1. Russia to Transfer N.K. Funds to Help Settle Nuclear Standoff: S. Korean Sources
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)
Russia has accepted a U.S. request to help facilitate the transfer of US$25 million in "tainted" North Korean funds to resolve a banking dispute that has stalemated the North's nuclear disarmament procedures, South Korean sources said Sunday.
In February, North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear facilities in return for aid, but hasn't taken any initial steps, citing the stalled release of its funds in a Macau bank blacklisted by the United States.
The U.S. recently proposed that a Russian bank with a North Korean account accept the funds via an American financial institution before sending them back to the communist country, and Russia accepted the plan, said a South Korean government source privy to the banking issue.
The proposal was made after top officials of the U.S., Russia, South Korea and China agreed on a solution which "all concerned parties can accede to," the source said on condition of anonymity.
To carry out the international money transactions, the U.S. is expected to temporarily bend its rules banning American banks from dealing with Banco Delta Asia, the Macau lender, said another South Korean government source, also speaking anonymously.
A U.S. bank will play an "intermediary role," but its name will not be disclosed so the process can be conducted smoothly, the source said, adding it would not be Wachovia Corp., the fourth-largest American bank that once considered helping with the fund transactions.
"With the new idea being pushed in a positive atmosphere, as the U.S., China and Russia agree on it, the chances for the transfer of the North Korean funds are getting higher," the source said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. agreed to unfreeze the money at Banco Delta Asia to win North Korea's agreement to shut down its nuclear facilities.
The U.S. had earlier frozen the money, accusing the bank of money-laundering for North Korea. Considering the sanctions a hostile U.S. policy against it, the communist North boycotted nuclear talks for more than a year, and performed its first-ever nuclear test during that time.
The transfer, however, has not been made amid difficulties in finding a financial institution willing to conduct it. This problem caused the North to miss an April 14 deadline to shut down its sole nuclear plant in Yongbyon, a key agreed-upon initial disarmament measure.
According to press reports, Pyongyang wants to get the money back through a U.S. institution, believing that would enable it to have continued access to the international financial system, although the North could withdraw the money in cash and ship it home. Several foreign banks were also asked to help process the transfer but were reluctant to do so as they were worried about tarnishing their images and getting cut off from the U.S. financial system, the reports said.
South Korean chief nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo is to leave for Washington on Monday for talks on how to implement the Feb. 13 disarmament accord, which was signed by the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
1. IAEA Warns of Iran Atomic Risk Amid EU-Tehran Talks
Mark Heinrich and Karin Strohecker
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Iran's nuclear behavior poses a serious concern it might gain the ability to build atom bombs, the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said on Monday as Tehran and the EU resumed talks but dampened expectations of a breakthrough.
Underscoring tensions, a meeting planned between Iranian deputy nuclear negotiator Javad Vaeedi and two top International Atomic Energy Agency officials was cancelled as he was unwilling to discuss substance, diplomats close to the IAEA said.
Vaeedi did meet Robert Cooper, a top aide to European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, for 4 1/2 hours to smooth over the way to further talks between Solana and Iranian chief negotiator Ali Larijani.
But there was no sign of headway towards settling the core dispute. Iran refuses to suspend its expanding nuclear fuel program in exchange for a suspension in U.N. sanctions and negotiations on trade benefits offered by world powers.
"Today's working session was good; I consider it kind of constructive ... (but) it is completely true that you should not expect kind of a huge miracle," Vaeedi told reporters. "We made progress but also one cannot expect miracles in this business," Cooper told reporters alongside the Iranian.
The United States and its allies fear Iran is trying to develop atomic bombs behind the facade of a nuclear energy program, rather than generate the electricity it says it needs for peaceful economic development.
Gregory Schulte, U.S. envoy to the IAEA, said the organization's board would scrutinize "two disturbing trends" -- expanding enrichment and diminishing IAEA access, which was "causing a troubling deterioration" in the agency's knowledge of Iranian activity.
The standoff is sharpening as world powers consider whether to push for a third, harsher round of U.N. Security Council sanctions to try to force Iran to freeze enrichment work.
Larijani promised Solana at a May 31 meeting in Madrid to do more to clear up IAEA inquests into the nature of its program. But Tehran said the gesture depended on an end to Security Council action. That is a non-starter for world powers.
IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei told a meeting of its governing board Iran had made itself the agency's No. 1 nuclear proliferation concern by significantly expanding its uranium enrichment program while curbing cooperation with inspectors.
"This is disconcerting and regrettable," he said in a speech opening the gathering of the 35-nation board.
"The facts on the ground indicate that Iran continues steadily to perfect its knowledge relevant to enrichment, and to expand the capacity of its enrichment facility," said ElBaradei.
"This is taking place without the agency being able to make any progress in its efforts to resolve outstanding issues relevant to the nature and scope of Iran's nuclear program.
At the same time, he said he was growing alarmed about the "current stalemate and brewing confrontation" between Iran and world powers, which he fears could lead to U.S.-Iranian war inflaming the Middle East without a diplomatic compromise.
For over a year, Iran has limited inspections to declared nuclear sites, barring short-notice visits to other areas to probe indications of undeclared activity with military links.
In April, Iran stopped providing advance design information on planned nuclear sites, including a heavy-water reactor.
A May 23 IAEA inspector report said Iran had not only ignored a U.N. deadline to stop enrichment but had made big strides in its program since the start of this year.
A U.N. official said Iran now had 2,000 centrifuges on line and was on pace for 3,000 by next month. That would lay the basis for "industrial scale" enrichment that could yield enough refined uranium for an atom bomb within a year.
Iran insists it will only enrich uranium to the grade required for power reactors, not the far higher concentration needed for nuclear explosives.
1. Pakistan Joins Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism
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Pakistan will join an international initiative aimed at keeping nuclear materials from the hands of terrorists, but the countryï¿½s military nuclear programme and facilities will not be covered, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Pakistanï¿½s participation in the joint US-Russian initiative shows international recognition of Pakistanï¿½s nuclear control measures, the ministry said in a statement late on Saturday. The initiative only applies to civilian ï¿½facilities and activities,ï¿½ the ministry claimed. ï¿½Pakistan has declared that the global initiative does not cover Pakistanï¿½s military nuclear facilities or activities,ï¿½ the statement added.
ï¿½Pakistanï¿½s participation in the global initiative is a manifestation of the fact that nuclear security and export control measures in Pakistan are at par with the latest international standards, and recognition of the important role being played by Pakistan as a partner in the global efforts against nuclear proliferation and possible nuclear terrorism,ï¿½ the statement added.
US President George W Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, announced the nuclear safety initiative, known as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, in July 2006. Pakistan has been invited to the next meeting of the initiative, in Kazakhstan on June 11-12, the statement said.
Meanwhile, under the scope of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the weeklong International Nuclear Terrorism Law-Enforcement Conference will begin in Miami, USA, on Monday (today) to discuss how to boost cooperation between governments to better confront the threat of nuclear terrorism.
The conference aims to provide ï¿½law-enforcement and Homeland Security officials with the proper tools to prevent, detect, disrupt, and deny terrorists from seeking, acquiring, or using nuclear materials,ï¿½ said event organiser, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The meeting will include conferences on smuggling trends and detection of nuclear material around the world, border security, improvised nuclear devices and ï¿½dirty bombsï¿½. ï¿½The evolving terrorist methodology ï¿½ a reliance on suicide missions and a premium on the spectacular ï¿½ leaves many experts worried that the next 9-11 might include nuclear materials,ï¿½ said The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
Security experts agree that a terrorist attack with nuclear weapons is highly unlikely but not impossible, and that it is much easier than imagined. To prevent it, countries that stock nuclear-weapons-grade materials, such as highly enriched uranium or plutonium, must do everything in their power to keep them out of reach of potential terrorists, experts say.
OPEC-member Algeria signed a nuclear cooperation accord with the United States on Saturday to enable the oil and gas exporting country to master nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
Algeria has big uranium deposits and two nuclear research reactors, but has no immediate plans for nuclear power, although the government says nuclear could join renewables sources in the future energy mix as oil and gas resources decline.
It plans to publish a draft law shortly on the use of civilian nuclear power.
Algeria's oil reserves of 11.8 billion barrels will last 23 years and its gas reserves of at least 149,332 billion cubic feet will last 50 years at current production rates.
Under the accord enabling cooperation between U.S. laboratories and nuclear researchers in Algeria, U.S. nuclear officials will work for the next few days with partners from Algeria's Atomic Energy Commission to determine possible future projects of common interest.
Algerian officials have previously said they had planned the accord with Washington to diversify the sources of expertise and advice available to their nuclear programme.
The accord was signed by Algeria's Energy and Mines Secretary General Abbas Faisal. William H. Tobey, deputy administrator at the U.S. Department of Energy had already signed the so-called "Sister Lab" agreement, which a U.S. statement said was "intended to support the peaceful use of nuclear energy".
Tobey, not present at the signing ceremony, is a senior U.S. official responsible for preventing the spread of materials, technology, and expertise to do with weapons of mass destruction and eliminating inventories of surplus fissile material.
U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford and a U.S. energy expert attended the signing. Algeria plans to sign similar agreements with South Africa, which has Africa's only nuclear power plant, and with Egypt.
Its traditional partners are China, which helped supply a 15-megawatt reactor at Ain Ouassara in Algeria's Djelfa region, and Argentina, which helped to build a three megawatt reactor at Draria near Algiers.
Algeria signed a deal with Russia in January 2007 on possible nuclear cooperation. Iran has also offered to share nuclear expertise.
India said yesterday it is still ï¿½hopefulï¿½ that the landmark civil nuclear deal with the United States could be made operational by September. The two sides are optimistically working to reach at compromises to facilitate mutual understanding on the implementation of the pact.
While Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said that the deal could be finalised before September, his Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee said that it would have no adverse impact on New Delhiï¿½s relations with the US in case the deal is not finalised. Dr Singh said ï¿½I cannot assert that I got the final answer from President (George) Bush (when I met him) on Friday.ï¿½
ï¿½I can only talk about the atmosphere. The civil nuclear agreement will need some more negotiations before we see light at the end of the tunnel. All we are interested in is that the substance of the 123 Agreement should confirm with what I told the people of India, what I told the parliament.ï¿½
However, minister for external affairs in a TV interview yesterday made it clear that the US was trying to transfer its problem to India, and this was not acceptable to New Delhi in any case. In a downbeat assessment of the Indo-US nuclear deal, Mukherjee said on CNN-IBN that he was ï¿½hopefulï¿½ the deal would go through.
At the same time, he said he was not sure. If ultimately the deal did not happen, he said ï¿½I donï¿½t think it will have any adverse impact on the India-US relationship.ï¿½
Asked if he was disappointed with the outcome of the Burns-Menon talks, the minister sidestepped the issue saying ï¿½there is no question of disappointment, we are (still) engaged in a negotiationï¿½.
Speaking about Washingtonï¿½s reluctance to grant India reprocessing rights, he said: ï¿½reprocessing is absolutely necessary for us because we do not want to have a situation like the repetition of Tarapur (where US stopped India reprocessing the spent fuel). They say that they have some problems. We say do not transfer your problems to us.ï¿½
ï¿½What has been agreed in the joint statement of July 2005 and subsequently in March 2006 and whatï¿½s in our commitment to parliament ï¿½ they are already aware of it ï¿½ therefore within these parameters this 123 Agreement has to be signed,ï¿½ Mukherjee said. He, however, indicated that there are scope for compromises.
When asked if India would be prepared to accept reprocessing rights on the same terms and conditions as the US has granted to Japan, Switzerland and Euratom, Mukherjee said that will have to be examined in the given context.
However, when asked if India would encourage the US by designating specific plants where the reprocessing would be carried out, and placing them under safeguards, he said this is not possible. He declined the possibility of showing an accommodating attitude towards the US stand on fallback safeguards, despite the fact that Japan, Switzerland and Euratom have taken compromising position on such issues.
Mukherjee appeared to have taken a position contrary to that of the National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan in Berlin during his talks with his US counterpart Stephen Hadley. He said ï¿½India is a non-signatory to NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty). The others, which you have referred, are signatories to NPT. Therefore, this arrangement will have to be India-specific.ï¿½
When asked if India could accept reprocessing on the same terms and conditions as the US has granted to China, Mukherjee said this would again not be acceptable. In case of China, if permission is not given within six months, Beijing acquires an automatic interim right of reprocessing. Mukherjee said: ï¿½You are making a comparison between the non-comparables. China is already declared a nuclear weapon state.ï¿½
However, despite appearing to rule out two precedents that could be followed for granting India the reprocessing rights, Mukherjee said: ï¿½We will be able to find someway outï¿½, as both India and the US are trying their best. ï¿½We would not like (the deal) to have any impact on our indigenous nuclear programme and also we would not like (the deal) to affect our strategic programme,ï¿½ he said.
The nuclear deal would have to be ï¿½India-specificï¿½ to ensure that any strategic reserves of fuel which India would build up, sometimes called lifetime reserves of fuel, would not be covered by the right of return clause, he said.
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