1. Diplomats to Begin Drafting New U.N. Sanctions on Iran
New York Times
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The coalition of six world powers that has been trying to get Iran to rein in its nuclear program will begin drafting a new United Nations Security Council resolution to ratchet up the pressure again, officials said Monday after a meeting in London.
Top officials from the United States, Britain, China, Russia, Germany and France agreed to begin working on the resolution after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week that Iran was expanding its efforts to enrich uranium, in continuing defiance of the United Nations.
The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the United States was willing to join in talks between the Europeans and Iran over the nuclear program, provided that Iran suspended its uranium enrichment activity.
Mr. McCormack added: ï¿½Should they choose not to proceed down that pathway, then there will be consequences. And those consequences will be diplomatic isolation from the rest of the world.ï¿½
Although American and British officials sounded buoyant, the United States discovered last year that there could be a long way between the start of work on a sanctions resolution against Iran and passage by the Security Council.
The first sanctions resolution against Iran took about four months to put together, after much disagreement between the United States and Russia in particular.
The resolution that finally passed, two days before Christmas, was much weaker than American officials had wanted. It banned the import and export of materials and technology used in uranium enrichment, reprocessing and ballistic missiles, and froze the assets of 12 Iranians and 10 companies said to be involved in nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
But it did not include a mandatory travel ban on people involved in nuclear activities, as the Bush administration had proposed. To achieve consensus, the Americans dropped their insistence on a travel ban after Russia balked. Moscow also balked over sanctions against a nuclear power plant that Russia is building at Bushehr, in southern Iran.
The resolution gave Iran 60 days from Dec. 23 to suspend uranium enrichment ï¿½ the first step in making fuel that can be used for civilian power plants or atomic bombs ï¿½ or face further sanctions.
American and European officials are hoping that this time in the Security Council, things will be different. The United States and Britain would like to see the next round of sanctions include the travel ban, as well as a further freeze on international financial transactions by top Iranian officials.
ï¿½Weï¿½ve done a lot of the political negotiation that we didnï¿½t do last time,ï¿½ said one European diplomat involved in the negotiations. He characterized the meeting on Monday in London, attended by the American under secretary of state for political affairs, R. Nicholas Burns, and his five counterparts from Europe, Russia and China, as ï¿½one of the best meetings that theyï¿½ve had yet.ï¿½
But, he added, ï¿½Iï¿½m sure it wonï¿½t be straightforward.ï¿½
A second sanctions resolution would be part of the overall increase in oratory and pressure against Iran by the Bush administration, which has also accused the Iranians of meddling in Iraq. Part of the debate on another resolution is bound to reflect concern from Russia over the possibility of American military action against Iran.
Vice President Dick Cheney said last week that ï¿½all options are still on the tableï¿½ for Washington to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a comment that has heightened fears that the administration is considering attacking Iranï¿½s nuclear sites.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said Monday, during a conversation with President Vladimir V. Putin that was broadcast on state television, that Moscow was worried about that kind of talk.
1. North Korea Nuclear Envoy May Visit U.S. for Talks
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North Korea's top nuclear negotiator may visit San Francisco to meet non-governmental groups and then go to New York for talks with his U.S. counterpart, the U.S. State Department said.
Responding to media reports of a possible visit by Kim Kye-gwan, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters: "I think that he has some meetings, potentially, with some NGOs out there in San Francisco."
"We're still working through the logistics of a meeting between (him) and Chris Hill," he added, referring to the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and the top U.S. delegate to talks on ending Pyongyang's atomic ambitions.
On Saturday, South Korea's Yonhap News quoted unidentified sources in the U.S. as saying that Kim would visit San Francisco for a lecture on March 1 and then head to New York for a meeting with Hill.
Kim arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, accompanied by a senior North Korean official in charge of relations with the United States and an interpreter, Japan's Kyodo news agency said, adding that they may depart for the United States as early as Wednesday.
McCormack said a meeting between Hill and Kim, if one took place, was expected to happen in New York although the date and other details were still being worked out. Such talks are envisaged under the Feb. 13 agreement in which North Korea agreed to take steps toward nuclear disarmament in exchange for energy aid.
The agreement, reached four months after Pyongyang stunned the world with its first nuclear test, requires the secretive communist state to shut down the reactor at the heart of its nuclear ambitions and to allow international inspections.
The deal also called for a working group on the normalisation of U.S.-North Korean relations to meet within 30 days. The United States proposed that it meet in New York, where U.S. and North Korean officials sometimes have contacts.
1. U.S. Intelligence Says North Korea Beginning to Implement Nuclear Accord
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U.S. intelligence officials on Tuesday told skeptical lawmakers that North Korea appeared to be taking the first steps to implement a recent nuclear disarmament agreement, but they said they would keep close tabs on the North's actions.
Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said officials had seen North Korea begin inspections of its main nuclear reactor, which the North pledged to shut down and seal in return for an initial load of fuel oil. More aid would follow if the North disabled its nuclear programs.
"There are parts of this nuclear program that we have to pay a lot of attention to, to see if we have the kind of disclosure and the inspection capabilities that we're looking for," Maples said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. He did not provide specific details on the intelligence.
The newly installed U.S. spy chief, Mike McConnell, indicated "open questions" about the North's intentions. But, he added, "so far, the indications are in a positive direction."
Lawmakers wanted to know whether U.S. intelligence showed the North was likely to carry out the first steps of the agreement.
Many in Washington are deeply skeptical of an agreement the Bush administration has portrayed as a breakthrough after months of deadlock. Conservatives say it rewards North Korea for bad behavior and encourages Iran, another country with which the U.S. is locked in a nuclear standoff.
Maples said that Iran has bought missiles from North Korea, and that the two countries have had extensive dealings on the development of missile systems. When asked if U.S. intelligence officials are worried that North Korea might be aiding Iran's nuclear programs, Maples said: "There is a concern, but we haven't seen that."
McConnell said that the United States did not have as much intelligence-gathering abilities within North Korea as it would like.
"We can verify many of the conditions from external observation but not at the level you're asking about, in terms of details," McConnell told Sen. John Warner, a senior Republican on the committee, who was pressing for details on the North's willingness to implement the accord.
Warner urged the officials to be wary. "Remember the old phrase: trust but verify," he said.
The National Nuclear Security Administration proposed a $1.1 million civil penalty against the former manager of a nuclear weapons lab for safety violations that included a researcher spreading radiological contamination to two other states and workers inhaling radioactive substances.
The agency announced the notice of violation Monday against the University of California for infractions that occurred in 2005, when UC was the sole manager of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The notice spells out 15 separate incidents that violated the Department of Energy's nuclear safety rules.
The incidents include a Los Alamos researcher opening a package of slightly enriched uranium nitride pellets. The package was contaminated with americium 241, a radioactive decay product of plutonium.
The researcher unloaded the pellets without the help of a radiological control technician, and he spread the contamination to his home and places he visited in Colorado and Kansas.
Another incident involved workers who inhaled radioactive substances.
In both cases, the contamination was limited by "good fortune" but had the potential to be significantly greater, acting NNSA director Thomas P. D'Agostino wrote in a Feb. 16 letter to lab director Michael Anastasio.
The notice also referred to a November 2005 inspection that exposed "long-standing" deficiencies in the lab's safety, health and environmental programs.
Since federal law exempted the non-profit university from financial liability at the time of the violations, the UC will not have to pay the fine. But the agency warned the lab's new management team ï¿½ installed less than a year ago, in part to reverse years of security and safety problems ï¿½ that those days are over.
"Due both to the recent contract change and changes in the civil penalty provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, future monetary civil penalties imposed ... as part of a notice of violation will no longer be waived," D'Agostino wrote.
The lab is now managed by Los Alamos National Security LLC, which includes the university, Bechtel Corp., BWX Technologies Inc. and Washington Group International. D'Agostino said he expects corrective actions to be one Anastasio's highest priorities as lab director.
UC spokesman Chris Harrington said in a statement Monday that the university has taken a number of steps to fix the problems outlined by the NNSA.
"The University of California takes safety and security issues very seriously as part of our commitment to managing the national laboratories," Harrington said.
The notice of violation is the latest in a rash of criticism against the lab. Just last month, members of a House oversight committee threatened to strip the lab of its security responsibilities ï¿½ or even shut it down ï¿½ to correct security lapses.
1. U.S. Missile Shield Talks Could Take Several Years
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Future talks on the deployment of a U.S. missile defense base in Poland could take several years, Poland's foreign minister said Monday.
In January, the United States approached Poland and the Czech Republic, former Central European Soviet allies and now members of the European Union and NATO, with a request to host elements of the missile defense system.
Washington plans to build a radar installation in the Czech Republic and a missile interceptor base in Poland in the next five years.
"The United States has proposed building a missile defense base on our territory, but the negotiating process could last several years, because various technical, legislative and other issues are involved," said Anna Fotyga, who is currently on a three-day visit to Armenia.
Poland formally agreed last Friday to start detailed negotiations with the U.S. on the deployment of parts of the missile shield on its territory.
"All I can say with certainty is that during the discussions, we will prioritize Poland's security, and then the security of Europe and the world," Fotyga said.
Elzbieta Jakubiak, head of the Polish presidential administration said Saturday that President Lech Kaczynski would meet with members of Poland's Security Council to discuss the issue of the U.S. missile shield not earlier than March 5.
The U.S. insists that the European missile shield is meant to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, but Moscow strongly opposes the deployment of a missile shield in its former backyard in Central Europe, describing the plans as a threat to Russian national security.
Russia's top military officials earlier issued strong warnings to the U.S. regarding its plans to deploy elements of its anti-missile defense system in Europe.
The chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Yury Baluyevsky, said in an interview with the daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that the unilateral U.S. actions could damage the balance of power in Europe and undermine Russia's nuclear deterrence.
"Knowing the potential technical characteristics of fire support and weapons systems, we can confirm that despite numerous assurances that these systems are not targeted at Russia, they could still affect our deterrence capability under certain circumstances," the general said.
Baluyevsky reiterated that Russia is strictly adhering to its nuclear disarmament obligations, while the U.S. is pressing forward with plans to base elements of a missile shield in Europe, which coincides with NATO expansion closer to Russian borders.
The Russian military chief earlier said that in response to U.S. missile deployment plans, Moscow might pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) which eliminated nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles).
Following his remarks, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, said the SMF would be able to track elements of the U.S. missile defense system if deployed in Central Europe.
"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic make such a decision, the Strategic Missile Forces will be able to target these systems," he said.
However, the Polish prime minister said February 20 that the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile base in the country would guarantee that Warsaw would no longer be under Russia's sphere of influence.
"We are talking about the status of Poland and about Russia's hopes that Poland will once again come under its [Moscow's] sphere of influence," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said.
The premier said such a situation could involve exercising influence on Poland, exerting direct pressure on it, or creating a situation in which dealing with Moscow becomes Poland's only recourse.
"But following the deployment of a missile defense base here, the chances of such undue influence arising will be greatly reduced for at least several decades," Kaczynsky said.
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