1. U.S., RUSSIA SLATED TO KICK OFF WIDE-RANGING SECURITY TALKS NEXT MONTH
Inside Missile Defense
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Senior U.S. and Russian officials are scheduled to kick off a series of formal meetings next month to discuss a broad range of bilateral security issues, including possible follow-on arrangements to the landmark START I Treaty, according to government sources from both countries.
Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak are expected to meet in Washington in mid-September for the first round of talks, sister publication Inside the Pentagon has learned.
Items on the agenda include nonproliferation and strategic arms control, as well as counterterrorism and military space policy, a senior Bush administration official told ITP Aug. 14 on condition of not being named.
A crucial part of the discussions will be the future of the START Treaty, sources from both countries say. The agreement is scheduled to expire in 2009.
The former Soviet Union and the United States signed the START pact in 1991 after almost a decade of negotiations. The follow-on "Lisbon Protocol," in 1992, made nuclear-armed Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan party to the treaty after the Soviet Union disintegrated. All member countries ratified the text in 1994.
The START Treaty required the United States and Soviet Union to reduce their respective arsenals of so-called "accountable" nuclear warheads to 6,000 and their deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles and heavy bombers to 1,600 combined for each party. All five parties completed the required reductions by a December 2001 implementation deadline.
With three years remaining before the treaty expires, neither Moscow nor Washington simply wants to extend the existing agreement, according to the senior Bush administration official. "Both sides are saying, 'Let's look at this in a new way. Let's see what parts -- if any -- of the START Treaty have retained their value and importance and benefit to us, and let's start talking from there,'" the source said.
On June 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his interest in negotiating a START I replacement with the United States.
Putin told Russian Foreign Ministry officials in Moscow he is "disturbed by the practical stagnation in the domain of disarmament," the Russian news agency Tass reported shortly thereafter. The president also indicated his country's willingness to explore arms control initiatives beyond a START follow-on.
In any negotiations, U.S. officials are "very interested" in retaining START's comprehensive verification and monitoring procedures for application in possible future arms control arrangements with Russia, the U.S. official told ITP.
START verification procedures are used to implement the 2002 Moscow Treaty, in which the United States and Russia pledged to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 each by 2012. The Moscow Treaty itself, which expires in 2012, does not spell out verification procedures.
A few weeks after signing the Moscow Treaty, the United States withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, with Bush administration officials arguing it offered few if any benefits in the post-Cold War world and impeded American missile defense efforts. Shortly thereafter, Putin said Russia would no longer be bound by its signature to the START II Treaty, which the United States and Russia endorsed in 1993.
The Moscow Treaty commits both countries to deeper cuts than would have been imposed by START II.
Looking ahead to next month's arms control discussions, the senior Bush administration official said some of the START I verification processes need improvement.
For example, "we have had trouble with re-entry vehicle on-site inspection from the Russian side since the beginning of the treaty," the source said.
The upcoming "Joseph-Kislyak talks" will go beyond START to include "larger issues" in the security relations between the former enemies, according to the official.
"The question will be trying to get an understanding of where each country is coming from in terms of their strategic forces -- in terms of how we see these," the official said. "Are there transparency measures that would be useful to continue to build confidence?"
The official said the talks will likely not result in new agreements similar in scope to the START Treaty.
"I don't think anyone has an appetite for those big, giant documents that try to script every single element of strategic forces," the official said. "That's sort of a thing of the past, I hope."
Bush administration officials have said repeatedly that with Russia now emerging as a U.S. partner, those kinds of comprehensive arms control agreements are no longer necessary.
But critics of that position find merit in agreements that include a raft of rigid verification requirements. They ensure commitment to the cause, the critics argue, and they are crucial for making the arms reduction work transparent for both sides.
With stringent verification measures in place, the U.S. intelligence community could spend less time monitoring the Russian reductions to make sure they are being carried out, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, said last week.
In the upcoming talks, U.S. officials want to address the entire gamut of nuclear weapons both countries possess -- strategic and tactical, the senior U.S. official said.
"We want to look at where the two countries are going in terms of their nuclear doctrine, and their nuclear programs and their programs that affect one another," the source said. "Not necessarily in a threatening way, but so we can understand and in what directions we are each going."
A Russian official this week said at some point during the talks, his country likely will seek further reductions in the two countries' strategic arsenals that go beyond the levels prescribed in the START and Moscow treaties.
Asked whether U.S. officials will push for a further reduction, the senior U.S. official said, "That's just not clear to me. I think we must first see how countries see these types of systems, what the trends and directions are at this point. And we'll have to sort that out later."
Russian officials, for their part, likely will not want to talk about a reduction for Moscow's arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons -- considered the least regulated type in the two countries' stockpiles, according to arms control experts. The Russian official told ITP his country does not want to discuss the issue as long as the United States has nuclear weapons deployed in Europe.
European NATO countries host over 400 U.S. nuclear warheads, according to an estimate the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council published in a February 2005 report.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has said he backs keeping U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. "This alliance [NATO] is about solidarity, and that solidarity includes very much those incredibly and immensely diminished stockpiles of nuclear weapons in Europe," he said at a June 2, 2005, breakfast with reporters in Washington.
In the area of space policy, the upcoming Joseph-Kislyak talks could be a forum to solve a key point of contention between the two countries, according to the Russian source.
Moscow has been pushing for an international regime to advance more "transparency" in the deployment of space-based weapons, but U.S. officials want to regulate such matters in bilateral agreements, the source said.
U.S. officials, for their part, could seek more information on the Russian missile defense system set up to protect Moscow from enemy missiles, according to the senior Bush administration official.
"You often hear people talk about: 'Well, if the U.S. deploys missile defense, the Russians will be upset,'" the official said. "They're the ones with an active anti-ballistic missile site. OK, let's talk about it."
The upcoming Russian-U.S. talks will feed into a joint report, due to Putin and President Bush by the end of the year, according to officials from both countries.
"We're not just going to be in talking mode," said the senior U.S. official. "We're going to be in listening mode, as well."
2. Rumsfeld urges Russia to join U.S. plan to convert some nuclear weapons to conventional role
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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made his strongest public case Sunday for a plan, opposed by some in Congress and by Russia, to convert some Navy long-range missiles from a nuclear to a conventional role for potential use against terrorist targets anywhere in the world.
Opponents of the plan argue that it could create a situation in which a conventionally armed U.S. Trident missile, launched from a submarine, would be mistaken for a nuclear launch, thus risking the possibility of a retaliatory nuclear strike.
Rumsfeld said he thought little of that argument. He said the Pentagon would be "fully transparent" with Moscow about any such conversion of strategic missiles, so that there was no room for miscalculation.
"There are only a few countries that would have the ability to do anything about it regardless of which type of weapon it was," he said, alluding to the small number of countries, such as Russia, China and possibly North Korea, which possess nuclear missiles capable of reaching U.S. territory.
Besides, he added, "everyone in the world would know" that the U.S. missile was not nuclear "after it hit within 30 minutes" of launch.
"Or 10 minutes," interjected Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defense minister who discussed the subject at a joint news conference with Rumsfeld. The two held talks at a Fairbanks lodge, had lunch together and then attended a ceremony dedicating a memorial to U.S.-Soviet military cooperation during World War II.
By noting that a long-range missile might hit its target in as little as 10 minutes from launch, Ivanov appeared to be emphasizing the short time frame in which a decision on retaliating would have to be made.
At an otherwise harmonious news conference, Rumsfeld explained the Bush administration's rationale for the plan to put conventional warheads on some Trident missiles aboard submarines, and he said Moscow should embrace the idea for its own good.
"It would be a good thing if, five, 10 or 15 years from now both of our countries had that additional weapon available in case it might be needed in an unusual circumstance," Rumsfeld said in response to a question from a Russian reporter who asked him to comment on reports about the conversion plan.
"We would be happy to see the Russian government decide to do the same thing," he said. Later he said, "I hope my friend Sergei takes that home and discusses it and calls me up on the phone and says he thinks that's a terrific idea."
Ivanov, however, made clear that his government opposes the plan.
"I would like to stress this point: these are preliminary plans, and for sure these U.S. plans raise Russian concerns," Ivanov said.
The Russian defense chief said he understands that Rumsfeld sees this prospective weapon as a way of maximizing U.S. options for "preventive strikes," meaning attacks against terrorist targets that are launched not in response to a terrorist act but in order to destroy a terrorist weapon before it can be used.
"There are different solutions" to that problem, Ivanov said. He mentioned the use of cruise missiles, which traditionally carry conventional warheads and would not be mistaken for a possible nuclear strike.
Ivanov said his government was willing to discuss the matter with U.S. officials.
The two defense chiefs also discussed Russia's objections to economic sanctions imposed earlier this month by the State Department on two Russian arms companies for their dealings with Iran. The companies Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi were among seven companies Washington said violated a U.S. law known as the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. The law is aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction to Tehran.
Rumsfeld said Moscow and Washington disagree over the facts in the case and that he agreed to have the matter reconsidered.
3. WHY WOULD THE U.S. CLASSIFY INFORMATION ON ITS COLD WAR NUCLEAR ARSENALS?
Defense and Security
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The Bush Administration is classifying data on US arsenals of Cold War vintage nuclear missiles - the data the United States used to share with the Soviet Union. Nowadays, the Department of Defense and Department of Energy are told to consider the number of old strategic missiles - Minuteman, Titan II, and others - as classified information. Why bother? Here are some blitz interviews with Russian experts.
Major-General Vladimir Belous, International Security Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences: It beats me - after everything that was published on the subject of US strategic arms throughout the world and particularly in Russia. START 1 (1991) gives a thorough account of the articles, warheads, their power, and so on. The 700-page document even gives exact coordinates of every missile...
Question: But there were other accords as well, more recent ones. The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, for example - which some call a gentlemen's agreement because it does not commit its signatories to anything.
Vladimir Belous: This is the shortest treaty in history - only two pages. The document was drafted with only one purpose in mind. It was supposed to limit warheads in every signatory's arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200. Structure and composition of strategic nuclear arms are left to every signatory's own discretion. This is precisely where the United States is permitted to withhold some information from Moscow. And we from the United States, of course. The START 1 will expire in 2009, and the control system it stipulates will go with it.
Question: Could this obsession with secrecy be explained by the new trends in the US nuclear potential? Say, by the plans to make nuclear mini-devices?
Vladimir Belous: There are lots of reports on it and on deep-penetration munitions. It is common knowledge, for example, that the Americans are trying to "teach" their B-61 bombs to penetrate the ground before exploding. And the upgraded B-61-10s too, for that matter.
Well, we know that the United States is reducing the number of warheads nowadays. Each of their five hundred Minuteman III missiles carries three warheads only.
The United States removed 500 warheads from fifty MX missiles last September. These warhead may be easily fitted to Minuteman III missiles. However, removal of MX missiles from the line does not mean their dismantlement. Their stages are stored. Infrastructure, combat control and command chains, transport means - all this is carefully preserved. The MXs themselves may be put back in service yet. All this proves that the Americans are making operational reserves. Measures are being taken to make the Nevada testing site ready for tests as soon as possible. These preparations were supposed to take two years at first. The Americans then started talking in terms of 18 months. These days, they hope that they will do everything inside a year. National laboratories are to be ready by then... Everything began in 2002 when new approaches to nuclear strategy were worked out.
Question: These Minuteman missiles you've mentioned. Their service lifespan was recently extended to 2015-20.
Vladimir Belous: Yes, funding was secured to upgrade these missiles and make them safer, more reliable and effective. Who knows, may be that is why the Americans are classifying data now. Russia does not publish details of how it upgrades its missiles either, you know.
Major-General Alexander Vladimirov, Vice President of the Military Expert Bar: Write it up to the war on terrorism now under way. The Americans have their warheads stored somewhere, and these storage facilities are potential targets for terrorists. So the Americans cannot reveal the locations of these facilities.
Secondly, the Americans may be trying to confuse foreign intelligence services and experts with regard to the movement of nuclear missile units and delivery means they have initiated. And with regard to construction of new objects, that is. Besides, the American doctrines dictate a transition from mono- to multiblocks.
I do not even rule out the possibility that the United States has its attention riveted now on tactical nuclear arms with the range of 5-50 kilometers from the front line. When I was a chief-of-staff of an army, we had about 1,000 delivery vehicles for tactical nuclear arms (including a 152 mm Howitzer). I do not think the Americans had any less in their troops.
Academician Valentin Belokon, Academy of Cosmonautics, International Academy of Forecasts: It may be but a distracting maneuver or an element of psychological warfare: look, we are on to something new. They may be acting out some hidden agenda, some scenario.
America is increasing production of warheads now. It does not want the names or locations of assembly factories and designer companies unnecessarily publicized. Even when the warheads in question are not necessarily nuclear. In fact, all these secrecy brings to mind thoughts of an arms race. The United States will continue its work on nuclear arms miniaturization.
Question: Is it possible for the United States to put the warheads it is making on old delivery means?
Valentin Belokon: That's a good question. Yes, it is possible, and yes, the Americans can do so - but not for themselves. I suspect that should an all-out war with the Arabs erupt, the Americans have contingency plans of arming their allies so as to try and deflect the blows from their own territory. Speaking of allies, I do not mean Israel alone but several other countries as well.
This idea originated long ago when the United States undertook to confront Chinese nuclear arms with analogous weapons in the arsenals of the countries around China - Taiwan included. If ever, Taiwan will lay its hands on nuclear weapons the way Israel did. Israel didn't ran any nuclear arms tests which means that it received nuclear arms as a gift... Armament of Japan by the Americans is a less likely option. Japan will never tolerate the knowledge that Taiwan possesses nuclear arms when it itself doesn't. Count in the exaggerated threat allegedly posed by North Korea.
There are other candidate recipients of nuclear arms as a gift. They include Australia, Italy, Spain, and Turkey. All this hysteria over how Iran is on the threshold of making nuclear weapons of its own only serve as an excuse to arm these allies. So far as I can guess, Iran will make something like the bomb dropped on Hiroshima rather than like what was dropped on Nagasaki. Iran may put together a dozen bombs like that inside a year. The Americans have put up with it already. They are already thinking about how in response to a dozen Iranian and five or so North Korean bombs they can give 1,100 bombs to Taiwan and 300 or more to Japan. Japan has already accumulated hundreds tons of plutonium - allegedly for nuclear power plants. Still, this handing out of nuclear weapons is the worst possible variant. There is a better one - if the term can be applied here - handing out of old American missiles with conventional warheads. The way Iran hands out missiles to its old friends, you know.
Question: Aren't you exaggerating a bit? To spin a web of such proportions out of a commonplace action of an admittedly dubious nature?
Valentin Belokon: This is the impression: it's like reconstructing a mammoth based only on the tip of its trunk. In this particular case, the classification of data in the United States is the tip of the trunk, and America's resolve to supply nuclear arms to its allies in the near future is the mammoth.
Iran has answered its opponents at the negotiating table, and a clever answer it is. In June, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany proposed a package of incentives to Iran, but they also warned of sanctions if Tehran did not agree to suspend uranium enrichment. The Iranians have come back sounding eminently reasonable, requesting an immediate return to "serious talks" but they also have said nothing about suspending enrichment.
So the "five-plus-one" team now faces a serious challenge: Can the coalition hold together to implement sanctions against Iran when it fails to suspend enrichment on Aug. 31? Russia and the United States have had very different views of the effectiveness of sanctions, and Iran seems intent on splitting these two strong countries apart.
The issue becomes more urgent with the reality that sooner or later, the United States, Russia and their partners are bound to sit down again with North Korea, the other country threatening damage to the nonproliferation regime.
On the face of it, Russia and the United States have a history that will help them. They have been leaders in preventing nuclear proliferation since they joined forces to negotiate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in the 1960s. As the two largest nuclear weapon states, they have had a special responsibility to lead by example reducing their own arsenals as well as preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons.
In the past decade, Moscow and Washington have often fallen down on the first task by failing to negotiate new reductions in nuclear weapons. They have, however, succeeded in reducing nuclear potential. Alone and in concert, they have closed down or shrunk key weapons-production facilities and disposed of tons of weapons-useable nuclear material.
The United States and Russia are accustomed to working together to solve tough proliferation problems. Cooperation in this area is vulnerable, though, when attention in both capitals swings to the latest dire crises, as it has today to the Iran nuclear program. Joint programs that are vital to reducing nuclear weapons potential begin to sink into the swamps of politics and bureaucracy. Two programs are in this fix today one to dispose of weapons plutonium, the other to prevent more plutonium from being produced.
In the 1990s, the United States and Russia agreed to cooperate on these tasks, vital to slashing their potential to produce new nuclear weapons. Today, Washington and Moscow are working together to shut down Russia's plutonium-production reactors. The United States is bearing a significant share of the cost of the project and is closely involved in design and construction.
And both Russia and the United States are ramping up efforts to dispose of weapons plutonium.
Sadly, this new momentum may be stalling. The U.S. Congress has taken notice of past problems with the programs, and has decided to cut their funding for 2007. The Senate cut $206 million from the program to replace the plutonium reactors, saying that Russia with its oil wealth should now be able to contribute more for the program. The House of Representatives has cut funding from the program to destroy plutonium, arguing that the two countries can't even agree on the technical details of how to go about it, much less figure out how to pay for it all.
Both arguments have some truth to them, but they could not come at a worse time. If the United States and Russia lose their close cooperation on weapons plutonium, they will severely undermine the basis for their joint fight against nuclear proliferation.
President George W. Bush and President Vladmir Putin of Russia will have to refocus their attention on these problems. The experts should be able to agree on the technical options for dealing with plutonium, and what each will cost. With Putin's urging, the Russians could see their way clear to making a bigger contribution to these joint programs.
If the plutonium programs are killed in Congress, then Moscow and Washington will have lost a big battle in the fight against nuclear proliferation. And when the negotiating game gets tough, they may even find that they no longer have the joint will to counter the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.
U.S. nuclear regulators have postponed a Thursday meeting with the U.S. Energy Department in an ongoing dispute over the disposal of nuclear weapons waste.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission notified the Energy Department Wednesday that it would delay Thursday's meeting because it didn't meet the required 10-day public notification of open meetings.
The sit-down was requested by the Energy Department to air and resolve complaints it has over the NRC's proposed guidelines for how to dispose of a portion of nuclear waste from U.S. nuclear weapons manufacturing, NRC spokesman David McIntyre said.
At issue is how much oversight the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal year 2005 gave the NRC over the Energy Department's plans to determine whether the waste at two facilities is high- or low-level radioactive byproduct.
The Energy Department wants the negotiations to be private, but NRC Chairman Dale Klein has said it should now be in the sphere of public debate because Energy Department complaints were made part of the pubic comment of NRC's proposed Standard Review Plan, instead of internally.
The Standard Review Plan is the NRC's proposed guidelines for "consultation and monitoring" of the Energy Department's disposal plan, McIntyre wrote in an e-mail to United Press International.
1. US experts see Chinese dilemma in ending Korean, Iranian nuclear crises
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As the United States banks on China's backing for international action against nuclear renegades Iran and North Korea, US experts see Beijing facing a dilemma: how to be a "responsible stakeholder" in the global system while pursuing its national interests.
China is the top broker in efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons drive and is a key member of the UN Security Council, which could decide this week whether to press ahead with US-led sanctions against Iran for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment activities.
But given its energy and investment links with Iran, China is seemingly reluctant to impose harsh sanctions on Iran even though it had joined other Council members in July to adopt a resolution seeking punitive measures against the Islamic republic if did not end its sensitive nuclear work.
"It's a litmus test as to whether or not the Chinese are going to look beyond again their sort of narrow nationalist interests and accept more global interests," said Bonnie Glaser, a US government consultant on Asian affairs for more than two decades.
"The refusal to do so in Iran's case would even be more an indication of China's unwillingness to be a responsible stakeholder in the system than even in the North Korea's case," she said, referring to Washington's oft-repeated call for Beijing to be a "constructive" player in an international system that has enabled its success.
China's interests in the Iranian case are not at stake in the same way as they are with Stalinist neighbour North Korea.
China and Iran have close economic ties but preliminary gas and oil deals involving Sinopec, China's largest refiner, have yet to bear fruit.
Even with its propensity to assume high risk, Sinopec is not willing to sink billions of dollars into a project that could be destroyed in a potential military confrontation between the United States and Iran, said John Calabrese, the American author of "Chinas Changing Relations with the Middle East."
"That is why, oddly enough, China should have a stronger interest in supporting nuclear diplomacy rather than in subverting it," said the teacher of US foreign policy at American University in a report by Jamestown Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.
At some point, Calabrese said, this might require that Beijing choose to side either with Washington or Tehran -- "a choice that until now Beijing has managed to avoid in the interest of cementing a less than perfect but nonetheless fruitful relationship with Iran."
While Beijing opposes sanctions against Tehran, it has to some extent been cooperative with other countries on the Iranian nuclear issue.
With North Korea, it cautiously prods the reclusive Stalinist regime to give up its nuclear weapons for fear that any instability in that country could spill over to China and cause domestic economic as well as social and perhaps political problems.
China has hosted six-nation talks, also including the United States, the two Koreas, Russia and Japan, for nearly three years, to end the Korean nuclear crisis but without any firm breakthrough.
Some pundits claim the United States has bent backwards at times, even softening its criticism on China's human rights record, in a bid to gain Beijing's support to resolve the Iranian and Korean atomic crises.
But Randell Schriver, a senior State Deparment official in charge of East Asian affairs during the first term of the administration of President George W. Bush, said the Chinese knew very well that they were not well served with nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula or a nuclear armed Iran.
"Perhaps they are trying to be a bit of a free rider -- allow others to do the heavy lifting and anger governments in Pyongyang and Tehran while they continue to keep a better reputation in those capitals," he said.
"But I don't think that can be the case much longer," Schriver said.
The Bush administration's difficulty in winning undivided Chinese support to end the Korean and Iranian nuclear disputes also stemmed from mixed signals as to whether Washington was prepared to normalize relations with regimes in Pyongyang and Tehran if they gave up their nuclear weapons ambitions.
"I think one reason the Chinese are reluctant to put strong pressure on North Korea and Iran is that they might calculate that even if they successfully pressured them to give up their nuclear programs, the US administration might still be seeking a regime change," said Robert Einhorn, a former top US government weapons control expert.
The US administration, he said, should make clear to China that if North Korea and Iran genuinely addressed concerns about their nuclear programs, then Washington would be prepared to move towards normalisation of relations with the regimes currently in place.
"I think if the Chinese were convinced that the US was prepared to take 'yes' for an answer then perhaps they would be prepared to put some additional pressure on those two countries," he said.
1. UN nuclear watchdog to issue crucial report on Iran
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The United Nations nuclear watchdog is expected Thursday to confirm that Iran has failed to suspend strategic nuclear fuel work, opening the door to possible UN sanctions against Tehran.
Iran has made clear that it intends to pursue uranium enrichment which it began earlier this year. Enrichment makes fuel for nuclear power reactors but can also produce the raw material for atom bombs.
"Production of nuclear fuel is one of Iran's strategic objectives," Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Sunday. "Any action to limit or deprive Iran could not force Iran to give up this goal."
The UN Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities by August 31, amid US-led concerns that Tehran's nuclear programme is a cover for an attempt to produce an atomic bomb.
Six world powers have also proposed talks on Iran receiving trade, technology and security benefits if it suspends enrichment.
The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to verify whether Tehran has complied with Security Council deadline.
It is all but certain that Iran is continuing enrichment activities but there could be a hitch, diplomats said.
Russia and China already resist sanctions and their reluctance could be strengthened if it turns out that Iran is at this point not actually enriching uranium but only working with "dry running" the centrifuge machines which carry out the process.
The reason could be simple: while Iran enriched a small amount of uranium in April it has since then had technical problems as it must first master the process of running cascades of centrifuges, with each machine spinning uranium gas at supersonic speeds.
The tall, tube-like centrifuges break down easily.
"I hear that the attrition rate on their centrifuge machines is very high," said Gary Samore, a non-proliferation expert who worked in former President Bill Clinton's administration and is now at the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago.
While some diplomats have said spinning centrifuges dry, with inert gas for example, could be a compromise on suspension, US officials have said that even running the machines without uranium gas would help Iran move towards the so-called "break-out capacity" of having the technology needed to make nuclear weapons.
Meanwhile, the IAEA is expected to report that Iran is not fully cooperating with its inspections.
Iran earlier this month blocked IAEA inspectors from visiting a key underground site and diplomats said Iranian authorities are making life increasingly difficult for its investigators, even if the UN watchdog is still able to monitor the country's nuclear programme.
There are no centrifuges yet installed at the underground site at Natanz, which is destined to house tens of thousands of the machines. Iran is running a 164-centrifuge cascade at a pilot enrichment plant above ground at Natanz.
IAEA inspectors had been at the underground site the previous month. The Iranians "were taking issue with the frequency of inspectors coming there," the diplomat said.
In addition, Iran has refused visas for a few inspectors and is giving mainly short-term, one-entry visas instead of longer-term, multiple-entry visas.
Finally, Iran is still not providing information the IAEA has sought over at least the past year on "outsanding issues," such as its work on improving centrifuges, and possibly military and nuclear-related activities.
The problems are not yet "deemed to be systematic and obstructionist," said a diplomat close to the IAEA who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
If they were, the diplomat said, the IAEA board of governors would be required to act on them as violations of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Another diplomat said there was a debate within the IAEA between those who feel the current problems are NPT violations and others who do not.
Just days before the U.N. Security Council deadline for Iran to cease and desist enriching uranium, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave the West the Iranian bird. By inaugurating a "heavy-water" reactor, Iran instantly doubled its chances of acquiring nuclear weapons. Adding insult to injury, the military mullahs test-fired a new long-range missile -- the Thaqeb, or Saturn, a submarine to surface weapon.
The new reactor runs on natural uranium mined by Iran and skips the difficult enrichment phase to produce plutonium, which gives nukes the power to obliterate entire cities. Of course, all these efforts, says Iran's president, is to treat and diagnose AIDS and cancer patients. And -- we almost forgot -- to generate more power to improve agriculture. The fact that Iran has sufficient oil reserves to generate electric power for generations to come is conveniently overlooked.
Iran is now confident neither Russia nor China will go along with meaningful economic sanctions. Moscow says sanctions have never worked, ignoring those that collapsed South Africa's apartheid regime. The handwriting on the geopolitical landscape has convinced Israel and its core support in the United States, from the neocons to the Christian Right, that a military solution is inescapable.
Leading conservatives have said World War III -- the ultimate clash of civilizations -- has been underway since 9/11. Some neocons say it started when the mullahs forced the Shah into exile and seized power in Iran in early 1979 -- and that President George W. Bush and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair are treading water among the appeasers. They remind Bush he vowed not to leave office without first ensuring that "the worst weapons will not fall into the worst hands" and thus Iran cannot become a nuclear power. And their ideological guide Richard Perle goes so far as to accuse Bush, who knows that Iran has pursued a secret nuclear weapons program for the past 19 years, of opting for "ignominious retreat."
Overlooked in this calculus is Bush's burden of two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, and a much-diminished U.S. military. A third front against Iran, an ancient civilization of 70 million with global retaliatory capabilities (e.g., Hezbollah), is a frightening prospect that conjures up the nightmare of a return to the draft.
Bush believes deeply that Iran poses an existential threat to close ally Israel. Congress recently voted a resolution that said an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States. Bush also believes Iran is determined to sabotage American hopes of establishing a new democratic Middle East. In Iraq, clandestine Iranian aid, from sophisticated "Improvised Explosive Devices" to funds and weapons to the two main Shiite militias, may be designed to maneuver the United States into a humiliating, Vietnam-like withdrawal from Iraq.
Given President Bush's overarching dedication to "winning the Global War on Terrorism," said one former senior intelligence analyst, the neutralization of Iran has become a sine qua non, "equal if not higher on his list of priorities than 'victory' in Iraq, another impossibility that he is unwilling to recognize, even privately, much less acknowledge publicly."
Bush's national security advisers have also pointed out that an escalating danger of U.S.-Iran military confrontation automatically intensifies internal and regional opposition to U.S. objectives in Iraq.
The president keeps reminding private interlocutors to think of how history will judge this critical period 15 to 20 years hence. He sees personal and national humiliation if he were to leave office having acquiesced to an embryonic Iranian nuclear arsenal.
So odds makers are betting that sometime before the end of his second term, President Bush will order a massive air attack on a wide range of carefully selected targets in Iran, in partnership with Israel, and against the advice of many of his advisers. Bush is convinced a nuclear Iran would pose an intolerable threat to U.S. national security and, as one former intelligence topsider put it, "he is firm in his faith that God agrees with him on that point, and certain that history will eventually recognize and properly appreciate his courageous and visionary leadership."
This raises the question of Congressional approval. As George Will said to ABC's George Stephanopoulos two Sundays ago, when was the last time this president ever worried about getting approval in advance from the Congress or the public?
In any event, Israel is not taking any chances. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said last week Israel would not be the first to attack Iran. Other Israeli voices are saying Israel will have to do just that. And Israel recently added a new command to the IDF -- the "Iran Command." Its new commander is Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy, Israel's Air Force chief. Israel's strategic thinkers and military planners take the diminutive Ahmadinejad at his word when he says Israel must be "wiped off the map."
Most worrisome for Israel is Hezbollah's recent military performance against the IDF in Lebanon. The perception is this Iranian surrogate resisted and repelled a mighty foe. The reality is Iran's new-mown conviction Israel can be defeated. So Israel will now have to prove, yet again, it cannot.
IN a show of defiance against Western efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated a new phase of a heavy-water power reactor at the weekend, prompting an Israeli warning that Tehran had taken another step towards making an atom bomb.
And in a new show of its military might, Iran test-fired from a submarine a long-range, radar-evading sea-to-air missile during military exercises it says aim to demonstrate its readiness for ''any threat''.
The Arak nuclear plant in central Iran can make eight tonnes of heavy water a year, with output expected to rise tenfold. Heavy water aids nuclear fission, and the plutonium by-product could be used to make bombs, but the reactor to produce plutonium is still under construction.
But Mr Ahmadinejad insisted the plant was for peaceful power purposes. ''We are not a threat to anybody,'' he said. ''There is no talk of nuclear weapons.''
The Iranian leader said Israel had nothing to fear. ''There is no discussion of nuclear weapons, even for the Zionist regime, which is a definite enemy.''
The construction of the Arak plant was kept secret until the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran revealed its existence, along with the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, in 2002.
An Iranian official said there was no need for the International Atomic Energy Agency to supervise the Arak plant because it did not have a military purpose.
But Western experts warned that plutonium production could eventually pose a greater threat than uranium enrichment.
''With uranium, it's much easier to put in safeguards to monitor the atmosphere and instruments,'' said Paul Ingram, a nuclear analyst with the British American Security Information Council. Arak could produce enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons a year, he said.
And a senior Israeli MP, Ephraim Sneh, warned that the Arak plant marked ''another leap in Iran's advance towards a nuclear bomb'' and said his country must ''prepare itself militarily'' to confront the issue.
The Iranian media reported last week that an announcement on the ''nuclear birth'' of the Islamic nation would be made within days. The inauguration of the Arak plant could be it, but there is speculation Iran plans a surprise before a UN deadline for it to suspend its uranium-enrichment program expires on Thursday.
Tehran said last week it was open to negotiations, but refused immediate suspension of uranium-enrichment work, saying the deadline was illegal.
Iran appears to be counting on UN sanctions being blocked by its allies in Russia and China -- major trade partners that hold veto power as permanent members of the Security Council.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to visit Tehran on Saturday, two days after a Security Council deadline for Iran to freeze its work on nuclear fuel, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
Mr Annan is due in Beirut today on a Middle East tour that is expected to take him to Israel and Syria as he pushes for implementation of the Security Council resolution that ended a month of devastating war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.
The Iranian National Council of Resistance said last week that Tehran had secretly built at least 15 advanced P2 centrifuges at three warehouses on the capital's outskirts, in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
''The site has not been inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency and has not been declared by Iran,'' Alireza Jafarzadeh, a former spokesman for the opposition group, said at the weekend.
Iran's deputy parliamentary speaker, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, warned that Western pressure could provoke Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
''Be afraid of the day the Iranian nation comes on to the streets and stages demonstrations to ask the Government to produce nuclear weapons to combat these threats,'' he said.
The US is to press Britain and other European nations to impose penalties on Iran if the UN Security Council fails to agree on sanctions against the country.
The US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said that soon after the deadline expired, he would introduce a resolution that would freeze Iranian assets, restrict trade and impose a travel ban on Iranian officials.
4. No one can deprive Iran of right to nuclear Technology - president
(for personal use only)
Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA website
Tehran, 28August: President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad said Sunday that no one can ever deprive the Iranian nation of its absolute right to access peaceful nuclear technology.
Addressing a ceremony to award plaques of honour to 14 national nuclear scientists at Vahdat Hall, downtown Tehran, the president said Iranians were seeking to serve humanity through their knowledge and technology.
"Pursuing science and technology is not only considered by Iranians as their absolute right but it is also their (religious) duty. It is a right bestowed to all mankind by God," Ahmadinezhad stressed.
Noting that those powers who used nuclear weapons in the past were now in need of a change, the president suggested, "Those who have deviated from the (right) path, have to stop producing nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction."
Stressing that the Iranian nation will strongly resist any aggression, President Ahmadinezhad said "Our nation will never tolerate any imposition."
President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad said that the "great" decision made by the Iranian nation on access to peaceful nuclear technology is "final".
"Enemies of the Iranian nation should know that this path (chosen by the Iranians) is irreversible.
"Today, the Iranian nation unanimously insists on its inalienable right and will not accept claims that science and technology are good for some people and bad for others because they might be diverted from (peaceful) nuclear use," he said.
He added, "The path of progress and development of the Iranian nation is not limited to nuclear energy and includes all fields.
"The Iranian people and government believe they are able to settle their problems and can conquer peaks of progress and growth through major strides."
Ahmadinezhad stressed, "The Iranian nation can be the best in science, technology, art, economy, politics, culture and all other fields. Our youth are more competent to have access to technology than those who are just after their own greed."
He addressed the bullying powers and said, "You have killed or wounded thousands of people in our neighbouring states by using weakened uranium weapons. You should change your attitude." The president said, "Those who have nuclear weapons are not competent to possess such weapons. They should abandon the path of nuclear technology.
"Today, you are producing the third and fourth generation nuclear weapons but if you were competent, you would not boast of it.
"Iran's enemies follow up two goals which include preventing its progress in all fields to make it dependent on foreigners and break the firm determination of the Iranian nation.
"They do not want to admit that there is a nation who has resisted against the bullying powers and conquered the peaks of progress."
President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad said that Iran's defence programme is not aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.
"What we are trying to get at is the use of science for the cause of welfare and advancement of the Iranian nation. We do not have ill-intentions even for our enemies."
The progress of the Iranian nation is not a threat to or an obstacle for any state but a cause of progress for other nations, those of the region in particular, he said.
The president said the Iranian nation believes in human dignity and will never submit to oppression.
"The Iranian nation is a peace-loving and noble nation and defends the dignity and prestige of mankind."
President Ahmadinezhad said even with respect to the Zionist regime, "which is definitely the enemy of the entire humanity," the Iranian nation calls for holding true and free election to clarify the fate of this regime.
"Owners of nuclear weapons will be the first to benefit from abandoning these weapons," he said.
The Iranian nation is concerned about the entire humanity and it is a shame that there are people who order massacres and resist establishment of ceasefire.
The president said, "The Iranian nation is unanimously and vigorously announcing that peaceful nuclear energy is its inalienable right."
Stressing that this is the legal right of the Iranian nation, he said, "As representative of the people, I am duty-bound to fulfil the people's demands."
Praising the creativity and stamina of young Iranian scientists, he said the hegemonic powers do not want the Iranian nation to progress in any field, and in the world today someone in need will never have dignity.
Source: IRNA website, Tehran, in English 0555 gmt 28 Aug 06
5. IRAN COULD SEEK REVISION OF GLOBAL NON-PROLIFERATION AGREEMENTS - RUSSIAN EXPERT
BBC Monitoring and Interfax
(for personal use only)
Having launched a company to produce heavy water, Tehran has taken one more step on the road to acquiring nuclear weapons, believes Aleksandr Khramchikhin, head of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.
"The production of heavy water clearly is dual-purpose - military and civilian - but Tehran wants to have nuclear weapons too much to limit itself to just civilian use of heavy water," Khramchikhin told Interfax.
"Confirmation that Iran is striving to possess nuclear weapons is the fact that it is actively developing ballistic missiles, which, as is well known, are primarily a means for delivering nuclear munitions," he said.
"It is difficult to check where Iran is going to use the heavy water produced, in civilian or military projects, but the world community should nevertheless find methods of control," he added.
Anatoliy Tsyganok, the head of the Centre for Military Forecasting at the institute, told Interfax that "Iran has once again demonstrated to the world how far it has progressed towards developing nuclear technologies".
Tsyganok says that in the near future Iran could demand that global agreements on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons be reviewed.
However, he added that "in my view the priority for Iran in implementing its nuclear programme is the civilian aspect".
"Owning 30 per cent of Arab oil [as received], Iran is in dire need of new energy technologies. That is the important thing for it now," Tsyganok said.
Iran has made no secret of its nuclear programme, the expert said.
"Here they are not trying, as in North Korea, to conceal their nuclear programme from the world. Tehran has signed the relevant agreements and is ready to work under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency," he said.
Tsyganok says that the achievements of Iranian nuclear scientists should not be considered a threat. "The world community needs to work with Iran, and also take into account reality. The reality is that it will not be possible to keep developing countries away from nuclear technology," he said.
Source: Interfax news agency, Moscow, in Russian 0625 gmt 27 Aug 06
1. N KOREA READY TO TEST NUCLEAR WEAPONS AT LEADER'S ORDER NIS CHIEF
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea may be able to test a nuclear weapon at any time if its leader Kim Jong-il makes such a decision, but there are no signs that a test is imminent, South Korea's intelligence chief said Monday.
"As its facilities for a nuclear test are always on standby, the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test is always open if (the North's) Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il makes a decision," National Intelligence Service (NIS) director Kim Seung-kyu was quoted as telling the parliamentary intelligence committee.
"However, there are no signs or movements that suggest North Korea is preparing to test a nuclear weapon (for now)," Intelligence Committee Chairman Shin Ki-nam quoted Kim as saying.
The remarks follow recent reports of suspicious activities near a suspected nuclear test site in the communist state.
But the NIS chief said it was too early to assume that such activities are related to preparations for a nuclear test, according to the intelligence committee chairman from the governing Uri Party.
"Objects that appeared to be cables were discovered in Kilju, North Hamkyong Province, but it is difficult to conclude this is directly related to any possible preparations for a nuclear test," Kim was quoted as saying.
Quoting unidentified U. S. government and intelligence officials, U. S.-based ABC News reported that North Koreans were spotted unloading large reels of cable near the suspected nuclear test site. It also said cable could be used to link an underground nuclear test site to an outside observation post.
Kim's remarks are in line with earlier reports by Seoul's top security official, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, that no clear or definite signs of an imminent North Korean nuclear test have been detected.
While appearing at a meeting of the National Assembly's Unification, Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee last week, the country's point man on North Korea said his country and the United States were closely monitoring the communist state for signs of a nuclear test, but that neither has secured any clear evidence showing signs of an imminent test. The unification minister also heads the country's presidential National Security Council.
The reports of a pending nuclear test in the North gained wide credibility as they came after the communist state test-fired seven ballistic missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2, early last month, as well as reports of additional missile tests.
Dismissing last month's missile tests as a complete failure, the NIS chief said the North's missile test has already been terminated.
"The North removed all of its Taepodong 2-related equipment from the Taepodong missile test site in North Hamkyong Province in the middle of last month, so missile activities in the area have been terminated," he was quoted as saying.
Seoul is trying to persuade Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in six-nation negotiations that also involved the United States, Japan, China and Russia. But North Korea has been refusing to attend the nuclear disarmament talks since November, citing what it claims to be a hostile U. S. policy against its communist regime.
North Korea and South Korea officially remain in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice treaty.
2. N. Korea warns of 'counter-measures' against US financial sanctions
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North Korea has warned it will take "all necessary counter-measures" against US financial sanctions amid reports the communist state may be preparing for a nuclear test.
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said, in a first response late Saturday to intensifying US hunts for Pyongyang-owned bank accounts overseas, that Washington was ratcheting up the pressure in vain.
"It is the height of folly for the US to think that it can solve any issue by means of sanctions and pressure," the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
It said the US Treasury Department was tracing North Korea-opened bank accounts in "at least 10 countries" in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian states as well as Mongolia and Russia.
"Now that the Bush administration is escalating its pressure upon the DPRK through the tightened financial sanctions in a bid to keep itself politically alive, the DPRK is left with no other option but to take all necessary counter-measures to protect its ideology, system, sovereignty and dignity."
The spokesman, however, did not elaborate on what counter-measures could be taken, according to the KCNA report monitored here.
The warning came as a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said North Korea -- which declared it had nuclear weapons in February 2005 -- could carry out a nuclear test unless the US stops attempts to "stifle and destroy" the communist state.
"We can't say for sure that the DPRK (North Korea) will not conduct nuclear testing to bolster its self-defence capability," the Choson Sinbo said in an editorial Saturday.
South Korea has stepped up the monitoring of North Korean nuclear activities amid reports Pyongyang may be preparing for an underground nuclear bomb test.
South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-Ung told the parliament Friday Seoul suspects North Korea possesses one or two nuclear weapons and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon has warned Pyongyang of grave consequences and a severe international response if it carries out a nuclear test.
The United States and South Korea -- both parties to stalled six-way nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, along with China, Japan and Russia -- have warned Pyongyang against any such tests.
Diplomatic efforts to jumpstart the six-party talks have intensified since North Korea test-fired seven ballistic missiles last month, drawing international condemnation and a sharp rebuke from the UN Security Council.
The North left the multilateral talks last November and said it would not return until US financial sanctions against it were dropped -- a stance reiterated on Saturday.
"The US financial sanctions against the DPRK are a stumbling-block lying in the way of the DPRK returning to the six-party talks," the North Korean foreign ministry spokesman was quoted by KCNA as saying. "The DPRK remains unchanged in this principled stand."
The United States has moved to freeze North Korean funds it claims are the profits of drug trafficking, money laundering and other illegal activities.
Last month, Stuart Levey, the US Treasury Department's Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, visited Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and Singapore to discuss the issue.
But the North Korean spokesman added: "The DPRK is neither a 'law-breaking state' nor a 'state counterfeiting notes' as claimed by the US. On the contrary, it has fallen victim to the issue of counterfeit notes and their circulation due to the US."
3. China, S. Korea to work to prevent N. Korea nuclear test
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South Korea and China have agreed to work together to try to dissuade North Korea from carrying out a nuclear weapons test, a top presidential advisor said late Friday.
Returning from a two-day visit to Beijing, President Roh Moo-Hyun's chief security adviser also said the two countries would hold a summit on the issue, possibly in October.
"(If the North carries out a nuclear test), it would create a very serious problem with a grave dimension, much worse than the North's missile launch last month," Song Min-Soon told journalists.
"We have agreed that the two countries should continue making joint efforts to prevent such a thing from happening," he said.
Song said he had met with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and other top officials to "review the current situation concerning the North's nuclear issue and discuss how to cooperate in order to make a breakthrough."
South Korea has stepped up monitoring of North Korea's nuclear activities amid news reports that the communist state may be preparing for an underground nuclear bomb test.
The United States and South Korea -- both parties to stalled six-way nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea, along with China, Japan and Russia -- have issued previous warnings to Pyongyang against any nuclear tests.
Diplomatic efforts have intensified to restart six-party talks after North Korea test-fired seven missiles last month.
South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-Ung on Friday told the National Assembly that Seoul suspects North Korea possesses one or two nuclear weapons.
"The best estimate of the government is that North Korea has one or two nuclear bombs," he said in response to a question on whether the communist state has developed or manufactured nuclear weapons.
North Korea, which says it is armed with nuclear weapons, test-fired seven missiles on July 5, drawing international condemnation and criticism from the UN Security Council.
The North, which left the multilateral talks last November, said it would not return until US financial sanctions against it were dropped.
1. Japan Accuses 5 of Exporting Equipment With Nuclear Uses
New York Times
(for personal use only)
Five executives of a precision instruments maker were arrested Friday on suspicion of illegally exporting equipment to Malaysia that could be used in making nuclear weapons, the police said.
The president of the Mitutoyo Corporation, Kazusaku Tezuka, and four other executives were accused of exporting advanced measuring devices without government permission in late 2001 to an unspecified recipient in Malaysia, a police spokesman said. He spoke on condition of anonymity, which is customary here.
Japanese television broadcast pictures of police officers raiding Mitutoyo's headquarters in Kawasaki, Japan, and the homes of the arrested executives.
While the police provided few details, reports in the Japanese news media said the devices had been sold to Scomi Precision Engineering, a company that was later linked to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist who sold nuclear technology to Libya.
The reports, by Kyodo News and most major newspapers, said at least one of Mitutoyo's devices had been shipped to Libya via Dubai on an Iranian-flagged cargo ship. The reports said the police were also investigating whether additional measuring devices had been sent to Iran via an unidentified Iranian trading company based in Tokyo.
Iran faces possible United Nations sanctions if it fails to end its uranium enrichment by Aug. 31. It says the enrichment program is for peaceful purposes, but the United States and other nations fear it could be for nuclear weapons. Libya gave up its weapons program almost three years ago.
The police refused to confirm or deny the news reports, which appeared to be based on exclusive briefings that government officials here frequently give to large local media organizations. An employee at Mitutoyo's headquarters refused to comment beyond confirming the arrests.
The news reports said the police were also trying to determine whether Mitutoyo's devices were used by Scomi to make centrifuge parts that were sold to Libya to enrich uranium for its nuclear weapons program. In October 2003, containers full of centrifuge parts made by Scomi were intercepted en route to Libya, a discovery that led to the uncovering of Dr. Khan's role in Libya's attempts to build nuclear weapons.
The Malaysian police later cleared Scomi of wrongdoing. The company said it did not know the parts were bound for Libya, but instead believed they would be used in oil and gas production in Dubai.
The Tokyo police said Mitutoyo exported two of the devices, known as coordinate measuring machines, to Malaysia in separate shipments in October and November 2001. They said the machines had been sent by ship to Singapore, and then transported over land to Malaysia.
The sophisticated machines, normally used in the precision manufacture of parts for commercial products like autos, can also be used in making the centrifuges that enrich uranium for weapons. Because of this potential use, the devices cannot be exported without government permission, the police said. Mitutoyo is one of the world's largest makers of the most advanced types of coordinate measuring devices.
1. Pakistani scientist ran a nuclear 'Wal-Mart': PROLIFERATION I Abdul Qadeer Khan's network provided fixings for nuclear weapons
The Vancouver Sun
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The German cargo ship BBC China was steaming from Dubai to the Libyan port of Tripoli early in October 2003 when the captain received orders from the freighter's owners to put in at the southern Italian port of Taranto.
In Taranto, Italian police, with anonymous American, British and German officials lurking in the background, identified and unloaded five six-metre containers.
The cargo, packed in wooden crates bearing the logo of a Malaysian company, SCOMI Precision Engineering, was the components of 1,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium and destined for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's nuclear weapons program.
Gadhafi was already on the way to deciding to end his decades of hostile isolation from the U.S. and Europe. The exposure of his nuclear program conclusively tipped the scale and Gadhafi readily handed over all the components of the program and the relevant paperwork.
This wealth of material confirmed in awful detail what American and British intelligence agencies had suspected for some time.
The main agent of proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to Washington's enemies was Abdul Qadeer Khan, the chief atomic scientist in Pakistan, one of American's most important allies in the so-called war on terrorism.
Khan had set up what an official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would later call the "Wal-Mart of private sector proliferation" that provided all the fixings for making nuclear weapons to Libya, Iran and perhaps North Korea.
It is largely as a result of tracking the Khan network that the international community has become alarmed at Iran's nuclear development project. Tehran's protestations that it is only for peaceful, power- generation purposes doesn't ring true in the context of what Khan's network provided the Iranians.
Tehran is facing an ultimatum from the UN Security Council to stop the enrichment of uranium by Aug. 31 or face international sanctions.
The radical Islamic Iranian regime is defying the international community. It claims it is well within its rights to develop the ability to enrich uranium to the low levels necessary for reactor fuel and says it has no intention of pursuing the higher levels of enrichment necessary for bomb-making.
There is good reason to have little faith in what Tehran says. This is a regime which has frequently said Israel should be "wiped off the map," which finances and arms the anti-Israeli terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon and which supports anti-American militias from the Shia Islamic sect in southern Iraq.
But what is particularly alarming about the story of the Khan network is how one man was able to circumvent the entire international apparatus aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Khan is now out of business. After the Libyan cargo was traced back to Khan's network, he was forced to resign the leadership of Pakistan's atomic energy agency.
But in February 2004, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf pardoned Khan, although he remains under house arrest. Musharraf's political problem is that Khan continues to be viewed in Pakistan as a national hero for providing the nuclear deterrent against hostile neighbour India, which is also nuclear-armed.
Moreover, until only a few weeks ago, the Pakistani authorities prevented American and British intelligence agencies from interviewing Khan directly.
There does not seem to be any guarantee, however, that the entire Khan network has been shut down. People who learned the trade in Khan's service may well be using the same loopholes in the international system that he used to create his own nuclear weapons super-store.
The curtain opens on this drama in 1974 when India, using material obtained from a Canadian-supplied reactor, detonated an eight-kiloton bomb in what it called a "peaceful nuclear experiment."
1. Kiriyenko, Japanese diplomat discuss scrapping nuclear submarines
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Head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Sergei Kiriyenko and Japanese Senior Vice- Minister for Foreign Affairs Katsutoshi Kaneda discussed bilateral cooperation in scrapping Russian nuclear submarines at a meeting on Wednesday in Moscow, says a press release from Rosatom.
Bilateral cooperation on scrapping the nuclear submarines is covered by the 1993 intergovernmental agreement on assisting Russia in liquidating nuclear weapons scheduled for de-commissioning.
The Japanese government has already given some $35 million of financing for the construction of the Landysh floating complex to recycle liquid radioactive wastes, which has been in operation at the Zvezda plant in Bolshoi Kamen in the Maritime territory since 2001.
Japan stated its intention in 2002 to assist Russia under the Global Partnership program in the amount of $200 million, including $100 million for the scrapping nuclear submarines. Meanwhile, Japan has financed the scrapping of only one nuclear submarine of the Victor class worth $6.7 million since 2002, including expenses for infrastructure, the statement reads.
Russia and Japan signed an executive agreement on scrapping nuclear submarines in the Far East on November 21, 2005. The agreement stipulates that Japan will finance the scrapping of four Victor class submarines and one Charlie class submarine.
Russia's state nuclear power agency said Monday it would establish a $400 million venture fund to finance projects in electricity by the end of 2006.
"The fund would finance innovation projects in civilian electric power, electronics, clean materials, and water supplies developed by research institutes," said a spokesman for the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
The fund, which could be launched in late 2006 or early 2007, would initially receive $30 to $40 million in government funds. Its total volume is expected to reach $300 to $400 million, the spokesman said. The agency is currently in talks with private Russian firms on joint investment projects.
The ministry is currently forming a venture company, which would consist of at least 10 sectoral venture funds, as part of an effort to revitalize the country's industrial base and diversify the economy away from commodity exports.
However, some experts fear the idea of venture funds, extensively used in developed countries, might not work in Russia, where businesses are heavily focused on raw materials production and exports.
3. TV INTERVIEW ON IRAN WITH MIKHAIL MARGELOV, CHAIR OF THE FEDERATION COUNCIL COMMITTEE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS VESTI TV RUSSIA NEWS PROGRAM
Official Kremlin International News Broadcast
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Anchor: Our guest is the chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, Mikhail Margelov. It seems that we have reached some point or will reach it by August 31, and more and more people speak about the need for some inter-civilization dialogue on how to build a fairer model of peace and security. Indeed, we can't fight all the time.
Margelov: We certain can't fight, especially since no one may formally prohibit Iran from doing nuclear energy research or nuclear technology research. But the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty does not allow Iran to enrich uranium for further use in the production of nuclear weapons. The NPT introduces a system of sort of legalized bargaining in international relations. Those who give up a military nuclear program are offered a certain amount of economic, trade or other preferences, maybe international political preferences. Those who insist that they should have nuclear weapons and become a new member of the nuclear club will face sanctions.
Anchor: Well, Israel is unlikely to face sanctions even though suspect that Israel has a bomb. Does it?
Margelov: Responding to a question as to whether Israel had a nuclear bomb, Golda Meir said Israel did not confirm or denied this information, but if need be, will use a nuclear bomb.
Anchor: Aren't these double standards?
Margelov: As we know India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons de facto. Turkey and Egypt are dreaming about getting nuclear weapons. If we look at South East Asia, it's Japan and South Korea, which is ready to join the club of nuclear powers. It has the money and technology for that. We can say that Iranian crisis signifies a larger crisis in the system of international relations that has developed since the collapse of the bipolar world.
Anchor: What is to be done about this? What is the role of Russia in this?
Margelov: The role of Russia here is no different of that of all equal parties to the international relations -- to look for a solution. We have no other alternative to that. But it is necessary to look for a solution in such a way that will make us remember our own national interests rather than service somebody else's national interests.
Anchor: When we speak about our national interests, we understand that a new model of the world cannot be based only on somebody's individual national interests but should be based on the universal perception of justice that is shared by our partners. You are an Oriental studies expert, can you formulate the perception of justice that exists in Iran?
Margelov: For Iran, where Shiites make up the biggest part of the population, the perception of justice is a cornerstone of their ideology. Shiites consider themselves the persecuted party in Islam, even in Islam. It is natural that for the Iranian leadership, which on the one hand uses Islamic slogans for the sake of the crowd, pursues a rather pragmatic policy of great Iran. Justice means not only punishing those who infringed upon the Shiites' rights as a religious minority, but also recognizing the fact that Iran is a great power de facto in the full sense of this word, from energy, military and nuclear point of view.
Anchor: Are Russia and the US prepared to recognize Iran as a great power de facto and de jure along with many other countries?
Margelov: Today we say that the lack of a system of international relations consistent with present-day realities provides no mechanisms for managing the process of international relations and controlling these processes, and it actually makes all countries face a tough choice: what is the future of international relations like? Will it be a modernized G8 of some sort or a council of regional representatives or a new UN? There are more questions than there are answers.
1. How to Make Tehran Blink; The best way to prevent a nuclear Iran is for America to offer the kind of security assurances that might reduce support for a nuclear arsenal.
Scott D. Sagan
(for personal use only)
Given Tehran's defiant response to the European and American effort to constrain its nuclear program, it is time for bolder diplomacy out of Washington. U.S. President George W. Bush should take a page from the playbook of Ronald Reagan, who negotiated with an evil Soviet regime--competing in the war of ideas, but addressing the enemy's security concerns through arms-control agreements.
Iran's intransigence is both deeply unfortunate and perfectly predictable. It is unfortunate because Tehran's refusal to suspend its uranium-enrichment operations immediately--as demanded in July by the U.N. Security Council in a legally binding resolution--suggests that Iran is moving more quickly than expected toward a nuclear-weapons capability. Tehran has now turned the nuclear crisis into a test of the whole U.N. Security Council system. And Russia and China's current position, threatening to veto any biting sanctions against Iran, suggests that the Security Council may well fail this crucial test.
Tehran's response is predictable, however, because the offer on the table contains both inadequate economic carrots and barely credible threats of sanctions and military force. The carrots appeared impressive at first glance--in return for a suspension of enrichment we reportedly promised to provide light-water nuclear reactors and to help Iran with civil aviation and telecommunications technology. But we did not offer the one incentive that might possibly work, security guarantees that could reduce Iran's desire for nuclear weapons.
This omission is striking. The Iranian government can't talk openly about their security concerns because that would blow their cover story that the nuclear program is only for energy production. And Washington does not want to discuss such worries because it wants to keep open the possibility of removing the regime by force. "Security assurances are not on the table," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice too cleverly argued this spring: "It is a little strange to talk about security guarantees ... I thought the Iranian position was that they weren't developing a nuclear bomb."
This is partly a crisis of our own making, as the Bush administration has practiced the reverse of Teddy Roosevelt's maxim--speaking loudly and carrying a small stick. Think about how Tehran reacted when Bush stated (in his second Inaugural Address), "The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: 'Those who deny freedoms to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it." Or when Bush dramatically told reporters last April that "all options are on the table," in direct response to a question about whether he was considering a nuclear attack against Iran. Such statements only encourage Iran to develop a nuclear deterrent quickly, before the United States can carry out its perceived aggressive intent. Last month, Iran's National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani pointedly complained about such rhetoric. "How can a side that wants to topple the regime also attempt to negotiate?"
Given the current vulnerability of U.S. forces in Iraq, the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, and the lack of Israeli success against Hizbullah, Iranian officials seem confident that they face no immediate threat of a U.S. military assault. But they are clearly worried that Bush just might attack Iran right before he leaves office in January 2009, or that his successor might do so once U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq.
The best way to prevent a nuclear Iran is for Washington to offer the kind of security assurances that might reduce support in Tehran for building a nuclear arsenal. It will be hard to make such assurances credible, but a public U.S. promise to take forcible regime change off the table, and a U.N. Security Council commitment to protect the "political sovereignty" of Iran could help. Involving the Security Council could also pull China and Russia back into the nonproliferation coalition and enhance the U.N.'s legitimacy.
There is very little time left, which means negotiations should begin despite Iran's unfortunate opening position. Tehran's response reportedly indicated a willingness to negotiate all aspects of its nuclear program, so working out an agreement for Iran to limit itself to low-level uranium enrichment might still be possible. This would work only if Tehran accepts full IAEA inspections and a freeze on future centrifuge construction. Will they? The one thing that might cause Tehran to do so, and that would compensate for any loss of face, would be an assurance that the United States will not launch another preventive war, as it did in Iraq, to remove the Iranian regime. If in turn we get a nuclear-free Iran, that's a good deal for the West as well.
Russia's defense minister said Friday that it was premature to consider punitive actions against Iran despite its refusal so far to suspend its efforts to enrich uranium as the United Nations Security Council has demanded.
Although Russia agreed to the Security Council's resolution on July 31, Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov's remarks made it clear that Russia would not support taking the next step that the United States and Britain have called for: imposing sanctions against Iran or its leaders over its nuclear programs. The Council set Aug. 31 as the deadline for Iran to respond to its demand.
Russia has repeatedly expressed opposition to punitive steps, even as President Vladimir V. Putin and others have called on Iran to cooperate with international inspectors and suspend its enrichment activity.
But on Friday Mr. Ivanov went further, saying the issue was not ''so urgent'' that the Security Council should consider sanctions and expressing doubt that they would work in any case.
''I know of no cases in international practice or the whole of previous experience when sanctions achieved their goals or were efficient,'' Mr. Ivanov, a close ally of Mr. Putin who also serves as deputy prime minister, said in televised remarks in the Far East.
Russia's opposition left in doubt the Bush administration's delicate diplomacy to increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear energy programs, which American officials fear disguise an effort to build nuclear weapons.
Echoing a statement by the Foreign Ministry after Iran responded in writing this week to an offer of incentives from Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, Mr. Ivanov said that Russia would continue ''to advocate a political and diplomatic solution to the problem.''
But neither he nor other officials have said what Russia will do if Iran refuses to meet the Security Council's demands to suspend its nuclear programs by the deadline.
On Wednesday a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Mikhail L. Kamynin, said that it was important to ''grasp nuances'' in Iran's lengthy written response and that Russia would continue to use its influence with the Iranians.
Russia has significant economic ties with Iran and is building a nuclear reactor at Bushehr, an Iranian city on the Persian Gulf. Underscoring Russia's cooperation in the field, an Iranian delegation has been visiting this week to discuss further joint projects, which officials from both countries have emphasized are purely civilian in nature.
But Russia's opposition to sanctions appears to extend beyond purely commercial interests. Officials have indicated that they fear that sanctions would lead to a new American-led military conflict in the region, as happened in Iraq.
Voicing a similar fear, the French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said in Paris that Iran's response was ''not satisfactory'' but warned that it would be worse ''to lend fire to a confrontation between Iran on one side -- the Muslim world with Iran -- and the West.''
1. German minister excludes nuclear cooperation with India
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Germany will not cooperate with India in its construction of new nuclear reactors, German Economics Minister Michael Glos said Wednesday.
German law and its decision to phase out its own nuclear-power programme excluded the atomic cooperation, Glos said on a trip to India while adding that the two countries could work together in the field of renewable energy.
His comments came as India plans to build numerous power plants, including nuclear reactors, to fulfil its growing energy needs and feed its surging economy.
The legal situation in Germany has it so "that we must shut down safe nuclear-power plants for reason that are, in my opinion, arbitrary," Glos said in New Delhi before he travelled to Mumbai.
Germany's previous government, a coalition of the Social Democrats and Greens, decided to remove the country from nuclear-power generation by 2021, a policy long criticized by conservatives like Glos.
He said that his trip to India was aimed at highlighting opportunities for German businesses in India. There is "a high level of interest by German business to participate in this growing market," said the minister, whose six-day Asian trip began in Malaysia and was due to end with his return to Germany on Thursday.
Glos added that in light of the failed World Trade Organization talks, the European Union should look at closing its own trade agreement with India and with other Asian countries.
2. India to continue weapons programme - deal or no deal: envoy
Indo-Asian News Service
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India's strategic weapons programme will continue with or without the nuclear agreement with the United States, according to Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen.
The nuclear agreement is basically for meeting India's energy needs and is not something related to security or proliferation or arms control, he said in an interview last week with North Carolina Public Radio during a visit to the southern state's "Research Triangle".
Allaying US concerns about selling nuclear technology to a country that had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Sen pointed out that India does not need any particular technology from the United States.
This was so because in terms of nuclear fuel cycle activities, India was one of the first five six countries to have developed full nuclear fuel cycle capability. In fact India set up a nuclear reactor on its own much before China or Japan, he said.
"So if you talk about that in relation to the strategic programme or weapons programme, this agreement has nothing to do with that. The weapons programme or the strategic programme will continue with or without the agreement," Sen said.
At the same time, India shares US concerns about proliferation as it had not one but two nuclear neighbours - China and Pakistan - with one of whom it has an unresolved territorial issue. It has also been a target of terrorism and had in fact suffered more from terrorism than any other country.
"Right next to us is the biggest concentration of terrorists. We are also adjacent to an area from where the biggest proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has taken place. So this is an issue that is of direct concern to us," Sen said without naming any country.
Asked whether there could be third party transfers of nuclear technology to a country like Iran given India's growing needs for energy, the Indian envoy replied with an emphatic "absolutely not."
India had faced every possible challenge a country could face right from political assassinations starting with that of Mahatma Gandhi, natural disasters of unimaginable magnitude, economic crises, border conflicts and of late it has been the biggest victim of terrorism.
Yet, India has a track record in non-proliferation that is better than in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), better than NPT, better than Western Europe and certainly better than most countries, he said pointing out that the violations one talks about are from countries which are signatories to NPT.
What India needs is commercial investments in the nuclear energy sector, both from Indian and foreign private sector, so that government can spend its scarce funds on areas like education, primary health care, child nutrition and rural infrastructure, Sen said.
As both India and US are concerned about rising energy prices affecting their economies, they can collaborate not in just energy security, but also on developing alternative energy technologies which are more environmental friendly, he said adding, "We have a vital stake in it."
India was looking for collaboration with US not only in information technology, but also in nano technology and bio-technology that has a huge potential for R&D. They had already launched an Agricultural Knowledge Initiative with an investment of $100 million in three years to boost agricultural production.
The government needs to focus on rural areas infrastructure as more than 40 percent of agricultural production was simply wasted and only two percent was processed. All weather roads connecting villages with production centres and cold chains could double farmers' income in no time.
India was not too concerned about its trade deficit with its exports 30 percent less than imports. Instead of trying to artificially balance its trade, India is looking for mutually beneficial partnerships on the principle that "to win some, you lose some," Sen said.
THE ISSUE: The apprehension expressed by eminent nuclear scientists over the Indo-US N-deal is not without reason The joint appeal by eight eminent nuclear scientists to MPs, urging them to discuss in the House the Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation Deal, as approved by the US House of Representatives, is a timely exposure of Americas hidden designs. When the deal was first announced by the defence minister after his visit to Washington and President Bushs visit to India last year, the BJP and Left parties voiced their suspicion of US motives and had warned the Prime Minister. Now the designs are confirmed by these senior scientists who are keen on protecting the national interest. India needs to develop and modernise its capabilities for nuclear power generation, as its present thermal, hydel and gas-based power generation and potential cannot meet the nations demand.
Since New Delhi will not sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty until total disarmament by all nuclear nations, it should not agree to perpetual transfer of technology from the USA. Similarly, India cannot accept US control and inspection of its nuclear facilities, be they for power generation, or other peaceful purposes. It will also be an infringement of our scientists freedom to carry out research and development in nuclear science and technology. India may look elsewhere for cooperation from other nuclear power giants such as France, Germany and Japan. Indias well-wishers are becoming fewer and unless careful, New Delhi can walk into booby traps like the Indo-US deal.
BIBEKANANDA RAY, 21 August, Nadia. Remarkable feat The Indo-US nuclear deal is one of the most remarkable achievements of the UPA government. Deals cannot be one-sided. They have to serve the interests of both parties. Much as one might wish to win over the other side to suit their own interests, one has to settle for a negotiated agreement where vital interests of both parties are protected. The fact that USA chose to enter into a nuclear deal with India and not its ally Pakistan is because we have proved to the world that we are a responsible nation and our credentials are impeccable. There have been fears by some eminent nuclear scientists over the Indo-US nuclear deal. They have voiced concerns over the resolutions by US House of Representatives while clearing the Indo-US agreement of 18 July, last year with convincing majorities. The fact that the criticism is in both countries is proof that it is a win-win situation for India and the world. Instead of decrying the Indo-US nuclear deal, we should look to the future with confidence. P S PONNUSWAMI, 22 August, Kolkata. Not for sale Scientists, whether nuclear or otherwise, are not politicians and naturally, the fears expressed by them over the Indo-US nuclear deal is justified, taking into account the track record of the USA of shifting the goalposts and tampering with agreements. The Indo-US N-deal as approved in the form by the US House of Representatives infringes on the independence of indigenous research and development in nuclear science and technology. It is heartening that the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh declared on the floor of the Rajya Sabha that India will not accept any tampering of the historic, civil agreement between India and the USA, which the latter has done. The present political leadership at the Centre must not sell India to any country.
ASABARI SEN 21 August, Santiniketan. Safeguard deal The implications of the N-deal with George W Bush should be scrutinised by Dr Manmohan Singh. Its welcome news that Dr Singh countered all criticisms of Leftists by explaining that he will not allow anything beyond what was agreed upon with President Bush. In principle, it is right to take a stand that what another country legislates is not of concern to India.
4. Indian PM, Atomic Energy Commission discuss fuel needs
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The Indo-US nuclear deal, fuel shortage at atomic reactors and security at nuclear installations are understood to have figured prominently at the meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here Saturday [26 August].
The meeting is believed to have discussed the quantum of shortfall of fuel and means to address it. Atomic reactors are not getting adequate supply of fuel and a recent case in the point is that of Tarapur nuclear plant which was on the verge of shutdown had Russia not pitched in with uranium supplies.
Nuclear plants in the country are currently operating at 65 per cent of their installed capacity.
The Indo-US nuclear agreement, once implemented, is expected to meet the shortage of fuel as it will allow the international community to supply the much needed uranium.
The meeting was attended by all members, including AEC Chairman Anil Kakodkar, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, Cabinet Secretary B.K. Chaturvedi, Chairman of the PM's Science Advisory Council C.N.R. Rao, BARC Director Srikumar Banerjee, former AEC chairman M.R. Srinivasan, and Minister of State in PMO [Prime Minister's Office] Prithviraj Chavan.
The shortage of fuel could hamper India's plans to generate 20,000 MW electricity from nuclear plants by 2020.
Another key issue to figure at the meeting was that of security at nuclear installations. Three persons working at the Narora atomic plant in Bulandshar district of Uttar Pradesh were arrested earlier this month for providing fake residential addresses.
Security at nuclear facilities across the country was stepped up following reports that terrorists might target these installations.
Source: PTI news agency, New Delhi, in English 1129 gmt 26 Aug 06
SA IS to look into enriching its own uranium to supply an expanding domestic market with possible plans to add five or six nuclear plants by 2030.
After stalling on building new power plants for years, and now suffering the consequences with damaging power cuts, it is good that government is taking a more thorough look at the country's energy future. And it is highly positive that government believes nuclear energy should play a far greater role. SA needs to reduce the role of coal in its energy mix to reduce pollution and global warming from the burning of fossil fuels.
While it is clear from comments made last week by Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica that SA's nuclear future is likely to include the mini pebble-bed modular reactors, Eskom is also considering conventional nuclear plants. A cost-benefit study into locally enriching uranium will form part of this planning exercise. It is only right that SA should look into whether it is commercially worthwhile to enrich its own uranium. Australia, like SA a large producer of raw uranium, is also looking into enriching uranium.
However, the issue is enormously complex. On a purely commercial basis it is highly unlikely government will find it worthwhile to enrich its own uranium. There is likely to be no economic logic for SA to produce enriched uranium for its own programme alone. And in the absence of a sizeable economy of scale, SA cannot compete with the six commercial-scale enrichment entities. Nuclear reactors are operated by 30 countries, and only 10 of these produce their own reactor fuel. Most believe it is not worth undertaking because their needs do not justify investment in a plant that has sufficient economy of scale.
The six entities -- one in China; a joint venture between Belgium, France, Italy and Spain; another in Russia; one in Japan; a joint venture between Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK; and another in the US -- all sell into sizeable markets. Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea enrich uranium on a smaller scale, but these programmes are mainly to produce weapons-grade uranium. Brazil hopes to be self-sufficient in enriched uranium by 2010, and it hopes to produce for export.
SA may be tempted to follow Brazil, but this is not a project that should be launched to exercise rights to the peaceful use of nuclear technology under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US would like to see the right to uranium enrichment abolished, and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, has called it the "Achilles heel" of the treaty.
Part of the reason SA has taken a soft position on the Iranian nuclear programme, despite strong evidence that it is military in nature, is that Pretoria is keen to insist on the right to the peaceful useful of nuclear technology by treaty signatories. It has also said it believes Tehran's programme to be peaceful, though there are a few unanswered questions on certain issues.
The need for self-sufficiency in supplies of enriched uranium is not a valid argument for a project of this sort. There is likely to be adequate supply of nuclear fuel from international sources as the nuclear powers are keen to create a disincentive for countries to enrich their own uranium. Next month the IAEA, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, is to hold a conference to discuss the creation of a nuclear "fuel bank" that would guarantee supplies to treaty-compliant countries.
There will be no easy answers for SA as it probes the complex question of uranium enrichment, and the commercial viability of such a move is highly questionable. But we do need to plan for a future where nuclear will play a far bigger role in our energy mix. There's no immediate pressure, so let's ensure that the investigation is as thorough and as transparent as possible.
1. Iran, India in nuclear talks ahead of UN deadline
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Iran briefed India on Tuesday on Tehran's nuclear programme, an Indian official said, two days ahead of a UN deadline for the Islamic nation to halt uranium enrichment.
Visiting Iranian deputy foreign minister Mehdi Safari gave Tehran's views to Indian officials on an incentives package offered by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China -- plus Germany, said the official.
"The deputy foreign minister put forward Iran's point of view on his country's nuclear programme," the official, who did not wish to be named, said.
He gave no details of the Iranian official's comments.
The UN Security Council has given Iran until Thursday to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities -- which Tehran says is part of a civilian nuclear programme -- or face the threat of sanctions.
The package of incentives, which includes light water reactors and an ensured supply of nuclear fuel for Tehran, is dependent on Iran first suspending nuclear enrichment.
Few details have emerged of Iran's reply to the package. But French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Tuesday that Tehran's response to "proposals from the international community is not satisfactory."
The United States has already warned it would lead to moves to impose sanctions if the reply fell short of Security Council demands.
India has opposed the use of force to compel Iran to give up its nuclear programme. Tehran says the programme is for generating electricity, but Western nations led by Washington allege it is a cover for developing atomic weapons.
New Delhi has twice voted against Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency, criticising its nuclear programmes.
The Islamic regime has said it still seeks talks on Western concerns about its nuclear programme but has ruled out a formal moratorium on enrichment.
Over the weekend, Iran underscored its determination to keep up its nuclear programme with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurating a plant to produce heavy water for use in a new research reactor.
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