Diplomats at the UN have reached agreement in principle on a package of new sanctions against Iran, following its refusal to stop enriching uranium.
The draft resolution is expected to be presented to the Security Council for discussion on Thursday.
The sanctions may include a ban on the export of arms from Iran, and a freeze on the assets of key Iranian officials.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful, but Western governments suspect Iran of wanting a nuclear bomb.
Ambassadors from Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia - the five permanent members of the Security Council - and Germany agreed the draft resolution in principle.
The governments must now approve the text before it is presented to the full Security Council, likely on Thursday.
Diplomats predict the sanctions will include an embargo on Iranian arms exports and an asset freeze on more individuals and companies associated with Tehran's nuclear programme.
The new resolution would also call on governments to make no new commitments "of grants, financial assistance, or concessional loans to the government of Iran," a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
South Africa's ambassador, Dumisani Kumalo, warned that the 10 non-permanent Security Council members, not involved in the discussions so far, now wanted to have their say.
"Nowhere in this process have they ever said that the five plus one would have the exclusive wisdom of producing [the draft resolution] and for us to rubber-stamp," he said.
Asked whether the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will come to the UN to be present for the vote, Mr Kumalo said it was still theoretical because no vote has yet been scheduled.
Mr Kumalo said it could be next week before the Council votes on the resolution.
1. IAEA Director General Concludes Trip to the DPRK
International Atomic Energy Agency
(for personal use only)
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradeiï¿½s 13 - 14 March visit to Pyongyang was an "overall door opener", improving what he termed had been a "rocky relationship" since inspectors left the DPRK in December 2002.
In a series of meetings with senior DPRK officials, Dr. ElBaradei invited the DPRK to return to the IAEA as a Member State. "They said they will consider coming back as a member," Dr. ElBaradei said.
He told a press conference in Beijing "we are moving forward" but "after years before we got back on the right track" this is "not going to happen over night."
Talks also focused on the IAEAï¿½s initial monitoring and verification role for the shut down of the DPRKï¿½s nuclear facilities. He said the DPRK was "fully committed" to the Six-Party agreement and would allow IAEA personnel in once other parties take action on their own commitments under the "Initial Actions". He said the DPRK "was very clear they are ready to implement the February 13 agreement once the other parties implement their part of the deal."
The "Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement," concluded at the "Six-Party Talks" on 13 February, foresees that within 60 days "the DPRK will shut down and seal for the purpose of eventual abandonment the Yongbyon nuclear facility, including the reprocessing facility and invite back IAEA personnel to conduct all necessary monitoring and verifications as agreed between IAEA and DPRK."
The next step for IAEA will be to reach an agreement with the DPRK on specific technical arrangements for monitoring and verification. These terms would be subject to approval by the IAEA Board of Governors.
"They are ready to work with the Agency to make sure that we monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon facility," Dr. ElBaradei said, adding officials in Pyongyang also "reiterated they are committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
Dr. ElBaradei held meetings with the Chairman of the DPRKï¿½s General Bureau of Atomic Energy, Ri Je Son; Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hyong Jun; and Vice President of the Standing Precidium of the Supreme Peopleï¿½s Assembly, Kim Yong Dae.
On 15-16 March, he is scheduled to hold meetings in Beijing with the representatives of the Six-Party talks. On 15 March, Dr. ElBaradei met with Chinaï¿½s Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Cui Tiankai.
"I hope in the next few weeks, months and years, we will continue to work with the DPRK with the objective we all share, which is the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Dr. ElBaradei said.
The United States and Russia, the first two countries to develop atomic bombs, are in talks to coordinate global sales of nuclear fuel to discourage countries, including Iran, from enriching uranium that can be used in weapons.
The goal is to make nuclear fuel affordable to countries that need it to produce electricity, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell said at a conference at the Carnegie Moscow Center on Wednesday. The talks "are one of the reasons for my visit" to Moscow this week, Sell said.
Rising prices for crude oil and other fossil fuels used to fire power plants are making countries, including China, India, South Africa and Middle Eastern states, initiate or expand their nuclear power programs. Nuclear energy could supply 25 percent more electricity than expected by 2030, the International Energy Agency said in November.
"We hope to group fuel supplier nations that will offer services on a very attractive commercial basis, maybe on discount terms," Sell said. The offer would separate nations with energy needs from those with military ambitions, he said.
Russia and the United States hope to form a group of nuclear fuel suppliers that includes France, Britain, Germany, Japan and China to coordinate in providing other states the service without the need for them to invest in such technology.
This would "hopefully take away the desire, not the right, for nations to enrich their own uranium," Sell said.
It would also net nuclear fuel suppliers billions of dollars in contracts and a degree of oversight to guarantee nonproliferation. Highly enriched uranium can be used for warheads.
Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko will travel in May to Washington to discuss details of the nuclear fuel project.
1. U.S. Retains Right for Nuclear Tests if Necessary
(for personal use only)
The United States reserves the right to conduct nuclear tests in the future, but hopes it will not be necessary, a U.S. government official said Wednesday.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell is currently on a visit to Russia to participate in the work of the U.S.-Russia Energy Working Group and to discuss key energy cooperation issues between the two countries.
Sell said at a meeting in the Carnegie Center in Moscow that the U.S. will retain its right to test its nuclear weapons, although it hopes such testing will never be necessary.
The U.S. is part to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that prohibits any nuclear weapon test explosion in any environment, but has not yet ratified the document.
Drafted at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and adopted by the U.N. General Assembly September 10, 1996, the treaty was opened for signature September 24, 1996 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
To date, 177 States have signed the CTBT and 138 States have ratified it. To enter into force, however, the CTBT must be signed and ratified by the 44 states listed in Annex 2 to the treaty.
Thirty-four of those states have ratified the treaty, including three nuclear weapons states - France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. The 10 remaining states are China, Colombia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States of America.
The U.S. official said that the United States is interested in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world, but that while such weapons exist, the country needs to maintain and upgrade its stockpiles.
He also addressed the importance of U.S. - Russia nuclear non-proliferation cooperation through the Bratislava Nuclear Security Initiative and Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.
Under the 2005 Bratislava Nuclear Security Cooperation Initiative, the United States and Russia agreed to expand bilateral efforts to improve nuclear security by completing security upgrades by the end of 2008, stepping up work on repatriating highly-enriched uranium fuel from research reactors in third countries and converting these reactors to use low-enriched uranium fuel, and cooperating on nuclear emergency response.
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), announced by United States Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman February 6, 2006, is a program to form an international partnership to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and use new proliferation-resistant technologies to recover more energy and reduce waste.
The Deputy Energy Secretary said the United States shares Russia's approach to the problem of funding the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, but will support the project only if the Russian nuclear fuel shipped to the NPP is used exclusively for peaceful purposes and spent fuel is returned to Russia.
However, Sell reiterated that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons by using modern technologies, which allow spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants to be reprocessed into weapon-grade plutonium.
The Deputy Secretary's visit to Moscow is the first stop on a trip that will also take him to Ukraine and Georgia, where he will discuss global energy security and nuclear non-proliferation with senior officials.
Sell also said that Russia's Minister of Industry and Energy Viktor Khristenko will visit the United States in May to discuss G8 global energy principles in advancing energy security and continuing efforts to ensure strict adherence to the non-proliferation regime.
1. U.S. Lobbies Europe over Disputed Missile Shield Plan
(for personal use only)
The top U.S. missile defence official is in Europe this week to try to convince sceptics like Germany that the plan will not provoke a new arms race between the West and Russia, U.S. and European officials said.
Lieutenant General Henry A. Obering, director of the U.S. Missile Defence Agency, was in Germany for meetings with officials and will have stops in Ukraine and France.
"One of things Obering is trying to do is to calm down the hysteria about this issue," a U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "This project is not at all aimed at Russia and isn't going to cause a new arms race."
The United States wants to set up a radar system in the Czech Republic and a missile battery in Poland as part of a shield that would counter missiles fired by what Washington calls "rogue states" like Iran and North Korea.
Moscow sees the system as an encroachment on its former sphere of influence and an attempt to shift the post-Cold War balance of power. Germany has criticised the project's planners for failing to discuss it sufficiently with Russia.
Conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who begins a two-day visit to Poland on Friday, said in a television interview she wanted a NATO solution to the dispute.
However, some members of Merkel's coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), are pushing to put the missile shield on the agenda of the European Union, of which Germany is president until the end of June.
But Merkel would like to avoid making this an EU issue, diplomats said, since it would distract the bloc's 27 members from her plan to revive the EU constitution.
EU, NATO SIDELINED
European diplomats familiar with plans for the project said Merkel and other German officials have expressed concerns the shield could lead to a Cold War-style arms race with Russia.
"Germany always been especially sensitive to the questions of arms races and proliferation and fear the missile shield could spark an arms race," a senior European diplomat said.
Oliver Meier, a Berlin-based analyst at the Arms Control Association think-tank, said Polish suggestions that it needed a bilateral security agreement with Washington indicated that this issue could become a divisive one for Europe and NATO.
"One concern is that NATO and EU are being sidelined," Meier said. "What's missing is a more fundamental debate about what the threats really are. You need to have this debate before you discuss whether you actually need this."
The United States, Czech Republic and Poland all agree that including NATO in discussions of the missile shield is a good idea. They also deny that Moscow has not been consulted enough during the process.
"We have had 11 sessions with Moscow on this issue," the U.S. official said. "The first one was in March of last year."
The Czechs and Poles, formerly communist nations which remain deeply suspicious of President Vladimir Putin's Russia, refuse to ask for Russia's or NATO's permission for the project.
But polls show that the majority of populations in both countries oppose the missile shield plan.
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn summed up a view prevailing in some European capitals: "In general one has to ask whether this missile is a priority now," he told German RBB radio.
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.