North Korea's nuclear envoy has demanded that his country be given power-generating reactors as a reward for eventually dismantling its atomic weapons programs.
The demand, delivered through reporters Saturday in Beijing by Kim Kye Gwan as he left six-nation talks on ending the North Korean nuclear weapons programs, may create a hurdle for talks aimed at ridding Pyongyang of its ability to make nuclear bombs.
"In order to ultimately dismantle" Pyongyang's existing nuclear infrastructure, "light-water reactors should be given" to the country, Kim said. Light-water reactors cannot be easily used to make radioactive materials for weapons.
The six-nation talks concluded without setting any target deadline to disable Pyongyang's nuclear facilities, which would occur before their eventual dismantlement, following the shutdown of its sole operating reactor a week ago.
The North had been promised two light-water reactors for power under a 1994 disarmament deal with the United States. But that agreement fell apart in 2002 when Washington accused Pyongyang of embarking on a secret uranium enrichment program, sparking the latest standoff.
The United States and the other countries in the arms talks - China, Japan, Russia and South Korea - have agreed to discuss providing the North with light-water reactors at an appropriate time.
Resource-rich Mongolia, hosting North Korea's No. 2 leader on a four-day visit, urged delegates in negotiations about North Korea's nuclear program on Sunday to start trusting one another, Reuters reported from Ulan Bator in Mongolia.
"Countries participating in the six-party talks need to trust each other and, based on the principle of considering what will be profitable for the other party, make compromises to reach a solution," Mongolia's foreign minister said in a television interview.
Kim Yong Nam, North Korea's No. 2 leader, arrived in Mongolia on Friday for a four-day visit and met President Nambariin Enkhbayar.
2. Envoys Fail to Set Deadline to Dismantle North Korean Nuclear Facilities
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Arms negotiators concluded talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions Friday without setting a firm deadline for the country to disable its nuclear facilities, but top envoys planned to meet again in September.
The chief negotiator for China at the talks, Wu Dawei, said working groups would meet before the end of August to discuss technical details for the North's next steps: declaring and disabling its nuclear programs. Earlier this week inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Pyongyang had shut down its nuclear reactor.
Those sessions will be followed by a resumption of talks involving top envoys in early September to "work out the road map," after which foreign ministers from the six countries involved in the negotiations will convene, Wu said.
At the latest round, the North "reiterated that it will earnestly implement its commitments to a complete declaration of all nuclear programs" and the disabling of all existing nuclear facilities, he said.
The statement released after three days of talks in Beijing did not include any deadline for the North to proceed with those steps, as the United States had sought at the start of the session.
The United States insisted earlier Friday that North Korea could still disable its nuclear facilities by the end of the year, a deadline the main American envoy had hoped would be put in writing this week.
"Ultimately, we decided not to put in deadlines - yet," said Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy on North Korean issues. "We'll put in deadlines when we have the working groups and we know precisely what we're talking about." Hill nonetheless said he maintained hopes for quick progress.
"With a little luck, we can wrap this up by the end of the year," Hill said before leaving Beijing. "It's going to be difficult, but we'll do our best."
South Korea also sought to put a positive spin on the meeting.
"North Korea said it would not drag its feet in moving on to the next phase and would declare everything it has," said Chun Yung Woo, the chief South Korean delegate to the six-nation talks. "In that sense, there has been considerable achievement."
But Japan - which has refused to provide any energy aid to the North under earlier agreements until Pyongyang addresses a dispute over abductions of Japanese citizens - expressed some disappointment with the latest session's results.
"It was unfortunate that we could not reach a consensus on details," said the Japanese envoy, Kenichiro Sasae.
North Korea has begun receiving 50,000 tons of oil from South Korea as a reward for shutting down its reactor at Yongbyon, about 100 kilometers, or 60 miles, north of Pyongyang. It is eventually to receive the equivalent of a total of one million tons for disabling its nuclear facilities under a February agreement among the six countries at the talks - China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas.
Hill said Pyongyang had an incentive to keep moving on disarmament to get the promised aid.
"Further fuel oil is contingent on further denuclearization," he said.
The reactor shutdown was the first step North Korea has taken to scale back its nuclear ambitions since the crisis began in late 2002, when a 1994 disarmament deal fell apart and the North reactivated its reactor to produce plutonium for bombs. Confirming it could build a weapon, the North conducted its first nuclear test detonation in October.
The United States and India finalised Friday an implementing agreement for their landmark civilian nuclear deal after extensive talks in Washington, officials said. The draft accord allowing the United States to provide atomic technology and fuel to India will still require a final nod by the leaders of the two countries, the officials said.
"The agreement has been finalized but it awaits review by both governments,'' Rahul Chhabra, the spokesman for the Indian embassy, told AFP at the end of four days of talks.
The talks were led by US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns and Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.
"The discussions were constructive and positive, and both Under Secretary Burns and Foreign Secretary Menon are pleased with the substantial progress made on the outstanding issues in the 123 agreement,'' a joint statement said.
"We will now refer the issue to our governments for final review,'' the statement.
The implementation agreement, or "123 agreement,'' is intended to capture all operational aspects of the nuclear deal, which was agreed upon by US President George W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh two years ago to highlight strategic ties between the world's two biggest democracies.
After government approval, the pact will have to be cleared by the Democratic-controlled US Congress, where lawmakers have vowed tight scrutiny.
The US Congress already approved the nuclear deal in principle last year and a Bill to that effect was signed into law by Bush.
But the law requires a comprehensive implementation agreement that has to be approved again by the Democratic-controlled Congress.
India also needs to sign an additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency and get the approval of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The deal would reverse three decades of US sanctions imposed over nuclear tests carried out by India, which is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The United States and India "look forward to the completion of these remaining steps and to the conclusion of this historic initiative,'' said the joint statement.
The deal could open up a whopping $US100 billion in opportunities for American businesses, according to the US Chamber of Commerce.
The talks in Washington were supposed to end Wednesday but extended by two days after the two sides broke the "logjam'' that had blocked an accord for the last two years, officials had said, without elaborating.
The extended talk showed "there really is goodwill on the part of both sides to resolve outstanding differences and finish this key piece of the US-India civilian nuclear arrangement,'' said Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman.
He rejected any notion that the talks were troubled, amid some reports that Washington and New Delhi were desperately trying to salvage the deal.
"I certainly would take issue with the notion that these talks are somehow in trouble or that we don't ultimately feel confident that we will be able to reach an agreement,'' Mr Casey said.
For the nuclear deal to be implemented, India should separate nuclear facilities for civilian and military use and set up a regime of international inspections to allay concerns that material and technology received are not diverted to boost its nuclear weapons arsenal.
Despite several rounds of talks, India has stood fast against accepting any curbs on its reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.
India also wants assurances that Washington will continue to supply fuel for its atomic plants in the event New Delhi conducts further nuclear weapons tests.
1. Nuclear Security in Africa Gets ï¿½7 Million Boost
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Close to ï¿½7 million will be spent on improving nuclear and radiological security in Africa, after the European Union approved funds to bolster the IAEAï¿½s activities in the continent. The ï¿½7 million grant is the single largest contribution to the IAEAï¿½s Nuclear Security Fund, which was set up to improve nuclear security worldwide following the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA.
The money will immediately rollout to new and existing nuclear security activities in 35 countries, including 27 African States. The funds are targeted to upgrade physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities in the countries, secure vulnerable radioactive sources, and combat illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials.
IAEA Director General, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, welcomed the contribution and praised the EU for its ongoing support.
"It allows the Agency to continue to work with its African Member States to improve nuclear security in the region and beyond. Nuclear science and technology offers great benefits but must be guarded against misuse." the Director General said.
The IAEAï¿½s security activities are largely funded through its Nuclear Security Fund. This latest EU contribution brings the total received to $53 million from 26 countries and organizations since March 2002. While Dr. ElBaradei welcomed this latest, significant contribution, he added that "the IAEAï¿½s nuclear security programme remained 90% funded through unpredictable and heavily conditioned voluntary contributions."
Earlier joint work by the EU and IAEA in 2006 has identified and prioritized countries where nuclear security needs to be bolstered and proposed ways to address concerns.
Ghana, South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria are among countries the IAEA will work with to secure nuclear and radioactive materials and sites at risk of sabotage. South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are among countries the IAEA will assist to strengthen their capabilities to detect and respond to illicit trafficking. While Azerbaijan, Cape Verde, Comoros, Croatia, Swaziland, and the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia are among States the IAEA will support to strengthen national legislation and regulatory infrastructures related to nuclear and radioactive material.
The new money allows the IAEA to begin its third phase of EU funded nuclear security activities. The first phase targeted countries in the Balkans, the second phase, the Mediterranean and North Africa. This latest phase in Africa, follows calls by African leaders meeting in Algeria in January 2007 to improve nuclear security in their region.
In a joint statement issued at that meeting some 45 countries said: "African Ministers and Officials... undertake to strengthen nuclear safety and security measures within a global approach aiming at promoting safe and accountable use of nuclear energy". The pledge came at the end of a two-day African Regional Conference on Nuclear Energy and the peaceful uses of nuclear technology in Africa. Addressing the two-day meeting in Algeria, Director General ElBaradei said "for nuclear technologies to remain viable as tools for development, they must be used safely, securely and exclusively for peaceful purposes".
1. Putin Signs Law Ratifying Deals on ITER Research Reactor
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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Monday a law on ratifying two agreements regulating the ITER project, an experimental reactor in France being built with Russia's involvement, aimed at eventually generating power by nuclear fusion.
Under the document, passed by both houses of Russia's parliament and first signed in Paris on November 21, 2006, Russia, South Korea, China, Japan, India, the European Union and the United States agree to fund the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.
The agreement provides immunity and privileges for the organization overseeing the international project's joint implementation.
The $10 billion project to build the reactor in Cadarache near Marseilles in South France is designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological potential of nuclear fusion amid concerns over growing energy consumption and the impact of conventional fossil fuels on the global climate.
ITER's first plasma operation is expected in 2016. The European Union will cover 40% of the construction cost, and the other participants will contribute 10% each.
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