1. Putin Orders Government to Restructure Nuclear Energy Industry
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to restructure Russia's nuclear energy industry, the presidential press secretary said.
The official text will be released later, he said.
A source in the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power (Rosatom) said a government corporation to run the industry (Atomenergoprom) will be created by January 2008.
Rosatom said previously Atomenergoprom, which will be wholly controlled by the government, will be a full-cycle corporation engaged in activities ranging from uranium extraction, fuel production and electric power generation, to the construction of nuclear power plants, both at home and abroad.
The new body will exercise centralized control over the civilian nuclear power sector following the merger of four existing nuclear power "dinosaurs" - TVEL, Techsnabexport, Rosenergoatom and Atomstroyexport.
It also said Russia could expand its uranium ore production and become third in the world in terms of identified uranium ore reserves in the future.
In his annual state of the nation address to parliament Thursday, Putin said power generation is a high priority for the Russian economy, in which 12 trillion rubles ($467.1 billion) will be invested by 2020.
"A major structural reform will be implemented - in effect, the country's second comprehensive electrification," he said. "Power generation in Russia is to grow 66% by 2020."
The president said that new power plants would be built, existing ones modernized and the power grid expanded and diversified.
He said nuclear power would remain a priority, and proposed the establishment of a corporation to streamline the nuclear industry.
"Thirty nuclear power plants were built in the country during the Soviet period. And we need to build another 26, based on the latest technology," Putin. "I propose setting up a corporation to integrate nuclear power enterprises operating on domestic and foreign markets."
Commenting on the president's remarks, Rosatom Director Sergei Kiriyenko said the corporation would be designed to ensure the effective and efficient operation of the nuclear power sector.
Iran stood firm Tuesday in opposing language in a nuclear conference agenda that reaffirms the need for full compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, a stance that diplomats said could scuttle the meeting aimed at strengthening the accord.
The conference, which began Monday and lasts for two weeks, is the first of three sessions to prepare for a full review of the treaty in 2010 and to come up with specific ideas on how to reinforce the pact.
Iran opposed wording in the meeting's agenda that mentions the ``need for full compliance with the treaty.'' The agenda must be adopted by consensus before delegates can move on to more substantive matters.
If Iran digs in its heels, it could force the meeting to adjourn to a later date. Alternatively, delegates could move on to specific agenda items not being contested by Tehran, giving the meeting time to reach a compromise.
A senior diplomat from a nonaligned nation, which usually supports Iran in showdowns with the United States and its allies over its nuclear program, said Tuesday that even nonaligned countries were puzzled by Iran's move.
An Iranian diplomat, asked whether his country's position had changed as the conference convened for the second day Tuesday, said ``No.'' He and other diplomats spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the issue to the media.
The Iranian said his delegation did not see the need for that particular wording on compliance, adding it would prefer to see ``different language.'' Another diplomat familiar with the issue said Iran was worried about being bullied and ``considered it an additional provocation.''
Several expressed surprise at Iran's opposition to the wording, noting it has always maintained its nuclear activities - including a developing program to enrich uranium that has led to U.N. sanctions - are in compliance with the treaty.
The treaty, reviewed every five years, calls on nations to pledge not to pursue nuclear weapons, in exchange for a commitment by five nuclear powers - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - to move toward nuclear disarmament. India and Pakistan, which are known nuclear weapons states, remain outside the treaty, as does Israel, which is considered to have such arms, though it has not acknowledged it.
Both Iran and North Korea have tested the 37-year-old treaty's effectiveness. North Korea pulled out in early 2003 and went on to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran argues it has a right to pursue uranium enrichment under the treaty despite international fears it is using the process to make nuclear weapons. The U.N. has imposed sanctions over Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement to the conference Monday, urged delegates to work together to find ways to strengthen the treaty.
``There continues to be insufficient progress in nuclear disarmament, as well as a lack of universal adherence to IAEA safeguards agreements, and cases of noncompliance,'' he said, referring to the U.N. nuclear watchdog - the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Apart from cases of outright noncompliance, nuclear powers are not doing enough to disarm, and countries are not adhering to safeguard agreements, he said.
There is a ``persisting crisis of confidence in the treaty,'' Ban said.
Earlier, delegates urged Iran and North Korea to accept international demands that they give up their nuclear programs in order to safeguard the future of the nonproliferation treaty.
Singling out North Korea, Christopher A. Ford, the U.S. Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation, said there was a need for states that are party to the treaty to work together to deter others from using withdrawal ``as a means to escape the consequences of their violation of the treaty's provisions.''
Ford said it was ``important ... to make such withdrawal more unattractive before any other state party violator is tempted to follow such a course.''
The EU is also concerned about the situation in North Korea and has urged Pyongyang to dismantle its ``WMD and ballistics programs in a complete, irreversible and verifiable way,'' Ruediger Luedeking, Germany's deputy commissioner for arms control and disarmament, told the opening session Monday on behalf of the European Union.
While North Korea agreed in February to shut down its nuclear programs, a dispute over its access to $25 million in funds frozen at a Macau bank has delayed implementation of that pledge.
Officials from some 130 of the treaty's 189 signatory countries are attending the conference, excluding North Korea.
President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe threatened North Korea on Friday with the possibility of new sanctions unless Pyongyang abides by its promise to shut down its nuclear program, while Bush invited senior lawmakers to the White House next week to discuss how to break the stalemate over Iraq war funding.
"We're hoping that the North Korea leader continues to make the right choice for his country," Bush said at a joint news conference with Abe at the presidential retreat here. "But if he should choose not to, we've got a strategy to make sure that the pressure we've initially applied is even greater. That's our plan."
Bush was also asked about the impasse with Congress over Iraq, with lawmakers planning to send the president a bill next week that would require the beginning of troop reductions. Bush voiced optimism he would eventually receive a bill he is willing to sign but gave no indication of what kind of restrictions or conditions he might accept in negotiations with Democrats. A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday at the White House.
The president once again made clear there is at least one deal breaker -- setting a deadline for pulling out U.S. troops. "If the Congress wants to test my will as to whether or not I'll accept a timetable for withdrawal, I won't accept one," Bush said, indicating a willingness to continue vetoing bills if necessary.
It was another thorny foreign policy problem -- how to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program -- that dominated the first U.S. summit between Bush and the new Japanese prime minister, a hawkish conservative who is the first Japanese leader born after World War II. Bush got along famously with Abe's more flamboyant predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, and officials on both sides were anxious to get the new relationship off to a good start: Abe brought gifts for Bush's dogs when he came to dinner at the White House on Thursday -- tiny pillows with their names inscribed.
But more serious issues intruded. Japanese officials have been unhappy with Washington's recent policy shift, a new agreement in which North Korea agreed eventually to give up its nuclear weapons program for fuel aid and steps toward normalizing relations with the United States and Japan.
Japanese skepticism of North Korea's willingness to abide by the plan has been fanned in recent weeks by Pyongyang's failure to implement its first major requirement -- shutting down its main nuclear facility. That was supposed to happen within 60 days of the Feb. 13 deal, but the deadline has been broken by two weeks -- owing to a hang-up over resolving a separate dispute over North Korean money frozen at a Macau bank.
In talking with reporters through a translator Friday morning, Abe said he and Bush "completely see eye to eye" on North Korea, though his language seemed much sharper on Pyongyang than Bush's. Abe said the North Koreans "need to respond appropriately on these issues, otherwise we will have to take a tougher response on our side" and bluntly warned that he is well aware of the "negotiating ploys" from Pyongyang.
For his part, Bush evinced continuing strong support of a nuclear deal that has been criticized by hawks in his own party, describing the impasse with North Korea as "a bump in the road to getting them to honor their agreement."
Bush said U.S. officials are trying to "clarify" for the North Koreans the financial arrangements for retrieving their frozen money, "so that that will enable them to have no excuse for moving forward." As part of an effort to keep the nuclear agreement going, the administration recently reversed its position and permitted the North Koreans to access the money, $25 million, after accusing them of money-laundering.
"Our patience is not unlimited," Bush said, though he did not set a timetable for North Korea to comply. The president noted: "We now have a structure in place to continue to provide a strong message to the North Koreans. We have the capability of more sanctions. We have the capability of convincing other nations to send a clear message."
One senior administration official, who asked for anonymity so as not to upstage the president, said U.S. officials do not believe the nuclear deal with North Korea is unraveling despite its failure to shut down the reactor. He said "the North continues to be clear with us that they are committed to this agreement" and is only trying to sort out the issues over the frozen money first.
The official said there are not major differences between Bush and Abe on the nuclear issue -- but said the Japanese prime minister did voice concerns to the president about whether North Korea will provide a full accounting of the Japanese citizens it has abducted. Japanese officials are worried that the United States might take North Korea off its official list of state sponsors of terrorism before there is such an accounting.
1. India, U.S. to Hold Crucial Nuclear Talks on Tuesday
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India and the US will hold crucial talks to overcome major differences on a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact that will pave the way for resumption of nuclear commerce between the two countries.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who arrived in Washington on Monday, will meet US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Washington's chief interlocutor on the nuclear deal, on the finer points of the text of the 123 agreement, which will implement the 2005 civil nuclear deal between the two countries.
This will be the third round of formal negotiations between India and the US and takes place amid renewed posturing by both sides on key issues like nuclear testing and transfer of technologies relating to reprocessing of US-origin spent fuel.
The meeting comes close on the heels of informal talks between the two sides in Cape Town 10 days ago that ended without a breakthrough on key issues.
Joining Menon in the discussions will be S Jaishankar, India's high commissioner to Singapore who has been actively involved with the negotiations, as well as other Indian diplomats.
India will try to get the US to agree to a position whereby the 123 pact, named after Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, will not include a ban on nuclear testing - something Washington is not ready to concede.
Washington has insisted on a clause that will terminate all civilian nuclear cooperation with New Delhi should the latter conduct a nuclear test.
New Delhi feels that this amounts to insinuating through the backdoor a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which it refused to sign years ago and is not ready to accept beyond a voluntary moratorium on testing.
The US, on its part, is insisting on a right-of-return clause for nuclear equipment and fuel sold under the agreement. This is not acceptable to India as it runs counter to the lifetime fuel supply assurances given by the US.
Washington's insistence on fallback bilateral safeguards in addition to the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards is also not acceptable to New Delhi.
Menon will on Monday attend the fifth meeting of the India-US Global Issues Forum at the State Department.
He will meet Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky on different facets of the UN Democracy Fund, the state of democracy in the world, especially in Afghanistan, and issues relating to trafficking and refugees.
President Bush said Monday he is stepping up a dialogue with Russia over a planned U.S. missile defense system in Europe in hopes of convincing Moscow it's only ``a friendly force.''
The issue came up on the first day of a U.S.-European Union summit at the White House. Bush said German Chancellor Angela Merkel's urging, he has begun trying to better explain his plans to President Vladimir Putin.
The Bush administration is planning to install a radar system and interceptors in Eastern Europe as part of its broader missile defense system. Last week, Putin repeated opposition to the U.S. plan and threatened to pull out of a key post-Cold War treaty that set limits on the deployment of military forces in Europe as a result.
``Our intention of course is to have a defense system that prevents rogue regimes from holding western Europe and/or America hostage,'' Bush said. ``Evidently, the Russians see it differently.''
Bush said he personally requested of Putin that he give Defense Secretary Robert Gates an audience on a recent trip to Moscow so that Gates could discuss the plan more fully.
``We have started a dialogue, as a result of Secretary Gates' visit, that hopefully will make explicit our intentions, and hopefully will present an opportunity to share with the Russians so that they don't see us as an antagonist force, but see us as a friendly force,'' Bush said.
Ahead of the talks with Bush, Merkel, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, proposed that Russia be invited to participate in a common threat analysis to clarify the need for the defense system. She said that talks should take place in the NATO-Russia council.
Though she said she did not expect great progress on the impasse with Russia at the summit, she said she would press her concerns.
``I want to make clear again that things need to be discussed jointly with Russia,'' she said.
Merkel did not comment on the topic in her joint appearance with Bush after the summit meetings.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who led the summit's European delegation with Merkel, said over the weekend that Russia should not have a veto over the proposed missile defense system and criticized Putin's threat.
The missile defense issue overshadowed the meetings, the primary goal of which was U.S.-European unity at a time when the two sides have made clear they will sidestep disagreements over global trade and climate change.
Diplomatic efforts to achieve Middle East peace and to get Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program were also on tap at the summit, as were a U.S. visa waiver program that excludes some European nations, the violence in Sudan's Darfur region, and global trade talks.
European leaders and the U.S. have helped push through two sets of United Nations sanctions as part of international efforts to pressure Iran to make nuclear concessions.
Bush called Iran ``a significant threat to world peace today and in the future'' because of its nuclear program and said the United States and the European Union are ``united in sending this very clear message'' to back enforcement of U.N. resolutions on Iran to allow inspections of nuclear facilities.
Merkel has sought to foster closer ties between Europe and Washington, after years of disputes over the Iraq war and the U.S. treatment of terror suspects.
The three leaders praised a new agreement they reached to integrate their economies in such areas as trade, investment and innovation.
``It is a recognition that the closer the United States and E.U. become, the better off our people become,'' Bush said. ``And so this is a substantial agreement and I appreciate it.''
Bush and his European colleagues also pushed for the completion of stalled international trade talks, known as the Doha Round.
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