1. Nuclear Talks End Amid 'Positive' Atmosphere, But No Agreement
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Working-level talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambition closed Friday (Aug. 17) in what a South Korean official called a "positive and friendly" mood, but the countries have failed to reach an agreement on how to disable the communist nation's nuclear facilities as part of a February denuclearization deal.
The lack of an agreement at the closure of the two-day talks apparently comes as a disappointment to the chief U.S. nuclear envoy, Christopher Hill, who earlier Friday said he hoped to have a "common definition of disablement" by the end of the day.
"The meeting ended in a very positive and friendly atmosphere. Regarding disablement, there was an exchange of views and the countries agreed to continue their consultations," a South Korean delegate to the six-nation nuclear talks said.
This week's talks opened here Thursday as the six nations involved in the nuclear disarmament talks -- South and North Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia -- are working to implement the second phase of a February agreement, in which the North agreed to shut down and eventually disable its key nuclear facilities and submit a complete list of all its nuclear programs.
Pyongyang has already shut down five nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, including its only operational nuclear reactor, under the February agreement, which entitles it to 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid.
South Korea has provided the initial 50,000 tons of heavy oil promised in the aid-for-denuclearization accord.
The rest - 950,000 tons - will be provided once the North completes implementing its second phase commitments to the February deal to disable its nuclear facilities and declare all its nuclear programs.
This week's talks mainly focused on what should be done to disable the North's plutonium-producing facilities at Yongbyon and what should be included in its list of nuclear programs to be abandoned.
"We need to have a common definition of disabling, and ...there are different ways you can define it. And that's why we have a working group to define it," the chief U.S. envoy told reporters earlier Friday.
Still, Lim Sung-nam, deputy chief of the South Korean delegation to the nuclear talks, said the Shenyang meeting was "meaningful" as it provided an opportunity to learn what the reclusive North had in mind.
"There were active consultations and question-and-answer sessions, and through these procedures our understanding of the North's position has significantly deepened," Lim told a press briefing after the working group meeting ended around 4:30 p.m. (local time).
The South Korean envoy said the countries were also able to closely examine what North Korea's nuclear experts had offered to do during the second phase of the February agreement, and add to their initial plans that will help more permanently disable the North's nuclear facilities.
"It is too early to say whether the difference (between North Korea and the other countries) can be narrowed," Lim said.
"For now, we can say the North Korean side is returning home with homework, and I suspect the North Korean side will review this with a more active and positive attitude," he added.
1. US to Scrap Nuclear Deal if India Tests Weapons
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The United States will scrap a landmark nuclear deal with India if New Delhi conducts an atomic weapons test, the State Department said Tuesday.
The statement came as the two governments gave different interpretations of the controversial nuclear deal's recently adopted operating agreement, also known as the 123 agreement.
"The proposed 123 agreement has provisions in it that in an event of a nuclear test by India, then all nuclear cooperation is terminated," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
There is also a "provision for return of all materials, including reprocessed material covered by the agreement," he said.
His comments came a day after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament that the agreement would not affect the Asian giant's military program or any plans to test nuclear weapons.
Singh said "the agreement does not in any way affect India's right to undertake future nuclear tests, if it is necessary."
"There is no question that we will ever compromise, in any manner, our independent foreign policy. We shall retain our strategic autonomy," Singh had said.
The operating agreement was officially approved by the two governments about two weeks ago after exhaustive discussions spanning two years.
But US law also requires mandatory Congress approval of the pact. Legislators, who have vowed to go scrutinize the pact, last year approved in principle the "Henry Hyde Act" allowing export of civilian nuclear fuel and technology to India.
The move reversed decades of sanctions imposed after India's nuclear tests.
1. France Considers New U.N. Measures against Iran over Nuclear Program
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France is considering measures for a new U.N. Security Council resolution targeting senior Iranian leaders who have defied the international community over Tehran's nuclear program, an official said Friday.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman noted news reports that the United States was moving toward blacklisting Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a "terrorist" organization ï¿½ but that Paris had no such word.
The United Nations has already imposed financial sanctions on a list of companies ï¿½ some linked to the Revolutionary Guards ï¿½ involved in Iran's nuclear program. The sanctions were imposed last year to punish Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.
"We are considering additional measures, in the framework of a new Security Council resolution, against members and backers of the Iranian regime refusing to comply with demands of the international community," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hugues Moret said in an online briefing Friday.
Some experts have suggested that France and Germany, which have dealings with Guards companies, could resist labeling the Guards as a terror group.
Such a U.S. designation would allow Washington to freeze U.S.-based assets of companies connected to the Guards, and pressure foreign firms to cut off doing business with them.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for international unity over Iran's nuclear program, which several Western countries fear masks plans to develop weapons. Tehran says its intention is to produce electricity.
Russia and China have thwarted attempts by fellow permanent Security Council members ï¿½ the U.S., Britain and France ï¿½ to impose harsh U.N. sanctions, and have stalled efforts to create new penalties this summer in the face of continued Iranian refusal to freeze its nuclear enrichment activities.
1. Australian Prime Minister Defends Nuclear Deal With India
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Australiaï¿½s Prime Minister John Howard has defended a deal to export uranium to India in the face of severe criticism from the political opposition and advocacy groups arising because India is one of few countries that have not signed on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Australia has one of the worldï¿½s largest reserves of uranium, but this is the first time it will export to a country that is not part of the NPT. Howard said safeguards within the deal, confirmed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday, would have the same limiting effect as the nuclear treaty.
The Australian premier said both countries would be part of a bilateral safeguards agreement to ensure the uranium was used for peaceful purposes. India will sign a similar pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Indian government hasnï¿½t made an official comment yet.
ï¿½The sort of conditions that are going to be imposed on India are the same as the conditions that are being imposed on countries like China and Russia and I think also France ... and weï¿½ve been selling uranium to France for many, many years,ï¿½ Howard told Australiaï¿½s ABC Radio.
In a statement on the prime ministerial Web site, Howard said the decision recognizes ï¿½Indiaï¿½s strong non-proliferation record and will help to bring India more fully into the non-proliferation mainstream.ï¿½
He noted Australiaï¿½s nuclear industry already generates $658 million annually in exports, and India will be a large and growing market. ï¿½Indiaï¿½s requirement for reliable, clean sources of energy is growing rapidly. India will build 11 new reactors to triple her energy generation from nuclear power and is projected to need up to 12,000 tons of uranium per annum to 2032,ï¿½ Howard pointed out.
At a time when India is under global pressure for increasing greenhouse gas emissions as it steps up its reliance on polluting, nonrenewable energy sources, Howard remarked: ï¿½Assisting India to meet her rapidly growing energy needs using low emission energy sources such as nuclear power will make a huge contribution to reducing global greenhouse emissions.ï¿½
Nuclear power already reduces global emissions by more than 2 billion tons a year, he said.
But his arguments donï¿½t seem to have convinced the opposition. Federal Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd told media his party would scrap the deal if it came into office. Its primary objection is Indiaï¿½s refusal to sign the NPT.
A Washington, D.C.-based nuclear nonproliferation group, Arms Control Association, also slammed the deal, saying Australia has international treaty obligations not to transfer uranium to India.
ï¿½This move flagrantly contradicts Australia's long standing international nuclear nonproliferation commitments and should be reconsidered and reversed,ï¿½ Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the association, said in a statement. ï¿½This decision severely tarnishes Australia's otherwise good reputation as a leader in support of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament by all states.ï¿½
Indiaï¿½s deal with Australia comes amid a fair amount of controversy over the South Asian nationï¿½s nuclear accord with the United States. Earlier this week, Singh told lawmakers protesting the deal in Parliament that the country was free to test nuclear weapons without fear that Washington would cut off deliveries of fuel as a consequence.
But hours later, media reports from the United States quoted State Department spokesman Sean McCormack as saying the bilateral agreement has provisions to impose punitive action if India tests nuclear weapons. Indiaï¿½s nuclear tests in 1998 attracted a host of American sanctions.
The text of the so-called 123 agreement (named after a section of the 1954 U.S. Atomic Energy Act) between New Delhi and Washington doesnï¿½t include Indiaï¿½s military program and makes no specific reference to nuclear testing. But it assures an uninterrupted supply of fuel to the civilian program.
The nuclear deal with the United States has yet to win approval from Congress. India also needs to reach an inspection agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and win support from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group before the deal can go through.
Vietnam continues strides to strengthen its framework for nuclear safeguards. Next week it hosts a high-level national seminar on the "additional protocol", an agreement the government recently concluded with the IAEA.
The two-day seminar opens 22 August in Hanoi with the support of the IAEA, Japan, and Australia. Sessions aim to sensitize Vietnam's responsible officials at agencies and ministries about the role of IAEA safeguards for Vietnam, a country that is considering adding nuclear power to its energy mix down the line.
Earlier this month, on 10 August 2007, Vietnam became the 114th country to sign an additional protocol, a legal instrument introduced 10 years ago in order to strengthen the effectiveness and improve the efficiency of the safeguards system as a contribution to global nuclear non-proliferation objectives.
Additional protocols, once in force, provide the IAEA with important supplementary verification tools, in particular to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activitites in a State, which should be reported to the IAEA. Today, most States with safeguards agreements have additional protocols in force and more than 80% of all States with declared nuclear material under safeguards have signed additional protocols.
In addition to Vietnam, the IAEA has supported similar national seminars in Algeria, Colombia, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines and Thailand, within the framework of an action plan to promote the conclusion of safeguards agreements and additional protocols. Last May, representatives of some 15 States attended a high level interregional meeting on the IAEA safeguards system intended for States that do not yet have any safeguards agreements with the IAEA.
Next week's seminar will be held at the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel. Members of the Press are invited to join a reception at 19.00 on Wednesday 22 August at the Ly thai to club. In late 2006, IAEA Director General ElBaradei visited Vietnam and met government officials responsible for nuclear development. The country's nuclear regulatory authority is the Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety and Control (VARANSAC), which is under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
In fields of nuclear science and technology, the IAEA supports Vietnam through its technical cooperation and research programmes. Support covers, for example, energy studies and planning, industrial nuclear applications, radioactive waste management, nuclear legislation and regulation, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy, and nuclear applications to improve food production. Regarding cancer care and treatment, Vietnam is targeted for support through the IAEA-backed global initiative called PACT.
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