in a verifiable fashion in return for a better way forward for her people,ï¿½ the president said.
CHINA MADE ï¿½FUNDAMENTAL DECISIONSï¿½ AFTER NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR TEST
White House press secretary Tony Snow said North Koreaï¿½s decision is ï¿½a real step forward,ï¿½ and the Bush administration hopes that, ultimately, North Korea will renounce all its nuclear activities in a verifiable way.
By doing so, ï¿½you'll avoid the threat of an arms race in the region; you'll avoid the threat of having a destabilized Korean Peninsula; [and] you're going to have the opportunity for the North Koreans to take advantage of economic, political and cultural offerings that have been made by the other parties to the talks,ï¿½ Snow said.
He said that China, North Koreaï¿½s ï¿½number one trading partner and ï¿½ number one supplier of energy,ï¿½ persuaded the North Koreans to return to the talks. China has ï¿½made it pretty clear that they're very unhappy with the way the North Koreans have been behaving,ï¿½ he said.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said China ï¿½made some fundamental decisionsï¿½ in the wake of North Koreaï¿½s October 9 nuclear test, which resulted in the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718.
ï¿½[Y]ou saw that manifested in their vote in support of a very, very tough U.N. Security Council resolution,ï¿½ he said, as well as Chinese officialsï¿½ discussions with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about seriously implementing the resolution and cooperation in the region.
Resolution 1718 bans trade with North Korea on all materials with direct or dual-use applications for weapons of mass destruction and bans the sale or purchase of battle tanks, warships, armored combat aircraft, attack helicopters, missiles or missile systems. It also prohibits nations from using their territories or allowing their citizens to provide North Korea technical training, advice, services or assistance on weapons of mass destruction. The resolution also requires nations to freeze the funds, assets and economic resources of individuals or businesses connected with North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and impose a travel ban on individuals and their families connected with weapons of mass destruction programs.
McCormack added that State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan's visit to Pyongyang, which concluded October 26, ï¿½was another manifestation of how seriously the Chinese government took this issue.ï¿½
U.S. EXPECTS 2005 AGREEMENT TO BE STARTING POINT FOR TALKS
McCormack said North Korea has said it is returning to the Six-Party Talks ï¿½without precondition,ï¿½ and the United States hopes there will be a meeting before the end of 2006, adding that the venue would ï¿½probably be in Beijing.ï¿½
The Bush administration expects North Korea will be participating ï¿½with a seriousness of purpose,ï¿½ and would use the September 19, 2005, joint statement offering North Korea incentives in return for ending its nuclear activities as a starting point for the talks. ï¿½The question then becomes: How do you implement that joint statement, which provides an excellent framework for moving forward?ï¿½ McCormack said.
The trilateral discussions in Beijing between North Korea, China and the United States were arranged by the Chinese government and included a bilateral follow-up discussion between the lead U.S. envoy, Ambassador Christopher Hill, and his North Korean counterpart.
Speaking in Beijing October 31, Hill, who is the State Departmentï¿½s assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, described the tone of the series of meetings as ï¿½very positive,ï¿½ and ï¿½businesslike,ï¿½ and included a ï¿½really in-depth discussion of the issues.ï¿½
FINANCIAL SANCTIONS TO BE ADDRESSED WITHIN SIX-PARTY CONTEXT
Hill said the North Koreans want the United States to address financial measures such as U.S. sanctions that were imposed as a result of alleged counterfeiting and money-laundering activities by Pyongyang.
He said the United States agreed to ï¿½find a mechanism within the six-party process to address these financial measures,ï¿½ adding there probably would be a working group set up to discuss the issue.
ï¿½I emphasized this has to be done consistent with legal obligations, but also consistent with their cooperation [to get out of these illicit activities],ï¿½ he said.
Hill also said the United States and North Korea agreed that the purpose of the Six-Party Talks will be to implement the September 19, 2005, joint statement ï¿½and not just to have more talks.ï¿½
He said he told the North Koreans that the events of recent months, such as North Koreaï¿½s tests of a nuclear device and ballistic missiles, ï¿½have certainly set back the process, and made the process difficult.ï¿½
He said the United States and other countries are working to prepare for the resumption of talks, including finding ways to ensure that the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program is ï¿½complete and verifiable, [and] irreversible,ï¿½ and to address a plan put forward by South Korea for a conventional electricity plant.
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