1. U.S. Eyes Key N. Korea Disarmament Moves by End-2007
Paul Eckert, Reuters
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The United States hopes the next phase in ending North Korea's nuclear program -- disabling a reactor and declaring all of its past atomic activities -- can be completed this year, the U.S. envoy to nuclear talks said on Monday.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said he wanted to set a "target time frame" in talks on North Korea's nuclear programs last week but did not push for it to avoid perceptions of failure should technical delays emerge.
But he said several sets of working-level talks in August among North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China and another round of in September could clear the way for implementation of the disarmament-for-aid deal.
"If they want to get it done, it can be done," Hill told reporters in Washington. "Disabling activities are ... not a matter of months, they're a matter of weeks."
The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week North Korea has shut five main nuclear facilities in its Yongbyon complex, completing the first stage of the deal.
He said completing the dismantling and declaration within 2007 would make it possible to meet end-2008 targets for removing North Korea's nuclear equipment weapons, including plutonium stockpiles from which it tested an atomic device last October. The North is to receive energy aid for these actions.
Hill reiterated the U.S. stance that Pyongyang's obligation to declare all of its past nuclear activities under the February 13 disarmament deal "means that not only plutonium but uranium nuclear programs would have to be declared, fully declared."
"All means all, and we're not prepared to look the other way and pretend that a partial declaration is all," Hill said.
DIRTY NUCLEAR BUSINESS
U.S. officials say North Korea confessed to pursuing a secret uranium enrichment program in 2002, but the North later denied this.
North Korea's nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, told reporters at Beijing airport on Saturday Pyongyang would need to consider how far trust had been built before deciding whether to include details of its nuclear weapons program in the declaration, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.
Kim, Hill's counterpart in the talks, was also quoted by China's official Xinhua news agency as saying the North should be provided with light-water reactors in exchange for disabling its Yongbyon facilities.
Hill said he had not seen Kim's reported demand. But noted that a statement that formed the basis of the February 13 nuclear accord called for discussions of a light water reactor "at an appropriate time."
"We have explained that the appropriate time is when the DPRK gets out of this dirty nuclear business that they've been in and returns to the (nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty)," he said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
1. IAEA Inspectors Head to Disputed Iranian Reactor Early Next Week
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The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Tuesday it will send a team of inspectors early next week to a disputed Iranian reactor ï¿½ a key step in efforts to allay concerns over the country's nuclear program.
Olli Heinonen, deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters after meeting with a delegation from Iran that the team planned to head to the heavy-water reactor under construction outside the central industrial city of Arak next Monday or Tuesday.
Arak will produce plutonium once it is completed sometime in the next decade, and the U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop construction. Plutonium, like uranium, is a possible pathway to nuclear arms.
IAEA experts say access to the 40-megawatt research reactor is key to their review of Tehran's nuclear activities. Tehran has blocked access to the site since April.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and geared solely toward producing electricity. The United States and key Western allies accuse it of covertly trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Iranian officials and Heinonen agreed earlier this month that agency inspectors would visit the Arak reactor by the end of July. That concession follows an Iranian ban on such visits imposed earlier this year.
Tehran asserts it is building the Arak reactor for research and medical purposes, and not for its plutonium capabilities.
Javad Vaeedi, Iran's deputy nuclear negotiator, described Tuesday's talks at the agency's headquarters in Vienna as "a good discussion," and Heinonen said both sides agreed to keep talking over the next few weeks.
"We made constructive progress," said Vaeedi, undersecretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, who was accompanied at the talks by Iran's chief envoy to the IAEA, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh.
He said the two sides planned to meet again in Tehran in early August.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said earlier this month that Iran has scaled back its uranium enrichment program, suggesting there was a new willingness from the government to resolve the international deadlock over its nuclear stance. On Monday, Britain predicted tougher U.N. sanctions if Tehran does not halt enrichment.
The IAEA said Tuesday's talks were an attempt to clarify "the open issues associated with the scope and content of Iran's enrichment program."
Iran's refusal to cooperate and allow inspectors to return to facilities like Arak prompted the Security Council to become involved last year. It has imposed two sets of sanctions on Iran over the nuclear standoff.
On Monday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said tougher sanctions against Iran were likely and declined to reject outright the prospect of military action.
Brown said he believed sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to halt uranium enrichment were working, but predicted a swift new Security Council resolution aimed at increasing pressure on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
He said Britain would "take whatever measures are necessary to strengthen the sanctions regime in the future."
Enrichment can produce both fuel for a reactor and ï¿½ if the material is enriched to a high level ï¿½ the core for a nuclear warhead.
Heavy-water reactors like Arak are of particular concern because they generate plutonium waste that could be reprocessed for use in a weapon.
Iran's Foreign Ministry said Sunday that Tehran will continue pursuing its disputed nuclear program and hopes the Security Council will not sanction it for refusing to suspend enrichment.
1. Indonesia, South Korea Sign Preliminary Deal to Develop Nuclear Power Plant
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An Indonesian company signed a preliminary agreement with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corp. to jointly develop Indonesia's first nuclear power plant, a government official said Wednesday.
Indonesia, which desperately needs new sources of electricity to meet rising demand, wants to develop the plant on Java island despite concerns by environmental groups that country's frequent earthquakes makes nuclear power unsafe.
Waryono Karno, secretary general at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, said Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corp. inked the deal with Indonesia's PT Medco Energi International at meeting in Korea.
Fazil Al Fitri, president director of Medco's unit PT Medco Power said the two companies could start construction of a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant as soon as 2008 in the Muria Peninsula in Central Java province.
Al Fitri added that $3 billion (ï¿½2.2 billion) in investment will be needed to finance the project, which is expected to be completed by 2016 and start operations in 2017.
The project will be funded by a combination of bank loans, project financing arrangements and internal cash from the two companies, he said.
Medco will likely take a majority stake in the venture, he said, giving no more details about the deal.
Indonesia hopes nuclear power will contribute a total of 4,000 megawatts to the national electricity grid by 2025, officials have said.
Indonesia is located along the so-called Ring of Fire, an area prone to destructive earthquakes. Many nuclear plants are built in areas prone to earthquakes, but can be built to withstand temblors.
1. Germany Seeks Consensus in NSG on Indo-US N-Deal
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Germany on Monday said it would try to "forge a consensus" within the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
"It's not an easy task (to forge a consensus) given India's consistent refusal to join NPT regime. But we also understand India's security situation in which it has to operate," its ambassador to India Bernd Muetzelburg said while talking to reporters on the sidelines of a lecture on Indo-German relations.
India would have to approach the NSG for fuel supplies, once the nuke deal with US is sealed.
Germany has realised that "the deal has ended India's nuclear isloation and has brought it to the mainstream," the ambassador said.
The ambassador however spoke about the usefulness of the non-proliferation system, calling it "the only way to move forward."
He further appreciated New Delhi for moving closer to addressing the concerns on the same front and said India had a good record in fulfilling its non-proliferation objectives.
"We are happy that India has moved closer to our position on nuclear non-proliferation", he said.
Expressing solidarity with New Delhi on the issue of terrorism, the ambassador said "we are united with India in condemning all forms of terrorism."
Citing "Islamic fundamentalism" as "most dangerous", he underlined India's "special responsibility" in combating it, as it was a home to the second largest population of muslims in the world.
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