1. Analyst Says Russia More Interested in WMD-Free Iran Than US
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Russia is more interested than the United States in an Iran without weapons of mass destruction, said POLITY Foundation President Vyacheslav Nikonov.
"We can witness a clash of two positions - the Russian and U.S. ones - regarding the Iran issue now, although Russia is interested even more than the U.S. in Iran not acquiring weapons of mass destruction," Nikonov told Interfax on Thursday.
"We don't want such weapons to appear close to our borders," Nikonov said. At the same time, the political expert said it was unlikely that the U.S. will launch a military operation against Iran now. "By launching military actions in Iran, the Americans would also set the Shiite population of Iraq against themselves. In this case, they would get a total war against themselves in the region," he said.
At the same time, President George W. Bush "added fuel to the fire by saying recently that any option was on the table regarding the Iranian issue," he said. "The U.S.' and Russia's positions are much closer on Iran today than they were a year or two ago," he said.
The U.S. will not exert much pressure on Russia to persuade it to change its position on Iran, including during the G8 summit, Nikonov said.
2. Antagonism of Iran and Gazprom in the South Caucasus: interview with Noravank Foundation expert Sevak Sarukhanyan
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REGNUM: Mr. Sarukhanyan, it is known that in its analysis of international and regional developments the Noravank Foundation gives a special place to the processes over Iran. After the UN Security Council’s relevant decision, the process has gone back into the framework of the IAEA. But Iran firmly reiterates that it will never renounce its nuclear program. Is there any way-out of this situation, and what do you think of this process in general?
I would like to note from the very beginning that the international community and, first of all, the UN SC will do their best to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power and still have much time for that – for, despite its great progress in the nuclear technologies, Iran is yet very far from its first nuclear bomb. From this point of view, 2006 will be a period of active diplomatic talks and active diplomatic pressure upon Iran. If by the UN SC’s meeting in late April Iran fails to fulfill Security Council’s recommendation to stop uranium enrichment, there is a very small possibility that the SC will apply some sanctions – but more likely political than economic: for example, the SC may restrict the movement of Iranian political figures. But this possibility is very small. The SC may also set up an ad hoc commission who will negotiate with Iran outside the framework of the IAEA or will send back the nuclear dossier to the IAEA for revision to consider it once again and, this time, possibly to suggest much tougher sanctions. Still, I am sure that no economic sanction can influence Iran’s policy unless it affects the country’s oil sector. However, now that the oil prices are as high as never before, the Western society simply can’t limit imports of Iranian gas. And so, no economic sanctions outside Iran’s key export item can actually force that country to abandon its plans to enrich uranium.
The global way-out of this situation is in some indirect agreements between Iran and the US. The Americans should pledge that they will not plot a coup in Iran and will not try to solve the nuclear problem by war. But this is hardly possible: given US security guarantees, Iran will turn into a regional leader and will gain strength in Afghanistan and the Shi’a parts of Iraq — something Washington will hardly agree to even if Iran agrees to certain concessions in the nuclear issue. So, in the mid-term prospect, the present tensions over Iran will be certainly preserved, if not escalated. It should be noted here that seemingly fraught with war, such high tensions may, at the same time, be pregnant with a political solution. In fact, the conflict is not frozen, which is a good prerequisite for a compromise. Theoretically, the US and Iran may even totally improve their relations – this is scarcely, but possible.
REGNUM: You have said nothing about the full stoppage of Iran’s nuclear program – is it absolutely impossible?
In principle, it is possible, especially as the very structure of Iran’s uranium enrichment cycle gives nothing to it in economic or military-political terms. Today Iran insists on being allowed to enrich uranium in limited quantities. That is, the question is about centrifuges that will not allow Iran to get a nuclear bomb. Iran will stop the program only if it gets tangible guarantees and dividends from the world community.
REGNUM: Much has been said about the possibility of joint ventures for uranium enrichment in the territory of Iran. Is it possible that the US will get a share in such projects for its companies?
This is hardly possible for the Americans but is quite possible for the Russians and the Europeans. Recently Iran has offered such cooperation to Russia, France and Germany, but, given the present tensions, the latter two countries will hardly agree.
REGNUM: What was the reason for the last large-scale military exercises in Iran, and what military potential does that country have?
Despite the last 10-15 years’ progress, the military potential of Iran is comparatively weak. Of course, it is stronger than that of the Hussein-time Iraq, but it is still much weaker than those of Turkey and Pakistan (even exclusive the latter’s nuclear capacities). The military exercises in Iran were supposed to show that that country is ready to give – if not full – but rather tough rebuff to a possible attack by the US – a rebuff that may lead to quite serious political and economic consequences. The key emphasis was on the navy. Iran displayed its new project – anti-ship missiles to be launched not so much against US ships as against oil tankers passing the strait. Thereby, Iran has shown that the war can bring to ruin the whole international energy security system and can put an end to the oil imports from the Middle East — an end not only to the supplies of Iranian oil but to the supplies of any fuel from the Middle East. And this is a very serious threat for the world economy.
REGNUM: Europe is actively developing the idea of diversifying its fuel import sources. In this project the South Caucasus and Armenia, in particular, may play the role of a transit corridor. With its present parameters, the Iran-Armenian gas pipeline cannot be used for transit, but many say that a new wider pipe may be laid. Does this mean that Iran and Russia will get into a tougher rivalry in the South Caucasus?
In fact, the European vector of the Iranian policy and the Iranian vector of the European energy policy are two very important factors. By 2015-2020 the EU will face very serious gas shortages even if Russia continues its gas supplies and even augments them due to the new Northern-European gas pipeline. Given its growing demand for natural gas, the EU is seeking not so much to diversify its gas sources as to find new free gas resources in the Middle East, more precisely, in Iran and Qatar. The latter is off-side because of its geographical situation: one can’t lay a pipe from Qatar to Europe bypassing the territories of unstable Iraq and also Saudi Arabia.
Iran is a special case. Since 2003, the EU Troika has negotiated with Tehran not only about the nuclear problem but also about trade-economic cooperation. Before the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the EU proposed that it would become the key buyer of Iranian gas if Iran gave up its nuclear plans.
The point with South Caucasus is that if before the “democratic revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine Europe gave preference to the Turkish route, now, after the victory of Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia and Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine, the belt of the EU partners has come very close to the Iranian borders. And so, loyal Ukraine and Georgia and also the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline are a new gate for Europe to the Iranian gas resources. And even though the presently built Iran-Armenian gas pipeline is not able to transit gas, it is certainly regarded as a technological and political basis for a new stronger pipe.
REGNUM: At what price is Iran ready to sell its gas to Europe?
Iran wants to sell its gas to Europe at no less than the European price. Let’s remember Nabucco 2003, a project planning that Turkey would buy Iranian gas and resell it to Europe at a higher price. Iran rejected the project and since then has raised its gas price for Turkey by 25%. In fact, Iran does not want any country to resell its gas and is interested in the South Caucasian route exactly because the small countries of that region are less significant in the international energy security system than Turkey.
Of course, Iran wants to be the key seller of its gas in the EU. But it is also considering the possibility of consortiums with the countries that will be en route to Europe. Last year Iran proposed creating an Iranian-Armenian-Georgian-Ukrainian-Russian commission for considering the expediency of a gas pipeline to Europe via those countries. But recently Iran has tended to exclude Russia from this project and to prefer laying the pipeline via the bottom of the Black Sea. A gas pipeline from Iran to the Ukrainian territory will cost $5 bln – but only if connected to the already existing pipelines in Ukraine. But the problem is that Ukraine’s pipelines have small transfer capacities. Today they can pump 180 c/m of gas: they already pump 115 bln cubic meters of Russian gas to Europe and can pump only 50 bln cubic meters more, while the above project is about 100-150 bln cubic meters. So, Europe, Iran and Ukraine will inevitably have to lay new pipelines in the Ukrainian territory, which will cost them a pretty penny.
Of course, the launch of Iran’s gas supplies to South Caucasus will cut Russia’s energy influence on that region. But this is not so much about Armenia, where Russia has a serious presence, as about Georgia, where Russia’s gas supply monopoly is an effective economic lever for Moscow to correct the radical policy of the local authorities.
REGNUM: Why then during the last energy crisis did Iran sell gas to Georgia at a very unprofitable price? Does this mean that Iran is not interested in the Georgian market?
The supply of gas to Georgia is by no means a political advantage for Iran. Purely politically, Iran is not interested in Georgia. Economically, it will be interested in Georgia only if it remains in an export blockade – then it will welcome any buyer. But, even then, it will not sell its gas to Georgia at $110. As regards the preferential export of gas to Armenia, here Iran is, first of all, interested in the electricity import and is, in fact, laying the basis for a bigger transit route.
Iran does not want to lay a local pipeline and to supply cheap gas to Georgia because it knows that this gas will not go farther than Georgia. And the $233/1,000 cubic meters is a kind of a signal for Georgia, and likewise for Azerbaijan: that Iran does not regard it as a transit territory. The price for Georgia was a sing of certain problems between Iran and Azerbaijan and also a response to the high price Baku asked for the transit. The Armenian route is more acceptable for the Iranians, but only if they start supplying gas to Ukraine and Europe. The Georgian market as such is of no interest for them.
REGNUM: Russia has got deeply wedged in the Armenian-Iranian “gas for electricity” scheme. In fact, the gas received from Iran will be turned into electricity at the Russia-owned 5th unit of the Hrazdan Thermoelectric Power Plant and be later imported to Iran through a Russia-owned network?
Unfortunately, Iran regards Russia’s presence in Armenia’s energy system as a threat to its plans to export gas to Europe. The sale of the 5th unit of the Hrazdan TPP to Russia can impact Iran’s readiness to build a wider pipeline in Armenia (the diameter of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline is 700 mm — REGNUM). It is known that Iran has laid a much wider pipe to the Armenian border. Yes, the Iranians agreed with Armenia to get electricity in exchange for gas, and, in fact, it should make no difference for them who will produce that electricity. For Armenia its agreement with Iran is crucial for its economic and energy security.
By late 2003, Russia was interested in the building of a wide Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, but when the talks started, Gazprom left the project, seeing some threat in it. It was exactly this project that forced Gazprom to replace Itera as the key gas supplier to Armenia and, thereby, to get levers for a more active policy. Gazprom was against the project, first of all, because it was afraid to lose its positions in Georgia.
Meanwhile, they in Armenia neglect the fact that Iran is afraid of Gazprom’s further strengthening not so much in South Caucasus as in Central Asia. Iran will try not only to supply its own gas to Europe but also to ensure the transit of gas from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, i.e. to slash Russia’s monopoly there. So, the key reason for the present antagonism between Gazprom and Iran is exactly the Central Asian gas. By 2010 Turkmenistan will produce 100 bln cubic meters a year, which is a very attractive figure for Iran and the EU. The Europeans would prefer to see this gas coming through Iran rather than Russia, and this makes Central Asia a key frontline between Iran and Gazprom. The tiny market of the South Caucasus, as it is, cannot be an object for Iran-Gazprom rivalry, while as a transit route for the Central Asian gas, it may well be.
REGNUM: Your words suggest a conclusion that the aggravation of relations between the EU and Iran is good for Russia in any case: Iran will not get a nuclear bomb and will not enter into gas and transit dialogue with the Europeans…
In fact, Russia is certainly interested in a compromise in the Iranian nuclear problem, but not in the compromise proposed by the EU. A “Troika” agreement between the EU and Iran will lead to an improved energy dialogue between Europe and Iran. This will make Iran a rival to Russia on the European gas market. Today Moscow is trying to take the initiative and to agree with Iran on its own. But Iran perfectly understands what consequences it may face if it agrees with Russia and not with the EU. That’s why despite its demonstrative interest in the talks with Russia, Iran still prefers to agree with Western Europe.
REGNUM: Could you specify what consequences Iran may face if it agrees with Russia?
There will be the following consequences: though the West will no longer be able to criticize Iran for its nuclear program as now uranium will be enriched in the Russian territory, it will still have problems with that country; though Iran will get cheap uranium, it will lose its global political dividends. If Iran agrees with Europe, it will get a serious economic and political carte branch. In other words, an agreement with Russia will lose Iran its key trump with no dividends instead.
REGNUM: What prospects does Russia have as an exporter of Iranian gas or the operator of such an export to Europe?
In its time, Russia wanted to take part in certain gas projects in Iran, particularly, in the development of the Southern Pars fields. But then Iran used various bureaucratic levers to force Gazprom out of its gas market. Moscow still wants to strengthen its positions on that market but Tehran does not want that. Iran has opted for independence in its gas policy and will by no means let Russia in. The Iranians are quite ambitious here, they also want a share in transit projects. Even the biggest international gas companies become just ordinary, not very profitable construction companies in Iran. On the other hand, Tehran is not against using the transit potential of Russia and Gazprom, in particular, and is also considering creating and having a big share in gas consortiums.
REGNUM: But is it right for Iran to act so in its present hard situation? Isn’t this why Iran’s gas export is so low now that the demand for fuel is so high? Does Iran have necessary political resources for such ambitions?
Today Iran’s political resources are as strong as never before, and this is due greatly to the US policy in the Middle East. The overthrow of Hussein in Iraq and Taliban in Afghanistan has played into Tehran’s hands. But, at the same time, it can’t be aggressive in its gas policy – the political situation over Iran and in the whole region does not allow that country to push its interests forth.
As regards joint projects by Iran and Gazprom, they are quite possible, especially as the international gas market has absolutely no organization. And so, Russia and Iran, the first and second gas powers in the world, can well organize a kind of gas OPEC. Unlike the oil sector, the gas one has no strict organization and, if founded, it should be based on mutual respect of interests. If tomorrow the conflict is over and Iran gets a chance to improve its energy dialogue with the EU and to export its gas to Europe, objective realities will make possible a Gazprom-Iran agreement in the South Caucasus. But today, when the situation over Iran is tensed and the country’s gas policy is unpredictable, the antagonism between Russia and Iran will continue, and the South Caucasus will be one of the key geographical grounds of their rivalry and misunderstanding.
3. Nuclear Strike Against Iran Not Ruled Out. Washington Silent on Important Iranian Official's US Visit
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Iran could still be the target of a nuclear strike. US President George Bush does not rule it out. Asked by a journalist whether the possibility is being examined of using nuclear weapons against Iran, the American leader replied that "all options are being looked at." Although Bush did add that the United States "wants to resolve the problem by diplomatic means and is working actively toward that end."
Ahead of the UN Security Council session on the Iran "nuclear issue" scheduled for 28 April (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China have a veto) Washington's official position comes down to advocating the need to impose sanctions on Tehran. Moscow and Beijing remain opposed to that.
The diplomatic process surrounding Iran is at peak intensity again this week. The world's leading states held talks on the subject at deputy foreign minister level in Russia's capital yesterday. On Tuesday representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany proved unable to reach a consensus. On Wednesday they were joined by representatives of Canada and Italy -- in Moscow in connection with the preparations for the G8 summit in St Petersburg. US State Department spokesperson Tom Casey explained ahead of the Moscow meeting that in principle it "was not aimed at securing agreement on a specific plan of action" in relation to the Islamic Republic.
Nevertheless, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the sides did come to a common view that Iran "must heed the appeal for it to stop work connected with uranium enrichment." The Russian minister added that an understanding is in place to continue contacts in various formats in order to try to bring this idea home to the Iranian leadership and secure a constructive response to these appeals. In advance of the Moscow talks Lavrov had a telephone conversation in person with his Iranian colleague Manouchehr Mottaki and insistently recommended that the Iranians stop work on uranium enrichment, so the IRNA agency reports.
Britain, for its part, has stated that it does not expect Iran to fulfill the UN Security Council member's demand that it halt uranium enrichment by the end of April. British Foreign Office head Jack Straw stated yesterday: "We are working on the assumption that Iran will not respond to the Security Council's proposals."
Meanwhile, at the start of the week, high-ranking Iranian official Mohammad Nahavandian, an aide to Iran's Higher National Security Council Secretary and chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, arrived in the United States on a visit. No details are known about the Iranian official's stay in America, but State Department official spokesperson Sean McCormack was quick to comment that Nahavandian had not come to hold official negotiations. Influential Iranian politician and former republic president Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani announced in turn that Nahavandian had gone to America to take part in a scientific conference.
Rafsanjani stated that an American nuclear strike against Iran is "highly unlikely." He explained that the countries bordering the Islamic Republic are Tehran's friends and are "certainly not about to cooperate with the United States." For his part, current Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad has warned that the Iranians "will cut off the hand of any aggressor."
4. Russia Rejects US Call To Halt Construction of Iran Nuclear Plant
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The construction of the nuclear power station at Bushehr "does not represent" any threat to the nonproliferation regime, according to official Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin. He was commenting to an ITAR-TASS correspondent today on a statement by US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who called on Russia to end cooperation with Iran on the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant.
He recalled that under an agreement with Iran on the supply of nuclear fuel for Bushehr from Russia, "spent fuel will be repatriated to us, something that rules out the possibility of it being used for military purposes". "By virtue of its technical characteristics the reactor of the Bushehr plant which is under construction cannot be used to make materials suitable for a military nuclear program," the Russian diplomat said. "The Americans also know this full well," he noted. At the same time, Kamynin said, "the nuclear power station has nothing to do with Iranian work to enrich uranium".
"Russia's construction of a nuclear power station in Bushehr in Iran, which is under full International Atomic Energy Agency supervision, is being carried out in strict accordance with our international obligations," Kamynin noted.
Each country "is entitled to decide for itself whom to cooperate with and how", the Russian diplomat said. "The adoption of binding decisions on closing down cooperation with specific states in certain spheres is the exclusive remit of the UN Security Council," Kamynin said. "The Security Council has not as yet adopted any resolutions on halting cooperation with Iran in nuclear energy."
(Similar points were made in a report by Russian external TV service NTV Mir at 0900 GMT on 20 April, which said:
(Presenter) The issue of the Iranian nuclear program may be resolved using diplomatic means, because a country's rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes do not contradict nonproliferation rules, Director of Russia's Federal Agency for Atomic Energy Sergey Kiriyenko has said in Kyrgyzstan.
Russia's atomic supremo Kiriyenko is in Bishkek as a co-chairman of the interstate commission to discuss the issues of bilateral cooperation with Kyrgyzstan's president (Kurmanbek Bakiyev) and prime minister (Feliks Kulov).
Nevertheless, as the head of Russia's Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, Kiriyenko had to answer questions on Iran. In particular, Kiriyenko commented on US demands to end cooperation with Iran in the nuclear field.
Let us recall that US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said in Moscow yesterday that this demand also concerns the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power station.
(Kiriyenko) This cooperation is fully compliant with all international norms and treaties. Also, taking into account the existing agreement between Russia and Iran that all spent nuclear fuel from this nuclear power station will be returned to Russia for reprocessing, there is no possible danger of non-proliferation rules being breached. Some plutonium is present in the spent nuclear fuel, but since all this fuel will be returned to Russia, this cooperation does not pose any problems, any threat to the non-proliferation rules.)
5. RUSSIA TO AWAIT IAEA REPORT BEFORE DECIDING ITS POSITION ON IRAN - MINISTER
BBC Monitoring and Itar-Tass
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Excerpt from report by Russian news agency ITAR-TASS
Moscow, 20 April: Russia has said it will wait for the report of the IAEA head on the Iranian nuclear problem and is continuing the construction of the nuclear power station in Bushehr. Russia will define its position on the situation regarding the Iranian nuclear problem "depending on the content of the report of the IAEA director-general", Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Kislyak told ITAR-TASS today. He recalled that "the report will be presented at the end of the month".
"After that consultations will be held," the Russian diplomat said. "We will determine our reaction depending on the content of the report," he said. "We take this issue very seriously." "The IAEA has ideas about what is happening or what is not happening in Iran," the deputy foreign minister said. "We will be relying on its evaluations."
Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of Rosatom [Russian Atomic Energy Agency], also called today for "the results of the report of the IAEA head, Mohammed el-Baradei, to be awaited before any further decisions are taken". [Passage omitted]
Kiriyenko said "every country in the world is entitled to accessible and cheap nuclear energy", adding that "the world community should have guarantees of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons". "A solution to Iran's nuclear problem could be found through diplomatic means," the head of Rosatom believes.
An Iranian delegation will be holding talks on the nuclear topic with Russian representatives in Moscow today, ITAR-TASS has been told by an Iranian source. "The Iranian delegation led by Deputy Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council Javad Va'idi is currently in Moscow," he said. "The delegation also includes Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister [Seyyed] Abbas Araqchi."
"Yesterday the delegation held talks with representatives of the European Three (France, Great Britain, Germany)," the source said. "Today a meeting is scheduled with Russian representatives." International consultations have been taking place in Moscow since the beginning of the week.
The Iranian source said he "cannot confirm information about the arrival in Moscow of the head of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Ali Larijani". "We do not have this information." As far as we know, Larijani has not yet arrived in Moscow."
According to ITAR-TASS information, talks are being held at diplomatic level. The Russian side has informed the Iranian side about the results of the meeting of the group of six [European Three, Russia, China and USA] on the Iranian nuclear problem which was held in Moscow, the Iranian source said.
According to the Russian Security Council, it is not involved in the Russian-Iranian consultations on Iran's nuclear problem. "Today or yesterday no talks on the subject have been or are being held at the Security Council," ITAR-TASS has been told by a source in the Security Council of the Russian Federation. [Passage omitted: Iranian defence minister quoted on visit to Baku]
6. Russia To Supply Fuel To Iran's Bushehr Plant 6 Months Before Opening
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The construction of the nuclear power station in Bushehr does not create any threat to the non-proliferation regime. This statement was made by head of Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Sergei Kirienko (now on a visit to Bishkek) commenting on a US requirement to all countries to stop cooperation with Iran in the nuclear sphere.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said in Moscow on Wednesday that this concerns Bushehr as well.
Kirienko emphasized that "any country of the world has the right to accessible and cheap nuclear energy", adding at the same time that "the world community should have guarantees to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons". "A solution of the problem of the Iranian nuclear programme can be found diplomatically," the Rosatom head said with confidence.
"Fuel supplies for the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be made six months before the physical commissioning of the power unit," Kirienko said. He noted that "when the intergovernmental agreement on a return of worked-out fuel to Russia was concluded last year, the international community removed all questions on the construction of the nuclear power station in Bushehr".
Kirienko stressed that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei is to deliver a report on April 27 on the Iranian nuclear programme and suggested "waiting for its results for taking additional decisions".
Our leadership has taken a clear stance on the Iranian problem, Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, has told the Panorama programme on Russian Mayak radio broadcast on 20 April and hosted by presenter Vladimir Averin.
Our stance is that we support Iran but from neutral positions. We are not going to side with Iran in case of a crisis. However, we will not play up to Americans either. We will fulfil the obligations we have assumed in relation to delivering air defence systems to Iran and building nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Pukhov said.
He slammed the policy of double standards in relation to nuclear programmes. "Why cannot Iran enrich uranium while Brazil can? Brazilians have built an uranium enrichment plant and no-one intends to bomb them. It probably has to do with the fact that Brazil shares most of the USA's views on foreign policy. We should stop the policy of double standards and acknowledge Iran's right to peaceful nuclear work," Pukhov said.
8. AMERICA TRIES TO PREVAIL UPON RUSSIA to stop trying to prevail upon Iran
Sergei Strokan and Dmitri Sidorov
What the Papers Say
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Senior diplomats from six countries meet in Moscow; Moscow wants the G8 summit to proceeds without a hitch, focusing on energy security. But Washington is hinting that unless Moscow stops supporting the Iranian regime, it might face questions at the St. Peterburg summit about democracy, freedom of speech, and other unpleasant topics.
Senior diplomats from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany gathered in Moscow yesterday for the start of talks on the Iranian nuclear problem. The talks will continue at today's meeting, dedicated to preparing for the G8 summit in St. Petersburg.
The American delegation, headed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, came to Moscow in a fighting mood. As State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the previous day, during his Moscow visit Burns will raise the question of taking resolute measures against Iran, to be confirmed within a few days - at the next UN Security Council meeting on April 28, where IAEA Director Mohammed ElBaradei will report on Iran's observance of IAEA requirements. This report certainly won't eliminate all of the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear programs. During a lightning visit to Tehran last week, ElBaradei made one last attempt to persuade the Iranian authorities to stop work on uranium enrichment and thus reach agreement with the international community - but Tehran categorically rejected any possibility of a compromise.
Sean McCormack offered the following clarification: "Nicholas Burns's visit to Moscow will include discussion of applying Article 7 of the United Nations Charter [this article covers UN-approved use of force - editor's note, as well as freezing Iranian assets, travel restrictions for Iranian officials, and other measures. McCormack indicated that some measures against Iran might also be taken outside the United Nations framework, directly by the European Union or the United States. Then again, he admitted that having broken off relations with Tehran in the past, the United States now has practically no leverage to punish Iran on its own. All Washington can do in this regard is ban imports of some traditional Iranian goods, such as pistachio nuts or Persian carpets. As for Iran's oil and gas sector, the official version is that Washington isn't considering any sanctions against that, because such sanctions would primarily hurt ordinary Iranians. In reality, according to experts, such a move could destabilize the oil market even further - at a time when oil prices are already breaking one record after another.
Given that the United States can't take any substantial measures against Tehran on its own, Washington has to reach agreement with other world powers regarding joint action. In this contest, Nicholas Burns's mission in Moscow is particularly significant. After all, this is essentially one of the last attempts - if not the last attempt - by the UN Security Council's permanent members to reach consensus on an important international problem. "I don't want to try to anticipate events by predicting the outcome of the Moscow talks," said McCormack diplomatically, hinting that the negotiations in Moscow will be difficult.
Statements by senior Russian diplomats on the eve of the Moscow talks largely explain why McCormack was so cautious in speaking of the prospects. These statements imply that Nicholas Burns's mission in Moscow is essentially mission impossible.
"Russia is opposed to using international sanctions to solve the Iranian nuclear problem," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin yesterday, shortly before the start of the six-sided talks. "We maintain that neither sanctions nor the use of force can solve the problem."
It's worth noting that as recently as the previous day, Russian diplomats were speaking much more vaguely - but now Moscow has adopted a noticeably tougher tone. This may be the first time that the Foreign Ministry has expressed Russia's stance so definitely and resolutely: there can be no question of any UN-approved measures against Iran. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, head of the Russian delegation at the talks, faces the prospect of trying to convey that message to his American counterpart, Nicholas Burns. China, represented at the talks by Assistant Foreign Minister Cui, is also opposed to sanctions.
Statements made April 17 by Russia's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Andrei Denisov, imply that Moscow still believes Iran might renew its moratorium on uranium enrichment at the last moment. Denisov held a farewell press conference in New York before returning to Moscow to take up an appointment as senior deputy foreign minister. He said: "For many centuries, the Iranians have had a reputation as tough negotiators. It's a tradition, and I hope we'll manage to achieve a positive result eventually. We'd like to remain optimistic."
But observers say that Russia's rejection of the idea of sanctions is unlikely to facilitate a "more constructive approach" by Iran to the nuclear problem. Seeing the disagreement among the five permanent Security Council members, Tehran is concluding that there's no danger of any real punishment, and it's making skillful use of that. It's worth noting that Iran's statement before the six-sided talks in Moscow take an extremly hard line.
"Any political pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran would have the reverse effect," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Rezah Asefi yesterday, as a warning to participants in the Moscow talks. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised yesterday that Iran would "sever the hand of any aggressor." In short, Iran is making it clear that it isn't afraid of any sanctions; nor does it fear the prospect of an Article 7 military operation. Given Tehran's militant rhetoric, it's hard to understand why Russian diplomats are so optimistic - with their hints at a fundamental change in Iran's stance before April 28.
Observers also say that Moscow's recalcitrance on the issue of Iran could have a negative impact on the outlook for Russian-American relations, and cast a pall over the festive atmosphere at the upcoming G8 summit in St. Petersburg. Although President George W. Bush would never publicly acknowledge the mistakes in his Russia policy, our sources say there are signs of some changes in the policy course of the United States. A Washington source confirms that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has already issued instructions to her deputies, Dan Fried and Nicholas Burns, to develop a more hard-line stance with regard to Moscow. Until now, Rice had preferred to respond as mildly as possible to Moscow's actions, which have surprised many in Washington.
According to our Washington sources, this behavior was partially due to hopes that Moscow's talks with Tehran might lead to some concrete results - but this hasn't happened. What's more, Washington assumed that once those talks with Tehran fell through, Moscow would agree to impose sanctions on Iran. But those assumptions haven't been justified either, as yet.
Nevertheless, Washington still has some leverage for putting pressure on Moscow. The bargaining might focus on the impending G8 summit. It's rather symbolic that yesterday's discussion of Iran will be followed by today's discussion of progress on preparations for the St. Petersburg summit. What's more, Nicholas Burns is still representing the United States at the talks, and he has been instructed to correct American policy on relations with Moscow. Besides preparations for the G8 summit, the issues up for discussion at today's talks also include Iran, Iraq, democratic freedoms, and non-proliferation.
There can hardly be any doubts that Moscow has an interest in seeing that the G8 summit proceeds without a hitch, focusing on energy security rather than on any other issue. But Washington is hinting that unless Moscow stops supporting the Iranian regime, it might face questions at the St. Peterburg summit about democracy, freedom of speech, and other unpleasant topics.
9. PRESS CONFERENCE ON IRAN'S NUCLEAR DOSSIER AND THE UPCOMING G-8 DISCUSSIONS WITH ROBERT J. EINHORN FROM THE WASHINGTON BASED CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES AND PIR CENTER ANALYSTS VLADIMIR ORLOV AND GENNADY YEVSTAFYEV
Official Kremlin International News Broadcast
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Moderator: Welcome, dear guests and colleagues. I am the head of RIA Novosti Press Club. Let us begin our press conference. The topic today is "Will the Iranian Dossier Become a Stumbling Block at the G-8 Meeting?" So, on the way to the St. Petersburg summit. One of the main issues that will be discussed at the G-8 meeting will undoubtedly be the Iranian nuclear dossier. How can the St. Petersburg summit help solve that problem? This meeting with journalists will take place on the eve of the international conference "Global Security and G-8: Challenges and Interests" organized by PIR center in conjunction with the administration of the President of the Russian Federation and the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation.
Permit me to introduce our panelists. They are Robert J. Einhorn from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Assistant US Secretary of State on Nonproliferation; Director of PIR center and Co-Director of the European Security Program at the Geneva Security Policy Center, and the author of the report "The Iranian Nuclear Program Raises Serious Questions" Vladimir Andreyevich Orlov; and Senior Adviser to PIR center, Lieutenant General of the External Intelligence Service (retired) Gennady Mikhailovich Yevstafyev.
I would like to give the floor to Vladimir Andreyevich to start our discussion.
Orlov: Thank you. I would like to welcome the journalists and take this opportunity to express appreciations to RIA Novosti for the constructive dialogue and relations of cooperation that are becoming established between RIA Novosti and PIR center. And I am glad to note that RIA Novosti is the information sponsor of the international conference mentioned by the Moderator. The conference will take place in Moscow on April 20-22 and it will be devoted to the whole range of international security issues on the eve of the St. Petersburg summit. The title also contains the words "challenges and interests". It is very important that in Petersburg we may hear a chorus, but actually, the challenges to international security are perceived differently by each of the G-8 countries and each country has its own interests. Let us be honest and say that they do not coincide: there are Russian interests and there are the interests of other states. Our task at the conference is not to cut corners, but to try to identify the challenges and national interests and try to find the areas in which the G-8 countries and other leading states may work together. Let us say honestly that these include many areas, including nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but there is no 100 percent unanimity, that is simply impossible.
Iran. Iran already is a stumbling block between some members of the G-8. I doubt that things will change drastically by the time of the St. Petersburg meeting. These are fundamental differences of approach and of the perception of the situation and the role of Iran, of the future role of Iran in the system of international relations. When I say "countries" I mean, of course, above all, the differences of approach between Russia and the United States. And speaking about the United States I am referring to the present Republic administration in the US and especially its most powerful wing, which is apparently represented by Cheney-Rumsfeld group. Moscow does not believe that a military action against Iran is possible or necessary. In yesterday's consultations held in Moscow between six states, the Security Council "five" and Germany, on Iran, it did not take much time to reaffirm this position coherently and unambiguously. No use of force against Iran is possible and there is no need for it, even if it were possible.
Moreover, from the point of view of Russia no military action against Iran or planning of such action are admissible. Beyond that it is a matter for negotiations which are proceeding in a fairly constructive way among the majority of the parties to the dialogue. The countries are trying to understand where and how common ground can be found between the "six" on one side, and Iran on the other. It should be a big package that must include a set of economic measures, including the development of nuclear energy in Iran, but not confined to it, and a set of political measures. But there is a serious problem because political measures include both confidence measures and security assurances which Iran should get in particular from the country which is still referring to it as part of the axis of evil and which only yesterday repeated, through the mouth of its President, that all options are open with regard to Iran.
So, there are serious differences of views between some members of what is generally a constructive dialogue.
If not military actions, what other actions can there be? Sanctions? I would say that the question of sanctions is not being considered in a substantive way, but it cannot be ruled out. Sanctions may be different. They may be targeted sanctions aimed at the most sensitive spots in Iran of a financial and personal nature.
It may be an option in the future if dialogue with Iran doesn't shape up. But such a turn of events is dubious.
The Iranian position. In my opinion, and this is just my personal opinion, Iran is still open to dialogue. Iran is still ready to voluntarily freeze its uranium enrichment for certain period of time that is firmly fixed. For example, for five years or for several five-year periods in the intervals between which it might be possible to review the situation. Naturally, in exchange Iran should get the economic package that is being considered plus political guarantees of security.
No cooperation with Iran in the nuclear sphere will be acceptable unless Iran resumes the observance of additional protocol on guarantees which it has signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has now frozen that additional protocol. For the package to be full and constructive, Iran should bring that additional protocol back into effect on its territory. Moreover, it should ratify it as soon as possible.
As for a regional center for uranium enrichment, there are several proposals on the desk. One of them was made by Russia. I regret it that Iran has not responded to the Russian initiative constructively enough, even though talks continue. Iran has made its own proposal. They say that such a regional center could exist in Iran or in the region. Let us consider what the region could mean. Russia is, in fact, also part of that region and it is Iran's neighbor. Or there are Caspian states that are Iran's neighbors. One of them is Kazakhstan which could provide opportunities for the creation of such a center. So, there is still room for maneuver which makes all that talk about the use of force totally counterproductive.
And the last point to make. Russia is inclined to further engage in constructive dialogue with all parties to the six-party mechanism on Iran, five Security Council members and Germany. I think that with Germany and UK we have held very good and sincere discussions. They have concerns and we have concerns, and we understand each other well. With France, despite certain aspects, we have also established good mutual understanding.
Unfortunately, our understanding with the United States has somewhat worsened. There were moments of truth not long ago, several months ago. We have now moved away from this sincere mode. I am afraid that certain forces in the US administration prefer bellicose rhetoric and forget pragmatic aspects.
Russian President's aide Shuvalov, during his tour of the United States, conveyed those concerns directly and flatly to the US audiences. I am not certain that they will hear those concerns.
Russia has closely interacted with China. Our positions coincide 99 percent. Moreover, we have established a very good tripartite dialogue: Russia, China, the IAEA. I think we will not limit our efforts to one mechanism and, using several mechanisms of various kinds, we will try to find a solution to the Iran problem which has not developed into a nuclear crisis yet. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you, Vladimir Andreyevich, for your emotional remarks and clear positions. Mr. Einhorn, we would like to hear your point of view, please.
Einhorn: Thank you very much and thank you to RIA Novosti for organizing this event. Thank you all of you from the media for coming out on this rainy day to listen to us.
I am going to focus on the run-up to the St. Petersburg G8 summit and how the questions of proliferation need to be handled at that important meeting. The Russian organizers of the G8 summit have focused on three main agenda items: energy security, infectious disease and education. These are all three very important topics but it's important that the world's leaders not lose sight of the critical priority of fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
And when one looks at the proliferation challenge today, one finds as the top concern Iran's nuclear weapons program. The Iran nuclear issue has recently become much more alarming. You know that Iran last summer broke the moratorium with the EU Three countries and began with research and development in the enrichment area. They have made significant progress.
At their conversion facility at Isfahan, they've produced enough gaseous uranium, uranium hexafluoride, for about 15 to 20 nuclear bombs. Of course, the uranium hexafluoride is not a problem until you enrich it to bomb grade, but the Iranians have made significant progress on enrichment.
At their pilot scale enrichment facility at Natanz, they have assembled a 164 machine cascade and have begun enriching uranium at that small cascade. President Ahmadinejad announced that they had produced low-enriched uranium, uranium enriched to 3.5 percent in the isotope uranium-235. This is a significant milestone. He said that Iran would have 3,000 centrifuges assembled by the end of the year and then would proceed to a full industrial scale facility, somewhat over 50,000 centrifuges.
Perhaps, most alarming the President indicated that Iran has been working on the advanced centrifuge, the so-called P2 centrifuge which would enable Iran to enrich uranium perhaps three or four times faster than with the first generation P1 centrifuge.
Iran is accelerating its enrichment program and it's accelerating it in defiance of the will of the UN Security Council which three weeks ago adopted a presidential statement urging Iran to resume its moratorium on enrichment activities. The key five countries, I believe, share an assessment at this point that Iran is genuinely seeking nuclear weapons but they differ on the tactics to dissuade Iran from continuing down that course. The differences became clear when it took a full three weeks to reach agreement in New York on a very, very mild presidential statement. Why was it so mild? Because Russia insisted that it be mild and not contain any pointed threats. Iran is very self-confident now. It believes on the basis of Russia's position at the Security Council that it doesn't have to worry about penalties. It would be naive to believe that Iran would give up its enrichment capability on the basis of carrots and no sticks. As Dr. Orlov said, we need a package, but the package has to contain sticks as well as carrots. Russia has a critical role to play. It must join with its G-8 partners to indicate clearly to Iran that if it continues on its present course, there will be serious consequences, consequences that are not in the best interests of the Iranian people.
But there have to be carrots also, and the United States can help provide carrots. It's important for Iran to know that if it gives us its enrichment capability, it can have a more normal, less threatening relationship with the United States. So far the Bush administration has only been prepared to engage directly with Iran on the specific subject of Iraq. That's positive, but it's not enough. The administration must be prepared to engage directly with Iran on the full range of issues that divide the two countries, including the nuclear issue.
US-Russian cooperation will be critical in resolving this issue and important progress must be made by the time of the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg. Let me just mention just two other issues that will figure at St. Petersburg meeting. One is related to the general question of energy security. If the world is to meet its growing energy needs, then it will have to rely more on nuclear energy. But it will have to expand its use of nuclear energy without creating greater risks of nuclear proliferation. Both Russia and the US have recently suggested solutions to this problem. President Putin suggested the idea of international fuel centers that could help meet the world's expanding need for reactor fuel without the proliferation of very sensitive enrichment and reprocessing capabilities that could lead to nuclear weapons.
President Bush recently proposed a global nuclear energy partnership, the English acronym is GENAP. It is, I think, very much related to President Putin's proposal. I think the two ideas can be married and given impetus in St. Petersburg.
Finally, let me mention the G-8 global partnership against weapons of mass destruction. This was an initiative launched in 2002 at the G-8 summit in Kananaskis, Canada, with great fanfare and great hope. The world leaders at that time agreed to raise 20 billion dollars over 10 years to deal with nuclear security and other security problems throughout the world, but initially in Russia. This initiative needs to be reinvigorated in St. Petersburg. There is a risk that it could go the way of many previous G-8 initiatives: lofty ambitions, initial enthusiasm, followed by inadequate follow through. Earlier on, the donor countries pledged about 17 billion dollars and that excludes Russia's own contribution of about 2 billion dollars. That was very promising. But pledges have bogged down since then and those pledges haven't been translated into practical projects on the ground. And since 2002 emphasis on the part of non-US donors has gone to two main priorities: chemical weapon destruction in Russia and the dismantlement of Russian general purpose nuclear submarines.
It is understandable that the money has gone to these two priorities. These were the priorities identified by President Putin as Russia's top objectives. But let's not forget that the central objective of this global partnership was to prevent weapons of mass destruction terrorism. And these two priorities are not the two most relevant priorities for dealing with this serious terrorist threat. In St. Petersburg the G-8 leaders should get impetus to accelerating the task of dealing with nuclear security and getting started, getting moving on the critical issue of bio security which is an area that has been neglected in the global partnership. Thank you for your attention. I await your questions during our question and answer period.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Einhorn. Naturally we will pass on t questions, but first I will give the floor to Gennady Mikhailovich. General, you have the floor.
Yevstafyev: Thank you. I feel a bit uncomfortable surrounded by such important analysts of this problem. But I will try not to repeat their statements and make a few remarks on four questions.
First, the St. Petersburg summit. It is a very important event, not only for the world community but for Russia itself because the result of this summit will give a powerful impetus for internal work in Russia, and this should not be forgotten.
What are the concerns? I recently tried to analyze what is happening on the eve of the St. Petersburg summit. The picture is depressing. We see a massive campaign to discredit Russia, as if it were coming from a single source, on a number of key issues, beginning from the fact that the agenda, energy security, was not chosen properly.
We used to have critics here in this country as well, very serious ones, who used to insist that migration policies should have been chosen as a priority, let alone that wave of statements that Russia does not deserve this, that it is not a G8 member at all, that it only obtained this right due to Schroeder.
And after all that they want Russia to take account of Western interests. This is not the way to do things. Business is business and Western vendors should understand that if they sell their goods, there is a buyer. In this particular case Russia sells its goods and they are buyers. There should be certain manners. When all those statements are made by vice presidents, ministers, party leaders, political figures, who claim that Russia does not deserve to host the G8 summit and that St. Petersburg is a minor event, that they will discuss energy security next year in Germany -- really, they are going to discuss this issue again -- no one challenges this. It is necessary to discuss those things again. This is an important issue, but they could have stated this somewhat later. Let alone that they have laid fantastic charges to Russia on a whole range of issues, including Iraq.
Therefore, I would like everyone to calm down during those months left until the St. Petersburg summit and to behave constructively so we would approach the summit in a most benevolent mood, so President Bush would not be pressurized, so they would not demand that he should not attend the summit. I have to do justice to George Bush. I realize what pressure he has felt. I do justice to his courage, because far from every president can stand this wave of negative information.
But those were comments on G8. Let me pass on to Iran now. I attentively listened to what Mr. Einhorn said here. I cannot fully share a whole range of his arguments, even though some of them are valid enough and could be accepted. They should be taken into account. They are positive, well-weighed and provide ground for discussion.
As for differences, first, Bob Einhorn said all five Security Council member countries shared the view that Iran is looking to develop nuclear weapons. I have not seen any such statements. Had they been unanimous in this respect, the Security Council would have made its decision the day before yesterday. Unfortunately, there is no Security Council decision yet.
This shows that there are substantial differences in evaluating the goals, opportunities and prospects for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
Second, Mr. Einhorn said Iran is certain that Russia would not allow sanctions to be imposed, that is, it would protect it. This is wrong. Russia has a rather firm position on Iran. Statements by Mr. Lavrov and other officials, having the right to make statements indicate that Russia has not improved Iran's current policy and it believes that Iran has gone substantially farther than the international community would like it to go.
Third, Iran -- it is not just carrots. It also means sticks. The main goal the US administration has pursued, in my opinion, is the imposition of sanctions by the Security Council. Partial, total, deep-going, limited. It does not matter. The main thing is launching the process of sanctions. And then we will see that we have certain experience in this respect. They are telling us: we should not refer to previous experience. Why? We have lots of grounds for doing that. If we fail to learn, we will always have misfortunes.
As soon as we launch the sanctions process, the United States will interpret them unilaterally, will refer to those sanctions, make steps without their approval by the international community, including the other four permanent members of the Security Council. This would be very undesirable. Because sanctions tend to snowball. They may be small sanctions initially, then they are followed by bigger sanctions, and we could go to Iraq-type sanctions.
One interesting example. About half or, according to some opinion polls, more than half of the population in the United States would approve a military action against Iran. In 1996, Bill Clinton wanted to launch a military action, but the level of support was 43 percent and he did not dare to do this.
Now, after special treatment of the public opinion, they get support of more than 50 percent and the Bush administration, especially Diehard Hawks -- I think Mr. Einhorn knows them, so I will not name them -- they will immediately take advantage of this situation. Just to make it clear to you, 50 percent of Americans, according to an opinion poll, still think that there were nuclear weapons in Iraq. The whole world has refuted this, but in America 50 percent still think so. It is a fantastic situation and it is even hard to explain it. Far be it from me to defend Iran, moreover, I think that the Iranians have recently been arrogant. But I do not rule out that the Iranians have achieved their goal. And it is not by chance that Ahmadinejad -- who is not the person deciding the fate of the Iranian nuclear capability -- that Iran has joined the nuclear club by enriching an unspecified amount at its 134 centrifuges. Iran, through the mouth of its leader says that it is already a member of the nuclear club.
This may be the key to possible further actions and to understanding Iran's steps toward an agreement. I don't think that the issue is closed, it can still be resolved. 3,000 centrifuges, 50,000 centrifuges are fantastic figures because that can be achieved only in 6-7 years.
You know, what happened was something very simple. Iran did want to build a nuclear weapon, and there is no doubt in my mind about it. Why? Because Pakistan, a second-rate state, has it, and Iran does not. Iran is a great regional power, let us face it.
The United States allowed Pakistan to build a nuclear weapon. In its time, in 1975 it agreed to the building of a full enrichment cycle in Iran under the Shah. There is a remarkable declassified document, a memorandum by Mr. Kissinger dated April 22, 1975 which enumerates what Iran is allowed to do. The full cycle. Moreover, cooperation with Iran. It was only when the ayatollahs came to power that all this was dropped.
We are faced with a strange situation, I don't want to repeat the well-worn talk about double standards. But it is a fact. By the way, double standards are still applied. Mr. Einhorn didn't mention it, but the whole world is stunned by the American-Indian nuclear agreement. This is nothing if not a departure from the NPT, a de facto recognition of India as a nuclear power and a readiness to cooperate with it behind a fig leaf of India allegedly having divided its nuclear complex into peaceful and non-peaceful. It shouldn't have had a nuclear military complex to begin with. And India is refusing to sign NPT. Now the group of nuclear suppliers will be under pressure to make certain concessions to accept a new kind of membership, associated membership.
So, there are many unpleasant aspects. So, I have great doubts that building up pressure on Iran and saying that it is going to implement a military program is the right thing to do. When Iran was pursuing its military program on the quiet, this was a possibility. But then Iran opened its program. Yes, it had to pay for it because immediately it became apparent that it was pursuing a military nuclear program in parallel. And the trail led to Pakistan and Western countries. But I don't think Iran will risk it now. Now that it is in a virtual international isolation on this problem Iran will not risk pursuing a military nuclear program and there is a chance to agree along the lines indicated by Vladimir Andreyevich: economics, a political package in exchange for renunciation of industrial enrichment. I don't think we can deprive Iran of its pilot laboratory project of uranium enrichment which will not threaten anyone.
I have two more questions. The question of the NPT. We have undermined this key document to such an extent that I don't even know how we can use it because there are exceptions and limitations at every term. There once were people -- I was one of them -- who believed that the NPT should not be signed for an indefinite term and that we should wait and see and then perhaps amend it. But the administration in which Mr. Einhorn worked imposed on Mr. Yeltsin, and at the time we just agreed to everything and he agreed to NPT being indefinite. Now, frankly speaking, we are reaping the fruit of this and we are unable to introduce the necessary tough requirements that would be effective in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction because this document is ossified.
And by the way, the great powers have contributed to this because they effectively stopped nuclear disarmament beginning from approximately 2000-2001 by signing the famous agreement and not taking any serious steps to reduce their nuclear potentials.
And finally, the IAEA. We see the IAEA as an outfit that can solve any task. This is not so. the IAEA works only on declared nuclear activities. The IAEA can indirectly establish the existence of undeclared activities and say that it has found a trail, which happened in the case of Iran, traces of activities pursued by someone somewhere at some unspecified time. By the way, there is no doubt that what the IAEA has found were the activities in the framework of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps -- it was actually a military program, like in any other country which tried to proliferate.
Therefore, the IAEA tried to reinforce its positions by the adoption of an additional protocol which would let it inspect facilities without prior warning. We cannot demand more from the IAEA.
So, if we have created such an organization and have been unable to give it more, let us trust them. I want to be properly understood. No report by ElBaradei, including his report to the Security Council, contains statements that Iran has implemented a military nuclear program. True, there are some findings, including those related to special metallurgy, as two hemispheres were found which are usually manufactured to contain a nuclear warhead, but the origins are unknown -- whether they made it themselves or purchased it somewhere. That is all.
So, it would be strange to attack Iran or introduce sanctions against Iran on that basis. In Iran, 1,700 workdays of inspections have been performed, and no evidence has been found. So, as always, there are two ways out: trusting that there is no nuclear program aimed at creation of nuclear weapons or thinking of additional opportunities for the IAEA, including by way of official involvement of special services in the activities of the IAEA under the guidance of the IAEA chief. Certainly, we should not trust national interpretations of what is happening because this is unreliable, as we have had a chance to see in the past. Where that was the case, blood is being let. Let me stop at that.
Moderator: Thank you, Gennady Mikhailovich. You have made our discussion more acute. If there are no objections, we will pass on to Q&A.
Q: I have attentively listened by remarks by the participants. I have a question to ask the American participant. Is not the United States' policy regarding Iran dubious, as it has not breached any international commitments, international treaties by its nuclear program? The United States, while knowing that there have been no breaches, have voiced concerns over the future of that program, while at the same time the US has successfully cooperated with countries like India, Pakistan and Israel, which breached the international law and created nuclear bombs.
Second, after that flood of lies about mass destruction weapons, including chemical weapons, allegedly available in Iraq -- they have not been found -- do the Americans and international community share those views on Iran?
Einhorn: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to address this question of Iran's intentions. On the question of double standards, it should be recognized that India, Pakistan and Israel never joined the NPT. So, it was not a violation of the NPT for them to acquire nuclear weapons.
Iran, of course, did join the NPT and, with all due respect, sir, I have to contradict you. Iran has committed many, many violations of its obligations and these violations have been well documented by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Many, many deceptions, concealments, violations. Just read the IAEA's many reports and you will see numerous examples of cheating by Iran of its international obligations. It's very clear.
Of course, with Iran's heavily controlled news media, many Iranians don't appreciate that their government has been engaged in so many violations, but this is a fact of life, sir.
And just to respond to a point by Gennady Yevstafyev about the attitudes of the P5 countries toward Iran's nuclear intentions. I am convinced that every single one of those P5 countries is very, very skeptical about Iran's intentions in pursuing nuclear program. Mohammed ElBaradei has not yet found a smoking gun, but he has said over and over again that he cannot say with confidence that Iran does not have a clandestine nuclear weapons program. He cannot say that Iran does not have such a program and IAEA experts are very concerned with the information they have gotten and with the lack of cooperation they have received.
And that's why I believe that none of the P5 believe that Iran's intentions are purely peaceful.
Q: Thank you very much. I have also a question for Mr. Einhorn. You are talking about sticks. Does it also include military actions? We heard from your President that he said that this option also exists. Can you imagine that military action will be necessary against Iran?
Einhorn: Several world leaders have said that a nuclear armed Iran would be unacceptable. President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, President Chirac and other have said that it is unacceptable. But if you say something is unacceptable, that has certain implications. I think it is the sincere intention of President Bush and the European leaders to try to head off an Iranian nuclear weapons capability through peaceful diplomatic means. All of them are aware of the potentially catastrophic costs of military attacks to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. I think they want to avoid military strikes if at all possible.
But those who wish to avoid military attack, and that includes certainly Russia, must recognize that unless Iran sees serious consequences in its current course of action, it's going to continue on this course of action. And so, those who say no to economic pressure and other kinds of penalties are increasing the likelihood that in the last analysis there will be no option but the military opinion.
Q: A question from France Presse to Vladimir Andreyevich. From unofficial information the meeting to prepare the G-8 summit will focus on Iran. What can this meeting be expected to produce in your opinion? And are you not afraid that the problem of Iran may spoil the St. Petersburg summit for Russia?
Orlov: I think France Presse for a good question. The Iranian topic was discussed mainly in the format of "the six" and in the format of "the eight" what is being discussed today, there are many issues that have to do with nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. There are many questions. But it is difficult to discuss many questions in a single day. India, global partnership which was so aptly described by Bob Einhorn. And of course, it is again Iran. But we have several other representatives in addition to the countries I mentioned. The Japanese voice was very interesting.
But I don't think we will hear any radically different statements. We still have time before April 28 and I do not rule out that some agreements may be found.
By the way, replying to the concerns about military actions against Iran, I can very briefly say the following. The results of a national Russian opinion poll among ordinary people, not experts or politicians, on the problems of mass destruction weapons and the threats of proliferation will be announced in a couple of days. What are Russians afraid of? I think that the Russian leadership is mindful of the mood among the population and of the position of the electorate in shaping its policy.
The poll was commissioned by PIR center and we have asked Russians in all the regions: If Iran gets the nuclear weapon, will it pose a threat to the national interests of Russia? And a relative majority of people, 42 percent of those polled, are convinced that yes, it does pose a threat to the national interests of Russia. So, the actions of the Russian leadership are directed or will be directed at preventing such a development by various means. But we also asked the following question: Can Russia cooperate with Iran in the field of peaceful nuclear energy? And the majority of Russians say that there is nothing to prevent that. And that should also be taken into account.
And the last thing. We have asked the Russians which countries and non-state players pose a threat to Russia of the use of mass destruction weapons and 55 percent of those polled did not name Iran or any other country, but Chechen terrorists. 38 percent have named al Qaeda and 34 percent other terrorist groups. This is what worries Russians above all, and not only Russians but many members of the Russian leadership.
As for Iran, it comes after the terrorist groups which I have mentioned, after the United States of which 33 percent of the Russians are still afraid. And Iran comes next, with 15 percent. This is what worries Russians. So, there are other serious problems. I think we should put the Iran issue in a broader context and the G- 8 today is discussing not only Iran but other situations as well.
Q: A question for Mr. Einhorn. How realistic do you think are calls for the US to give Iran some sort of security guarantee, either this administration or the new administration?
Einhorn: The Bush administration, even in its second term, which has been much more moderate than its first term, has been reluctant to have a direct dialogue with the Iranian regime. It fears that simply sitting across the table and talking with the Iranians will confer on them a legitimacy they don't deserve.
I think this is a mistake in approach. Certainly President Ahmadinejad has said some outrageous things. The government of Iran is engaged in certain unacceptable behaviors, but that does not mean we should not sit down with them and discuss the full range of issues that divide us. And those issues include certain Iranian grievances that the United States should listen to and should try to address.
The United States and the Soviet Union had great differences but yet each country considered it in its national interest to sit down with the other and to try to find certain commonalities of interest. I think the same should happen today between the United States and Iran.
On the subject of security assurances, the idea of a piece of paper that would guarantee to the other side that you won't have hostile intent or you won't attack or you won't overthrow, seek to overthrow the other side's regime -- I am not a strong believer in such pieces of paper. The level of mistrust between the two sides is so great today that neither side would place any reliability on such a piece of paper.
What is needed is a consistent pattern over time of reliable non-threatening behavior. That's the only kind of assurance that really means anything. Hopefully soon the United States and Iran will be sitting down in Baghdad to talk about the specific issue of Iraq, not the broad relationship, but Iraq. Hopefully, those talks over time can expand to cover more and more issues. It's important for each side not to demonize the other, but to recognize that the other side has legitimate interests that have to be accommodated in some way.
Q: Asahi newspaper. I have a question to ask you on another nuclear file, North Korea. This teaches us another lesson, and the situation is similar in some ways to the Iran nuclear file. Strange talks continue on the North Korea file. Unfortunately, the US and Russia have discontinued guarantees to North Korea, including in terms of energy, and I believe that they proceed with their efforts to develop nuclear weapons. This shows that it is hard to deal with such problems, find solutions through negotiations. It looks like North Korea believes that nuclear weapons is the best, most reliable guarantee for retaining its regime. If they think this way, and the UN Security Council has not done anything against North Korea, I believe that it is also hard to find solutions on the Iran issue through negotiations. What is your point of view?
Orlov: I will try to be brief. Perhaps, my colleagues will help me as they know North Korea problems. I am pleased to see the Asahi newspaper here, my old friends.
I would like to say that the North Korea problem is different a lot from Iran problem. In North Korea, they either possess nuclear weapons or can create up to ten warheads quickly enough. It is the country that actually cheated, as it pulled out of the NPT. That is, it would be right, perhaps, to list our concerns in the following way. Terrorist movements, then North Korea, then Pakistan, then Iran. Well, for political reasons, this hasn't happened.
As for you skepticism, I cannot share it. I met with North Korean representatives recently and they have voiced very constructive proposals. They recall our colleagues from the US democratic administration with great pleasure, and Bob Einhorn has made a substantial contribution to finding solutions for the North Korea problem. Documents were prepared which Bill Clinton and the North Korean leader could sign.
There is understanding on ways to act there on six party format, in the bilateral American-North Korean format. I think the situation can be resolved through diplomatic ways, through negotiations.
So, I would rather not go deep into detail, but I cannot share you skepticism and pessimism.
Moderator: Mr. Einhorn?
Einhorn: As someone who negotiated with the North Koreans, I can say that I am not very optimistic about the North Korean nuclear issue. I don't want to make a partisan statement but perhaps I will. I think the Clinton administration approach for dealing with North Korea was the correct approach. I think we were on the right track with the regime that, after all, is not very trustworthy.
The Bush administration got off on the wrong foot with North Korea in the first few months of this administration and never found its footing as far as I am concerned.
And, well, there are parallels between the North Korean and Iranian situation. There is one critical difference. By the time the International Atomic Energy Agency discovered that North Korea had provided an inaccurate declaration of how much plutonium it had separated, North Korea had already enough plutonium for one or two nuclear bombs. So, essentially since 1992 we have been trying to disarm a nuclear weapon state, a country that already has nuclear weapons. But Iran's intentions have been exposed years before Iran is in a position actually build and deploy nuclear weapons, years before. It's the first case in history, actually, where we are watching a country make progress to nuclear weapons capability in plain sight, before our very eyes.
There is plenty of time to deal with this problem, but we have to deal with it seriously if we are to head off an Iranian nuclear weapons capability.
Moderator: Colleagues, I think it was a constructive and businesslike conversation. I would like to thank our speakers for a very interesting meeting. Our conference is over.
10. IRAN URGES WEST NOT TO PRESSURE MOSCOW ON JV ISSUE
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The Iranian ambassador to Russia, Gholam Reza Ansari, has urged Western countries not to impose additional requirements on Russia during Russian-Iranian negotiations on the creation of a joint venture.
We believe that Western countries should reduce the pressure exerted on Russia and not set additional conditions, the ambassador said on Ekho Moskvy radio on Tuesday.
Iran still believes that the Russian project has considerable potential to be implemented, he said, adding that Iran believes the Russian proposal has positive elements.
At the same time, Iran has many projects in the area of industrial uranium enrichment, including the Russian one, he said. The creation of enterprise mechanisms, and terms and conditions of its operation are among the issues to be solved, Ansari said.
The implementation of the project would have finite time limits, the diplomat said.
Locating the enterprise on Iranian territory would be preferable. However, there are other possible options, Ansari said.
11. Israel Will Cut the Iranian Knot: Tel Aviv Could Mount an Attack on the Islamic Republic's Nuclear Facilities Before the End of 2006
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A military outcome of the crisis surrounding Iran's nuclear program will possibly occur before the end of this year. Western and Israeli military personnel and specialists have been speaking increasingly often about this, extreme, scenario in recent days. Strongly-worded new statements from Tehran and the lack of progress in a diplomatic settlement of the situation involving the Iranian atom are contributing to inflaming the mood.
Speaking at a conference on the Palestinian problem in Tehran last Friday, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad called Israel a "rotten, dried-up tree," which will be brought down by a "single gust of wind." Lest anyone remain in any doubt about what this metaphor means, the president added that "the Zionist regime is headed for annihilation."
Israel perceived the latest attack against it as confirmation of Tehran's aggressive intentions. Whence the conclusion: preventing Iran becoming a nuclear power by diplomatic methods is no longer possible. As former Prime Minister Shimon Peres said unambiguously, Ahmadinejad "could end up like Saddam Husayn." In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, meanwhile, a high-ranking officer of Israel's military intelligence said that the international community's efforts have failed. "Iran is spitting in the world's face, and the world is only wiping it off," the intelligence officer continued. Iran's nuclear engineers have thus far been able with 164 centrifuges to achieve 3.5% uranium enrichment. But it will take just several months for the Islamic Republic of Iran to acquire the technology and 1,000 of centrifuges, which will permit it to produce the high-enriched uranium necessary for the development of nuclear weapons. The country will thus, the Israeli officer concluded, reach a point at which turning the nuclear program back will be impossible.
Consequently, in order to spare the state a nuclear attack on the part of Iran it is necessary to take preventive action, Israel believes. This is how Yevgeniy Satanovskiy, president of the Middle East Institute, commented on the unfolding situation in an interview with NG: "Unless the Iranian leadership unlocks the present crisis in relations with Israel, takes back the president's words about the need for the elimination of this state, that is, Israel will inevitably regard Iran as a country that is preparing to destroy it. To avoid a war of the two nuclear powers, an attack, as a result of which the nuclear threat on the part of Iran will be eliminated, will most likely be mounted. Whether Americans and Israelis or just Israelis will take part in this operation, we cannot say today. But before the end of the year, whatever the politicians, American included, may say, a military outcome is the most likely."
We would note that at a recent conference in the Russian Academy of Sciences Oriental Studies Institute Mehdi Imanipour, spokesman for the Embassy of Iran in Moscow, maintained that Ahmadinejad means by no means the physical elimination of Israel but a ballot with the participation of the Arabs. It is as a result of this declaration of intent that Israel is fated to cease to exist. According to Satanovskiy, Mr Imanipour "is a very likable person, but his status is not that of one whose words carry weight or signify anything." The expert believes that we should be heeding the words of the country's leaders. "Let us recall facts of history. What does it matter what Ambassador Dekanozov said in Germany in 1941. Whom did this excite? Decisions are not made at this level," Satanovskiy concluded.
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad's bellicose rhetoric has evoked no delight in the ruling establishment of Iran either. It is significant that his predecessors in the presidency, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, expressed their unhappiness that the present leader is ascribing all contributions in the furtherance of the nuclear program to himself. Professor Hossein Salimi, a specialist in international relations in Tehran, maintains that in throwing out a challenge to the international community Ahmadinejad is simply trying to win public popularity. In the long-term perspective, though, he is damaging the country's interests.
Observers believe that since doubts as to the expediency of the policy of confrontation are being openly expressed in Iran itself, the possibilities of a political settlement are not conclusively exhausted. Moscow will this week make a new attempt to find a way out of the impasse. There will be a meeting in the capital on Iran's nuclear program with the participation of the United States, China, France, Britain, and Germany. Its outcome is hard to predict. After all, the United States is advocating the imposition on Iran of UN Security Council sanctions. Russia and China, on the contrary, are calling for patience and restraint. Yuriy Baluyevskiy, chief of the Russian Army's General Staff, deemed it necessary to add his reassuring voice to the chorus of Russia's diplomats also. According to him, Iran's military preparations are no threat to Russia's southern frontiers.
12. RUSSIA WALKS THE TIGHTROPE BETWEEN IRAN AND WASHINGTON
Eurasia Daily Monitor
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The virtually simultaneous revelation of U.S. contingency -- and even operational -- planning for Iran by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker magazine and of Iran's capacity for enhancing uranium may not have generated a massive outpouring of overtly emotional replies in Russia. Indeed, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's Atomic Energy Agency, said that enrichment does not arouse concern in Russia and was not unexpected.
Nevertheless these events have galvanized Russia's diplomatic and military establishments into action. Officials are increasingly being forced to walk a very narrow line along a precipice bounded by Washington and Tehran, while analysts are in open disagreement about what to make of these announcements. Interestingly, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, rather than the armed forces or President Vladimir Putin, has taken the public lead.
Lavrov's line, shown in many statements, reveals an increasing unhappiness with Iran for refusing to accept the UN Security Council's resolution and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provisos. Meanwhile lower-ranking spokesmen and public figures have been dropping hints about possible support for sanctions. They also revealed that Moscow is stalling on delivering the Tor anti-aircraft missiles that Iran bought in December 2005, which would greatly enhance its capability against American or Israeli strikes.
At the same time, Lavrov insists that diplomacy alone can solve this issue -- the use of force would only aggravate existing tensions in the Middle East. He also has warned Washington against adding extraneous demands about democratization to the nuclear issue. Instead he reiterated that Russia's earlier offer of a joint project to enrich uranium under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, with Russia doing the work and Iran getting the uranium that could not then be used for weapons remains on the table. Second, while admonishing Washington not to resort to violence, he insisted that nobody could exclude Russia from the resolution of this issue and warned against both sanctions and "jumping to hasty conclusions" as to what Iran is up to. He simultaneously warned Iran that enrichment was a wrong step, and that it should stop enrichment and return to the supervision of the IAEA.
Obviously Lavrov is trying to balance Russia's need for a friendly anti-American Iran with pressure from Washington and Moscow's own opposition to Iran's nuclearization. On a broader level he and Putin are aiming to reassert Russia as an independent actor and counterweight to the United States in the Middle East so that Moscow cannot be excluded from the regional security agenda. This broader stance is evident in two moves announced over the weekend of April 14-16. One is that Russia will subsidize Hamas in the Palestine Authority, even though Washington and the EU have stopped doing so, and second the Kremlin has invited the United States, EU, and members of the UN Security Council to hold a meeting of deputy foreign ministers in Moscow on April 18.
Although commentary from the Russian Ministry of Defense remains calm, the specter of an American attack on Iran, especially the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons raised by Hersh, must be unnerving. Thus Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has stated that Iran has no ICBMs and Chief of Staff Colonel-General Yuri Baluyevsky added that Iran does not even have the capacity to build nuclear weapons and could not threaten Russia with its missiles. Moreover they and their supporters soothingly say that, in any case, Iran has not enriched enough uranium to make a weapon and that it would need to get the uranium from Russia. Since the Ministry and Ivanov's predecessors often said the same thing about North Korea and few believe that the DPRK does not now have at least a handful of nuclear weapons, this appears to be an attempt to defy Washington and say that this is a crisis created by Washington to advance unilateral regime change in Iran, a line reflected in Krasnaya zvezda, the Ministry's newspaper, and by several pundits like Sergei Markov. Indeed President Putin's representative for terrorism, Anatoly Safonov dismissed statements that Iran is behind international terrorism as having no basis in fact.
Several pundits clearly dispute this and call Iran's missiles a threat to Russia as well. It is now becoming very clear that Moscow's room for maneuver on the Iran issue is narrowing and that its efforts to play an independent anti-U.S. role in the Middle East by supplying Iran with technology, know-how, reactors, and conventional weapons are generating a situation that puts its interests at considerable risk. Indeed, Russia's past policies may have now rebounded, as many analysts at home and abroad have warned would happen. Veteran analysts like George Mirsky have cited the fact that Russian foreign policy is made not at the Ministry but in the Presidential chancellery and made by people who wish to recreate an imperial Russian superpower against the United States. And this is a major cause of Russia's present discomfiture.
At the same time there is no sign of the Iranian government's willingness to back down and make compromises, because it clearly believes that Russia and China will back it up against Washington, a decaying power tied down in Iraq. While Lavrov and other officials are clearly right in arguing that further aggravation of tensions in the Middle East could be extremely dangerous for all concerned and the international community as a whole, it also is clear that Moscow, as it finds itself increasingly confined to the diplomatic precipice where it now stands, in large measure has only itself to thank for this predicament.
(RIA-Novosti April 7, 12; Interfax, 1, 2, 11, 13; Ekho Moskvy Radio, April 12, 13; Tass, April 7, 11, 12; International Herald Tribune, April 7; Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 10, 13; Interfax-AVN (Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostei), April 13; Radio Mayak, April 12; China Daily, April 15; Krasnaya zvezda, April 14)
13. RUSSIAN PUNDITS SAY WORLD COMMUNITY DOES NOT HAVE LEVERAGE OVER IRAN
Eurasia Daily Monitor
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The Iranian leadership's announcement that Tehran has successfully enriched uranium prompted two types of reaction among Russia's analytic community. Most nuclear experts flatly dismiss Iran's overly triumphant claims, arguing that the country's specialists are pursuing routine research, that, if anything, the Islamic Republic is still years away from building an atomic weapon, and that there is basically no reason for worry. But a number of influential political analysts contend that, whatever the true significance of the Iranians' latest technological achievement, Tehran is hell-bent on obtaining a nuclear bomb and this process can hardly be stopped. Remarkably, the mixed signals coming from Russian savants leave the Kremlin foreign policy and security establishment in a kind of limbo: it would appear that, either way, Russia -- or the world community for that matter -- cannot do much about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Although the world's leading powers have expressed serious concern that Iran continues to advance its nuclear program in defiance of the United Nations' demands, Russia's nuclear physicists are unanimous in their skeptical assessment of the Iranian scientists' progress in thermonuclear fusion technologies. Most Russian experts hold that the Iranian media have exaggerated the level of sophistication of their country's nuclear technology, which, they contend, is fairly low-level. Academician and nuclear expert Yevgeny Velikhov, who heads the renowned Kurchatov Institute, bluntly described some of the Iranian claims as "fairy tales" that reveal the "full incompetence" of the authors.
Other Russian specialists, such as the deputy director of the Institute for Security of the Development of the Nuclear Energy Sector, Igor Linge, also believe that the Iran nuclear problem is overrated to a large extent. What Iranians had conducted, they contend, was just a "laboratory test." Enriching uranium on an industrial scale requires thousands of centrifuges -- not 164 that were involved in the Iranian experiment -- and "each has to be very special," Linge argues. Thus the material that the Iranian scientists obtained is only the raw product used for fuel in nuclear power stations. Nuclear warheads require not a 3.5% enrichment, but 80-90%, most Russian specialists note. In the opinion of Viktor Mikhailov, the head of the Strategic Stability Institute and Russia's former minister of the nuclear industry, Iran's latest move has nothing to do with a military program.
The experts' assessment has likely influenced a shift in the Kremlin's stance on Tehran's defiant behavior. Initially, Moscow joined the United States in censuring the Iranian leadership for its unwillingness to suspend uranium enrichment activities and come to terms with the requests of the international community. But while Washington urged the U.N. Security Council to take "strong steps" to preserve its credibility, Moscow has indicated that it is not ready to denounce Iran as a threat to international peace and security. "There is no reason for punitive measures yet," Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Andrei Denisov said in New York on April 12. "There is no evidence of noncompliance with the nonproliferation [treaty]."
There are a number of high-profile Russian commentators, however, who suggest there is a need to distinguish between the present-day status of Iran's nuclear program and the country's long-term strategic objectives. This group of analysts holds that the Iranian leadership is pursuing a very consistent and determined policy with the ultimate goal of turning the country into a regional nuclear superpower on par with Pakistan, India, or China. "It is a very normal, natural development and to expect anything different would be senseless," argues Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Moscow-based Middle East Institute.
Satanovsky and other like-minded experts believe that Iran, which aspires to become the undisputed leader of the Islamic world, sees nuclear status as an absolutely indispensable attribute needed to prop up its geopolitical aspirations. In a way, they say, joining the "nuclear club" has become a kind of Iranian national idea that the country's leaders are simply not going to renounce.
Ironically, some Russian political thinkers say, the current intractable situation was mainly created by Washington's stubborn attempts to isolate Iran's Islamists following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. But Iran is a proud and ancient nation that simply cannot put up with being geopolitically marginalized. The nuclear project, the argument goes, is perceived by Tehran as the surest way to break out of strategic isolation and return from the periphery to the international center stage. A nation that was repeatedly branded by the world's only superpower as pariah, a rogue state, and a member of the "axis of evil" simply did not have any other options to reassert itself, some Russian commentators suggest.
But the suggestion that the international community is dealing not so much with the mundane process of uranium enrichment -- a development that can be discussed -- as with the national idea -- which is non-negotiable -- implies that the world's powers do not have much leverage over Iran. Indeed, for a number of Russian observers, a realistic policy agenda should be less focused on attempts to stop Iranian nuclear program and more on promoting the non-aggression pact between Iran and Israel.
(Rossiiskaya gazeta, Izvestiya, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Kommersant, Novye izvestiya, RFE/RL April 13; Gazeta.ru, Strana.ru, April 12)
1. AIDS to be discussed at the G8 summit on Russia’s initiative - Putin
G8 2006 Summit Website
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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has called for drafting a long-term strategy of fighting AIDS and its consequences, and for organizing a clear-cut and objective monitoring of the AIDS epidemic.
“When drafting a program for the next five years, we should again incorporate into it actions to check the proliferation of HIV,” Putin said. He recalled that the five-year anti-HIV/AIDS subprogram would expire this year. Since its inauguration, the growth rate of HIV/AIDS went down from 88,000 in 2001 to 35,000 in 2005.
“Besides, this program has helped maintain groups of scientists who are searching for an effective protection against AIDS and new methods of treating AIDS,” the Russian president said.
Objective monitoring is another key aspect of the problem, he said.
“Today we need a monitoring system meeting the common international approaches,” Putin said. “We should create a comprehensive databank allowing us to realistically assess the causes of the disease and the effectiveness of medical, preventive and social measures. As a result, we will be able to take adequate steps against HIV.”
The Russian president said the world community was keeping this problem in the spotlight, and the issue of AIDS would be added to the agenda of the July G8 summit in St. Petersburg on the initiative of Russia.
2. G8 discusses establishing nuclear fuel cycle service centers
G8 2006 Summit Website
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The G8 is discussing in detail the Russian proposal to set up international centers for nuclear fuel cycle services, said Friday Rudiger Ludeking, deputy commissioner of the German federal government for arms control and disarmament.
He described the Russian proposal as “very interesting.” “The G8 is discussing it in detail, and we attach priority importance to it,” he said.
Ludeking emphasized that it is necessary to win international approval for this approach to the nuclear fuel cycle.
He mentioned that the G8 is actively working on a new approach to “the states, which are not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).”
“We need a new impetus for nuclear disarmament. We want the countries outside the NPT to join the Treaty and comply with the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” Ludeking said.
3. G8 to address non-proliferation – deputy foreign minister
G8 2006 Summit Website
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WMD non-proliferation will be "a priority topic at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak.
The Group of Eight is not a global government or a closed club, but it has a significant power and technical potential to control non-proliferation, he said.
"Earlier, all taken measures sought to limit or prohibit use of modern technologies," he said. "Nevertheless, many countries believe that there is a ban on development of peaceful nuclear technologies." "We have decided that the issue will be taken up at the summit from the positive angle," he added.
Creation of international centers to provide services in the nuclear fuel cycle will give countries access to peaceful nuclear technologies and this way contribute to their economic development," Kislyak said.
The summit will also discuss energy security, infectious diseases and access to education, he added.
4. Russian Interior Ministry to show G8 colleagues anti-terrorism center
G8 2006 Summit Website
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Russian Interior Ministry to show G8 colleagues anti-terrorism center
The Russian Interior Ministry intends to show its center for training experts in fighting terrorism and extremism to G8 law-enforcement officials.
"The Interior Ministry together with the Justice Ministry, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Foreign Ministry have prepared a draft agenda for the G8 meeting, which includes anti-terrorist protection of transport," said Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev at a meeting of the Council of CIS interior ministers in Dushanbe on Friday.
Apart from taking up the issue at the meeting, his ministry intends to show the guests the center for training anti-terrorist experts of the All-Russian Institute for Advanced Training of Interior Ministry Servicemen, as well as the Transport Security Training Center, he said.
The government appointed the ministry the leading organizer of the meeting of G8 interior and justice ministers and general prosecutors that will take place in Moscow on June 15-16, he said.
The minister proposed to hold a meeting of CIS interior ministers on anti-terrorist protection of transport in autumn.
He also proposed to hold another meeting of heads of the ministries' staff in late May in Kazan. "At the meeting, I propose considering the setup of a permanent working group to coordinate cooperation in personnel training and advanced training," Nurgaliyev said.
"At the primary stage, the group could monitor the situation in personnel training in the CIS, as well as offer advice on optimizing the process and find new priority forms and areas of cooperation in the sphere."
The minister also spoke in favor of setting up a scientific and technical council of CIS interior ministries in order to improve cooperation in the sphere.
"Each ministry has accumulated a certain positive scientific and technical potential and prospective developments of specialized equipment," he said.
"We believe it possible to unite efforts in the sphere to increase our potential," he added. He also emphasized that "we should not forget our scientists and teachers who promote the science of criminal law and carry out promising research in the area."
5. Aide Says Russia, US, Japan Have Close Position on Nuclear Power Engineering
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Russia, the United States, Japan and some other G-8 states have "very close positions" regarding the development of nuclear power engineering, Igor Shuvalov, an aide to the Russian president and a G-8 political director, or sherpa, told reporters here on Friday.
Shuvalov is on a visit to Tokyo within the framework of preparations for the G-8 summit in St.Petersburg on July 15-17.
Ensuring global energy security will be one of the main items on the summit agenda, Shuvalov said noting the initiative brought forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin had called for setting up international nuclear centers, to provide access to nuclear fuel for poor countries and at the same time resolve the non-proliferation problem.
"Some of our G-8 partners share such approaches. If we succeed, it may become a joint statement, but we have no reasons for it so far. Some G-8 states have a peculiar attitude to the development of nuclear power generation. Any special mentioning is unacceptable for these countries," the Russian sherpa said.
Commenting on his meetings on Friday, including with Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, and other members of the Japanese government, as well as representatives of the non-government organizations, Shuvalov said "Japan's positions on the development of nuclear cycle are very close to Russia's."
"U.S. initiatives are very similar" to Russia's proposals, and "coincide with them, for the most part."
"There is no rivalry here. If there's ground for it, these initiatives can be pooled. They are much needed," he underlined.
Nuclear centers may appear in different ways, Shuvalov went on to say. They may wholly belong to the state or function on the parity basis with other states, as well as on a commercial basis.
"We assume that international centers should be located in the states possessing a full cycle of nuclear technologies. There are several such states," Shuvalov said.
Russia's position is based on the assumption that the states that do not possess nuclear technologies should find it "commercially advantageous and attractive to participate in uranium enrichment and processing in the territory of nuclear states."
"The most important thing is to make sure that dangerous technologies don't go to third countries," he underlined.
As for Moscow's position, Shuvalov said Russia had already stated that "it would be boosting nuclear power generation and building a considerable number of new nuclear reactors."
2. The Invisible Missile Will Preserve Nuclear Parity
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Russia intends by the end of the year to have notified the United States of its readiness to effect a radical change in the possibilities of its nuclear forces, Yuriy Solomonov, general designer of the Moscow Thermal Engineering Institute (the MITT (Moscow Thermal Technology Institute) developed the Topol-M and Bulava strategic systems), announced. The practical updating of the ground- and sea-based cmponents of the strategic nuclear forces will have been completed by 2015-2020. Moscow will by this time have no fewer than 2,000 nuclear warheads. This statement may be considered Moscow's response to an article in the American Foreign Affairs journal. Its authors maintain here that the United States has attained a level of development of the strategic nuclear forces such that it may fearlessly launch a first disarming strike against Russia.
"We may say with confidence that we will have the upgraded grouping of strategic nuclear forces until 2040, even to 2045, most likely," Solomonov specified. "It will be based on the Topol-M standardized ground-based missile systems and missile systems of the sea-launched Bulava."
The speech of the general designer of the MITT may be considered sensational. It is the first time since the start of the altercation in the American and Russian news media over the growth of the United States' nuclear superiority to Russia that so competent an expect has spoken of the prospects of the development of Russia's nuclear shield. Washington's declassification of the performance characteristics and specifications of the latest Russian sea-launched Bulava ballistic missile was, possibly, the last straw. In accordance with bilateral accords, Moscow and Washington currently exchange plans of the development and modernization of strategic arms. For example, the parties know not only the total number of each other's nuclear warheads but also the coordinates of all missile silos on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition, the parties make information available on the performance characteristics and specifications of the nuclear delivery systems and also give notice of the possibilities of equipment that is in development. Inspectors from both sides are entitled 24 hours after prior notification to inspect strategic nuclear submarine bases or missile launch sites. This is done to enhance the parties' confidence in the sphere of development of nuclear arms and equipment. True, Yuriy Solomonov considers the disclosure of such information improper since this is in breach of the bilateral accords.
Russians have nothing to worry about, though. According to Solomonov, the development of the strategic nuclear forces is being funded by the state in full. In accordance with Moscow's plans, the ground- and sea-based component of the strategic nuclear forces will have been fully upgraded by 2015-2020. Nor should there be any concern that Moscow will trail Washington in terms of the number of nuclear warheads deployed on them. Russia is prepared to modernize its missiles and to install on the new Topol-Ms not one (as now) but three nuclear warheads. The sea-based Bulava will carry from 6 to 10 warheads.
"It is not a question of the quantity of warheads," Solomonov says. "It is a question of the quality of the armament."
For example, neither the current nor the prospective systems of national missile defense of the United States (Germany, France, and Japan are today developing their own missile-defense systems) have thus far seen the flight of the Topol-M. They will not, likewise, see the Bulava either. Systems of the active penetration of missile defenses are installed on both systems here.
"So Russia's strategic nuclear forces fielded at this time provide for assured protection in the event of a preventive nuclear attacked being mounted against the country," general designer Solomonov said in response to the American experts.
Performance characteristics and specifications of the Bulava ballistic missile
Number of stages: 3
Maximum diameter: 2 meters
Launch weight: 36.8 tons
Length of missile with reentry vehicle: 12.1 meters
1. Radioactive Military Cargo Seized on Ukraine-Polish Border
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Ukrainian border guards have seized a radioactive military cargo on the Polish border, the State Border Service's press service said on Thursday.
The press service said radiation from a Renault vehicle was detected with a special gadget. The van was carrying eleven TZK-11 zenith tubes, 700 artillery compasses, 51 periscopes, 43 azimuth compasses and 14 stereo telescopes.
A 40-year-old resident of the city of Drogobych in Ukraine's Lviv region was at the wheel. The vehicle was also carrying a 32-year-old resident of the Kyiv region. They had documents confirming the cargo's legality, including a sales contract, but they did not have an export authorization.
The ecological services detained the van and asked for the assistance of experts.
2. United States Helps Uzbekistan Secure Dangerous Nuclear Materials - Energy agency announces completion of secret uranium transfer back to Russia
U.S. Department of State/Bureau of International Information Programs
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Four secret transfers of 63 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from a research laboratory in Uzbekistan to a secure Russian reprocessing facility were completed April 19 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
“These shipments of highly enriched uranium spent fuel are part of NNSA’s efforts to make sure this type of material doesn't fall into the wrong hands,” NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks said in an April 20 press release.
The transfer -- part of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), a nonproliferation effort that secures high-risk nuclear and radiological materials and equipment around the world -- resulted from a cooperative effort by the United States, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as coordination through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (See related article.)
"It was only with the cooperation of Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan and the IAEA that we were able to successfully complete this important international nonproliferation mission," Brooks said.
Previously, eight successful shipments to return Russian-origin highly enriched uranium were conducted under NNSA's GTRI program. To date, approximately 186 kilograms of highly enriched uranium have been sent back to Russia from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Uzbekistan. (See related article.)
If stolen and enriched to 90 percent purity, this material could have been used in a nuclear device or as part of a “dirty bomb” that could spread dangerous radiological material.
For more information, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Following is the NNSA press release:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY National Nuclear Security Administration April 20, 2006 For Immediate Release
Secret Mission to Remove Highly Enriched Uranium Spent Nuclear Fuel from Uzbekistan Successfully Completed
Four Shipments Have Been Sent to a Secure Facility in Russia
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today that 63 kilograms (139 pounds) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in spent nuclear fuel were safely and securely returned to Russia from Uzbekistan.
Four secret shipments under NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) program have been conducted jointly by the United States, the Russian Federation, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The fourth and final shipment of the material, which could be used in a nuclear device or as part of a "dirty bomb," was completed yesterday. Most of the HEU spent fuel was enriched to 90 percent.
The shipments are part of a prioritized, accelerated schedule implementing a key element of a 2005 agreement between President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"These shipments of highly enriched uranium spent fuel are part of NNSA's efforts to make sure this type of material doesn't fall into the wrong hands. We will continue working hard with the international community to reduce stockpiles of high-risk, vulnerable material worldwide," NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks said. "It was only with the cooperation of Uzbekistan, Russia, Kazakhstan and the IAEA that we were able to successfully complete this important international nonproliferation mission."
Beginning in January, the shipments of HEU spent fuel from Uzbekistan have taken place under tight security. During each of the shipments, HEU spent fuel was packaged into Russian TK-19 spent fuel transportation casks and then trucked under guard from the Uzbekistan Institute of Nuclear Physics to a railroad station near the capital city Tashkent. At the railroad station, the secure casks were loaded into special railroad cars and shipped through Kazakhstan to a secure Russian facility near Chelyabinsk where the spent fuel will be reprocessed over the next several years.
Uzbekistan is the first country from which Russian-origin HEU spent fuel has been returned to Russia under the 2005 Presidential Joint Statement between Presidents Bush and Putin agreed to in Bratislava, Slovakia. The agreement helped enhance and accelerate nuclear site and material security work between the U.S. and Russia. A prioritized schedule was developed for the completion of all shipments of Russian-origin fresh and spent fuel currently stored outside of research reactor cores by 2006 and 2010 respectively.
Previously, eight successful shipments to return Russian-origin highly enriched uranium fresh fuel were conducted under NNSA's GTRI program. To date, approximately 186 kilograms (410 pounds) of HEU have been repatriated to Russia from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Uzbekistan.
The four shipments of HEU spent fuel from Uzbekistan have been conducted in the last four months as follows: 9.5 kilograms (64 assemblies) in January, 12.6 kilograms (64 assemblies) in February, 14.8 kilograms (64 assemblies) in March, and 25.6 kilograms (60 assemblies) in April.
The HEU, originally supplied to Uzbekistan by the Soviet Union, was used as fuel for the WWR-SM research reactor of the Institute of Nuclear Physics. Because the material was cooling for a long period of time it no longer emitted an immediate lethal dose of radiation as other spent fuel does, making it easier to handle and therefore vulnerable to theft or diversion.
The mission of GTRI is to identify, secure, recover and/or facilitate the final disposition of high-risk vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world as quickly as possible.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
1. Russian Environmentalists Protest Sverdlovsk Region Nuclear Waste Deliveries
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The Ekozaschita ecological group has appealed to the prosecutor's office of the Sverdlovsk region demanding it end deliveries of nuclear waste from abroad to the region.
Nuclear waste will soon be delivered to St. Petersburg from Germany and later delivered by train to Novouralsk in the Sverdlovsk region, an Ekozaschita statement published on Thursday says.
"A train carrying nuclear waste left Gronau (Germany) for Rotterdam yesterday at 7 p.m. European time. Today, some 1,000 tonnes of nuclear waste are being loaded in the port of Rotterdam to be delivered to Russia," the statement says.
The route of a train carrying nuclear waste will go near St. Petersburg, Vologda, Kirov and Perm, environmentalists said.
One German enterprise in Gronau has delivered no less than 20,000 tonnes of nuclear waste to Russia since 1996, Ekozaschita said. Nuclear waste from Europe is enriched at Russian enterprises, and as a result some 10% of nuclear waste delivered is enriched up to the level of natural uranium, the other 90% is stored in Russia.
2. New Chernobyl casing to be built by 2010 - Yushchenko
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The construction of a new sarcophagus above the Chernobyl reactor that blew up in 1986 will be completed in 2010, the Ukrainian president said Wednesday.
"Construction of a new sarcophagus as part of international aid will be fully completed in 2010 if the results of an open tender to implement this project are summed up in time," Viktor Yushchenko said at a conference.
He also said national and global health and rehabilitation programs should be drafted.
Yushchenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the condition of the nuclear power plant and rehabilitation possibilities for disaster survivors in a telephone conversation, the Ukrainian presidential press service said.
The explosion at the Chernobyl NPP in April 1986 spewed radioactive clouds not only across Western parts of the Soviet Union, but also some countries in northern and Western Europe.
About 135,000 people were evacuated from within an 18-mile zone, which has left the surrounding area looking like a ghost town to this day. Many people, however, stayed or have returned to live there, although radiation is still leaking from the site.
The catastrophe caused enormous economic damage to the former Soviet Union, and claimed the lives of many local people and clean-up workers.
1. Progress on NZ/Russia relations from Moscow visit
Scoop - New Zealand News
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Progress on NZ/Russia relations from Moscow visit Foreign Minister Winston Peters has hailed the outcome of his talks in Moscow today as indicating willingness by both New Zealand and Russia to give impetus to the bilateral relationship, and co-operate more closely on Asia-Pacific regional, and international issues.
“We were warmly received by my Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. We continued the excellent dialogue initiated at our meeting at APEC last year.
Mr Lavrov provided a candid assessment of the state of play on international issues in which Russia is closely involved, such as Iran, the Korea Peninsula, and the Middle East.
“In light of the response to the current disturbances in the Solomon Islands, Mr Lavrov commended New Zealand’s engagement in addressing security and development challenges in the Pacific. He is well aware from his time as Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations of New Zealand’s commitment to multilateralism, and expressed appreciation for New Zealand’s substantial contributions to international efforts in parts of the world distant from New Zealand’s immediate neighbourhood, such as Afghanistan, and Russia, where New Zealand is supporting the G8 programme to destroy stocks of chemical weapons,” Mr Peters said.
Following on from visits to Pacific island countries in the first part of this year, the visit to Russia is one of the first dedicated bilateral visits Mr Peters has undertaken since his appointment as Foreign Minister.
“We need to acknowledge Russia’s continuing importance in world affairs. It was clear from the discussions today that there is interest on both sides in building up bilateral links, including consultation on foreign policy, and looking at ways of simplifying travel arrangements between New Zealand and Russia, to boost business and people to people contacts”, Mr Peters said.
Mr Peters travels on from Moscow to Kyiv, where he will make the first visit by a New Zealand Foreign Minister to Ukraine.
The startup of the facility in Kambarka symbolized technical progress and the close ties between Germany and Russia in the attainment of one of the main objectives of the current era: the deliverance of humankind from the threat of the use of weapons of mass destruction.
It seems such a short time ago that representatives of Germany and Russia came to Kambarka in June 2004 to lay the cornerstone marking the start of our common efforts. It hardly seemed possible at that time that the two nations would be able to design and build an extremely complex industrial enterprise so quickly. Less than two years later, however, we saw remarkable production and administration buildings in place of the earlier forest, and we saw state-of-the-art technology for the destruction of chemical weapons.
I personally do not see this as a miracle or a set of lucky circumstances. I see the result of intense and purposeful work by Russian and German specialists, who were able to make the best possible use of the experience accumulated during the construction of the first chemical weapons destruction facility in Gornyy.
The joint efforts were not always easy, and things did not always go smoothly. There were some acute conflicts and fierce arguments. They always ended in the coordination of what seemed to be vastly different approaches to the same problem, however. We learned to take our personality traits into account as well as our personal experience, and we learned to compromise. In this context, I have to commend the work of the interpreters who helped us find a truly common language.
On behalf of the FRG Government, I want to say that Germany will continue supporting Russia in its efforts to destroy all of its chemical weapons. Our proposals with regard to cooperation in the construction of the new chemical weapons destruction facility in Leonidovka are currently being drafted. We are hoping that the proposals will be acceptable to the Russian side and that our productive cooperation will continue. I would also like to urge all of Russia's international partners in the destruction of chemical weapons not to slacken their efforts. There is still so much work to be done. Only the intensification of our common efforts will enable us to attain the main objective: the complete destruction of all of the chemical warfare agents stored in Russia by 2012.
Russia’s-Kyrgyzstan turnover will step up to $1 billion with Russia investing a lot in power engineering, transport and resort estate of Kyrgyzstan, Sergey Kirienko, co-chairman of the countries’ intergovernmental commission for trade and research cooperation, vowed during his recent tour to Bishkek.
Head of Russia’s Atomic Energy Agency Sergey Kirienko visited Bishkek as a co-chairman of Russia’s and Kyrgyz commission for cooperation in trade, economy, science and research. In Kyrgyzstan, Kirienko told President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Prime Minister Felix Kulov about Moscow’s intention to attain $1 billion turnover of Russia and Kyrgyzstan in the near future and attributed his promise to accelerating sales of the two countries - 2005 turnover increased to $527 million vs. a bit over $400 million posted in 2004.
It looks like Russia doesn’t object to propelling cooperation with Kyrgyzstan after the change of the leadership there. Kirienko said the cooperation will be based on the power engineering, first of all on the hydropower engineering. “Construction of a power plants chain in the Naryn-river may attract investments of billions to Kyrgyzstan. New facilities will enable not only to meet the own requirements but also to export electrical power to Pakistan and Iran,” Russia’s official told Kyrgyz President Bakiev during his tour to Bishkek.
Kurmanbek Bakiev is expected in Moscow next week. His best card is the absence of agreement with Ukraine concerning the entry into the World Trading Organization (WTO). The prime concern is raising funds. Now the money could be funneled only by companies of Russia and Kazakhstan, and Russia is scored the first in the foreign turnover of Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, Russia is said to host more than half a million guest workers from Kyrgyzstan, i.e. nearly 20 percent of its working population. The migrants annually send over $200 million to the country, said Kyrgyz PM Felix Kulov. This amount could be compared to a half of 2006 budget of Kyrgyzstan.
2. Gazprom unlikely to gain from nuclear energy soon
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Gazprom's investment in Russia's nuclear assets may only benefit the gas concern in the long term, analysts told RBC commenting on Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller's statement that the company was considering the nuclear energy sector as a prospective sphere of interest.
If the nuclear energy sector is denationalized, Gazprom will invest funds in this sphere, an analyst believes. However, it would be a forced decision as if the gas holding were a private company, it would only benefit from the nuclear industry in the long-term outlook. It is, of course, cheaper to produce nuclear energy than to generate gas, but the payback time of new projects is rather long, as the nation presently lacks atomic facilities, which would need to built, and at a great cost. Meanwhile, Gazprom can alternatively invest funds in building export pipelines, developing gas fields instead, the analyst believes.
3. Russia after uranium deal with Kyrgyzstan - Kiriyenko
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Russian and Kyrgyz experts will examine collaboration options between Russian companies and a uranium-processing facility in Kyrgyzstan, Russia's top nuclear energy official said Thursday.
Sergei Kiriyenko, who heads the Russian Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said cooperation between Russian firm and the Kyrgyz Kara-Baltinsky Mining Combine should be economically effective if it is to be long-term.
An earlier plan to restore the Kyrgyz uranium processing facility had included Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, he said.
Under the plan, uranium ore was to be processed at the large Zarechny deposit in Southern Kazakhstan and then reprocessed at the Kara-Baltinsky Mining Combine in Kyrgyzstan before being shipped to Russia.
Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Kara-Baltinsky combine, a leading uranium concentrate producer in the Soviet era with capacity of up to 2,000 tons of uranium ore a year, has been sitting idle. During the Soviet era, Kyrgyzstan had substantial uranium production facilities, which were subsequently mothballed.
Most of the nuclear power infrastructure of the former Ministry of Medium Machine Building - the ministry that handled the Soviet nuclear program - fell to Russian hands after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but some facilities are located in other former Soviet states. Uranium is mined in Kazakhstan, while Ukraine produces turbines.
4. Russia, Kyrgyzstan To Mull Uranium Plant Cooperation
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Russia and Kyrgyzstan intend to look at the possibility for cooperation between Russian enterprises and Kyrgyzstan's Kara-Balta Mining Plant, a major Soviet-era uranium- processing enterprise, Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russian atomic energy agency Rosatom, said in Bishkek.
"We agreed that experts would analyze the prospects and possibility of cooperation," Kiriyenko said after a meeting with Kyrgyz Prime Minister Felix Kulov.
Kiriyenko is the co-chairman of the Russian part of the Russian- Kyrgyz intergovernmental commission for trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation.
A decision on cooperation must in any way be "economically effective" for Russia and Kyrgyzstan, Kiriyenko said, noting that a trilateral project on cooperation in the nuclear sector existed earlier between Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
5. Experts See Growing Role For Atomic Power In Russia
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The role of atomic energy in the provision of stable electricity supplies in Russia will steadily increase, the head of Rosatom's (Federal Agency for Atomic Energy) atomic power directorate, Valeriy Rachkov, said today. "The outlook for the development of nuclear power in Russia is optimistic. In 2005 Russia's 10 nuclear power stations generated 952bn kWh of electricity, compared with 930bn kWh in 2004," he said. "The role of nuclear power stations in the provision of stable electricity supplies in this country will constantly increase," Rachkov stressed at an international scientific-technical conference entitled "Safety, effectiveness and economics of nuclear power".
He said that by 2025 Russia's nuclear power stations should be producing 23 per cent of all electricity. To this end, between two and four gigawatts of nuclear capacity needs to be commissioned annually. "We must move towards reducing reliance on gas in energy production," Rachkov added.
The vice-president of the Russian scientific centre, the Kurchatov Institute, Nikolay Ponomarev-Stepnoy, said "the development of nuclear power will make it possible to ease supply difficulties in markets for organic fuels". In order to resolve the supply problem, we need an approximately fivefold increase in nuclear capacity by the middle of the century (to 2,000 GW)," he said, adding that "by the end of the century capacity has to be increased to 5,000 GW".
"Without an increase in nuclear's contribution to the national energy balance, we are unlikely to be able to meet our export commitments for the supply of gas and oil in full," he concluded.
6. Russia aims for 25% of global nuclear fuel services market
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Russia aims to garner a quarter of the global market for the supply of nuclear fuel cycle services, a Russian nuclear services export company said Wednesday.
Alexei Grigoryev, a first deputy director general of Techsnabexport, Russia's state-controlled uranium supplier and provider of uranium enrichment services, said the country intended in particular to expand in the Asia-Pacific region.
Grigoryev said: "We are continuing to develop our relations with Japan. We held recently a number of working meetings, from which we hope that in 2006-2007 the portfolio of Russian orders in Japan receive a boost, both in terms of the quality of nuclear fuel cycle services, and in terms of their quantity. We now have 10% of the Japanese market, and our future goal, by the end of the decade, is to take 20-30% of Japan's nuclear energy market. In monetary terms this implies tens of millions of dollars per year."
Bulgaria and Gazprombank, a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, are discussing the bank's possible contribution to the share capital of a nuclear power plant to be built in the Balkan state, its economy and energy minister said Tuesday.
Bulgaria, which has no oil or gas reserves, wants to build its second nuclear power plant in Belene, 250 kilometers (over 150 miles) from Sofia, the capital. The project was developed in coordination with Soviet specialists until the Bulgarian authorities halted the project in 1992.
Economy and Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov said, "We want the state to hold a 50% stake in the Belene NPP, while the remaining shares will be offered to investors. We are in talks with Russian and European companies, among them Gazprombank, on their participation in the NPP's share capital."
Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly Atomstroiexport is bidding for the project, as well as Czech company Skoda.
Atomstroiexport is involved in several other projects, including the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr, Iran, building an NPP in Taiwan, and building and modernizing NPPs in India, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.
Ovcharov also said Bulgaria was in talks with Russian electricity monopoly Unified Energy System on cooperation in the power sector.
"We discussed possible avenues of cooperation with UES two months ago, but did not mention the Belene project," the minister said, adding that he did not see why the Russian company should not become involved in the construction and subsequent maintenance of the power plant.
Divisions of Federal Atomic Energy Agency set to negotiating acquisition of stocks of Power Machines, United Heavy Machinery and Podolsk Engineering Works to contribute them into a new holding, Atomenergomash, which could be taken over by TVEL Vice President Kirill Komarov. Another pretender is Tekhsnabexport, which is subordinate to Federal Atomic Energy Agency and which is buying engineering assets now. The conflict of two companies may materially slow down all progress in the project. The final decision is expected to be made till late April, before the meeting at Russia’s PM Mikhail Fradkov.
Federal Atomic Energy Agency is making out a new project to consolidate assets in profile engineering, a source at the Agency said on condition of anonymity. The matter at stake is creating Atomenergomash to be taken over by TVEL Vice President Kirill Komarov. Komarov was attracted to Federal Atomic Energy Agency by its CEO Sergey Kirienko to advise on atomic reforms and became one of top managers at TVEL.
Atomenergomash founder could be either TVEL or Tekhsnabexport. Both companies are going through the purchase of stocks of Power Machines, United Heavy Machinery and/or of their separate divisions and of Podolsk Engineering Works.
As to Power Machines, the first rumors that Interros is negotiating disposal of its 30.4 percent in the company (the stocks are managed by another holder, RAO UES of Russia, till the fall of 2007) emerged in late February. Interros denied the data but one of the former top managers of Power Machines hinted the company will soon have new owners.
9. Russia: Ministry Drafts Bill on Foreigners' Access To Strategic Industries
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The Industry and Energy Ministry will submit to the government a bill on the access of foreigners to Russian strategic industries this April, said deputy minister Ivan Materov.
The bill has been coordinated with other departments, and nearly all differences between the Industry and Energy Ministry and the Economic Development and Trade Ministry have been settled, Materov said.
He thinks that the government may consider the bill in May and submit it to the State Duma during the spring session, Prime Tass said.
The bill is based on legal practices of developed countries, including the United States, whose laws do not fully define formalities in foreign investors' access to strategic industries, he said.
The government will consider foreign appeals for the acquisition of stock of strategic companies, and no special agency will be formed, Materov said. Foreign investors will file their appeals with ministries, the ministries will draft decisions, and the government will approve them, he said.
1. Scientist says it's unproven, development needs more time
Pahrump Valley Times
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The Bush administration's ambitious plans to reprocess nuclear waste may be tied in part to dissatisfaction over the lagging repository project at Yucca Mountain, a leading scientist and former Energy Department executive said Wednesday.
The administration is moving too fast to develop unproven technology through its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP, said Ernest J. Moniz, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"Right or wrong, the program being discussed has created an impression of being hell-bent to reprocess current spent fuel, perhaps created by Yucca frustration," Moniz said in a presentation to a National Academies of Science panel.
Moniz, who was an energy undersecretary during the Clinton administration, said DOE risks getting locked into a course and GNEP could prove to be a wasteful "white elephant."
"Let's take at least 10 years to develop a robust laboratory-scale research program and in time we will decide what makes sense," he said. "There is no guarantee that a cycle of this kind will ever pass muster."
In a rebuttal, Vic Reis, a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, dismissed the idea that Yucca Mountain was a factor in propelling GNEP.
"This isn't just about fixing Yucca Mountain," said Reis, who also served in the Clinton administration. "We have to do that anyway." The proposed used fuel repository is about eight years behind schedule and faces possible legal and licensing obstacles ahead.
Rather, Reis said, the administration wants to seize an opportunity to partner with other nations that have needs for nuclear fuel and waste disposal and that share U.S. concerns about the spread of nuclear material that could be used to make bombs.
"This is not going to be an easy task," Reis said. "If we are just going to go after this in a business-as-usual, let's-do-research-and-development sense, I don't think we will get there."
Moniz, Reis and DOE adviser Burt Richter, a Nobel Prize laureate and physics professor at Stanford University, delivered GNEP presentations to the academies' nuclear and radiation studies board.
Their interplay illustrated the debate raging this spring among scientists, policy members, interest groups and members of Congress over nuclear fuel reprocessing.
The House and Senate are expected to vote later this year whether to spend at least $250 million the Department of Energy has requested as a down payment on the GNEP effort.
The Department of Energy wants to have test fuel cycle facilities and advanced nuclear reactor pilot plants online by 2017, at a cost of about $13 billion. Further development could cost billions more.
GNEP envisions developing fuel-recycling technology called Urex-Plus in partnership with France, Japan, Russia, China and the United Kingdom.
As far as disposal, Bush officials have advertised that reprocessing could shrink volumes of spent fuel and reduce its radio-toxicity to where Yucca Mountain easily could accommodate waste that would be generated by new nuclear plants that industry hopes to build.
Richter said the United States needs to revive its nuclear waste reprocessing efforts and GNEP is a very good start.
"One of the things it is very important for critics to recognize is that the United States is no longer the big gorilla that controls what happens in the nuclear energy business," Richter said.
"I don't consider it to be an economic catastrophe for us to spend a few billion dollars to rebuild a totally decayed nuclear infrastructure in the United States," he said.
1. Hail To Arms! USA Facilitating Proliferation of Military Nuclear Technologies
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An analysis of events of the past 5 years shows that the United States has withdrawn from an entire series of agreements on control of nuclear weapons, concluded even since the time of the Dwight Eisenhower Administration.
The recently concluded nuclear agreement of Washington with India is yet another step toward pushing the world toward the proliferation of nuclear arms. Knowing of the nuclear aspirations of Indian leaders for the past three decades, the former presidents of the USA and their administrations implemented a consistent policy in regard to that country. It consisted of the following: Not to sell civilian nuclear technologies and uncontrolled nuclear fuel to those countries, which refuse to sign the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Now, Washington is practically jubilant in announcing India's plans to buy eight nuclear reactors by 2012, as well as the fact that American companies may receive two of the contracts for their delivery out of the total number. Perhaps India is a specific case. However, prudent restraint demands that New Delhi assume the responsibility of stopping the increase in stockpiles of components for a nuclear bomb. The USA, for example, could ask India to limit itself to such an amount of fissionable materials, which would be sufficient for 50 units of nuclear weapons a year (this is much more than India has at the present time). However, nothing of the sort has been done. There have also been no demands to the effect that India must join with the other nuclear powers in signing the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.
At the present time, no efforts are being noted for a guaranteed reduction of nuclear arms, despite the fact that their number throughout the world comprises over 30,000 units. Of this overall number, the USA and Russia have approximately 15,000 units each, China has 400, France has 350, Israel has 200, Great Britain has 185, and India and Pakistan have 40 units each. And North Korea has sufficient enriched nuclear fuel to produce approximately 10 nuclear warheads. In other words, a global nuclear catastrophe today is just as realistic, as it was during the times of the Cold War. Furthermore, factors facilitating the desire of an entire series of countries to obtain at least a minimal nuclear arsenal still persist. For example, the uncontrolled situation with Israeli nuclear arms, which still remains under the veil of secrecy, prompts the leaders of neighboring countries, including Iran, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt to actions for obtaining such weapons, or for attaining the corresponding status, or for their possible application.
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