1. U.S., China Urged to Stop Hindering Atom Test Ban Pact
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The United States and China should show leadership and ratify the decade-old Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty so it can take effect, the president of a CTBT review conference said on Tuesday.
Some 100 treaty members at the meeting were expected later in the day to issue a declaration calling for ratification from 10 laggard signatories to transform the 1996 accord from an informal moratorium into a binding document.
Backing from the United States and China, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, is urgent, said Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno of Costa Rica, which with Austria co-chaired the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT.
"We believe that (U.S.) leadership is necessary, much like we would also like to see leadership on behalf of China," Stagno told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting of around 100 nations in Vienna -- home of the CTBT's administrative body.
"A political binding moratorium is simply not sufficient, it does not give us sufficient confidence and trust," Stagno said.
"When we look at North Korea and Iran, (and) developments in other areas, we need to ensure that there is mutual confidence and trust," he said, mentioning two CTBT signatories that have not ratified and are now seen as nuclear proliferation threats.
The CTBT has so far been ratified by 140 states in all and lists in an annex 44 that have nuclear capabilities already. Of those, 34 have both signed and ratified the pact -- including nuclear weapons powers Russia, Britain and France.
Both North Korea, which sparked global condemnation when it tested a nuclear bomb last year, and Iran, suspected by Western powers to be secretly developing nuclear weapons, are on the list of annex countries that have yet to ratify.
India and Pakistan, both with nuclear arsenals, and Israel, an unconfirmed but widely assumed nuclear weapons power, also have not ratified the treaty. They are the only three nations that did not join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Some laggard countries, such as the U.S. and China, were concerned in the past that those not adhering the moratorium could not be adequately detected or deterred, others faced constitutional problems. While the U.S. supports a moratorium on nuclear tests, it does not support the treaty and has not sent any representatives to the conference.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday warned the United Nations' chief nuclear inspector not to complicate the international ultimatum to Iran to shutter disputed atomic work, saying diplomacy is best left to diplomats.
"It is not up to anybody to diminish or to begin to cut back on the obligations that the Iranians have been ordered to take" by the U.N. Security Council, Rice said.
Although she did not mention U.N. nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei by name, Rice was referring to his plan, widely seen as an attempt to head off a third round of U.N. sanctions, to account for Iran's past nuclear behavior.
ElBaradei said Monday that nations critical of his last-ditch effort should wait until the end of the year to see whether Iran answers outstanding questions before taking any other action.
Rice said Iran may not be sincere in its agreement with ElBaradei's International Atomic Energy Agency to resolve technical questions about the origin, scope and purpose of its once-secret nuclear research. Iran claims the program is peaceful, but the United States and other nations suspect that Tehran is working to build a bomb.
"The IAEA is not in the business of diplomacy," Rice said with undisguised irritation. "The IAEA is a technical agency" whose role is to inspect nuclear facilities and report on and enforce nuclear agreements, she said.
In blunt language unusual among diplomats, Rice suggested that the IAEA's board and director are freelancing where they do not belong.
"There are a lot of elements that the IAEA needs to be concerned with, and the one that they need to be concerned with Iran is ... whether and when and if they are living up to the agreements that they have signed," Rice told reporters traveling with her to the Mideast.
ElBaradei also said Iran's harshest critics should learn from the Iraq invasion and refrain from "hype" about a possible military attack, calling force an option of last resort.
The Nobel laureate is an old Rice nemesis. They have differed publicly for years, including over the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when Rice was President Bush's national security adviser.
On Tuesday, Rice called the recent IAEA agreement with Iran over outstanding nuclear questions "a good thing." In the next breath she added: "But this wouldn't be the first time that the Iranians made an agreement only to break it."
Rice said the United States and its partners will move forward with a request for a third round of Security Council sanctions. She said she will discuss sanctions this month with other members of the six-nation international bloc that has offered Iran economic incentives if it gives up uranium enrichment and other activities that worry the West.
The Security Council is not expected to take up the issue before October. Iran has ignored the previous U.N. demands and associated mild sanctions. It is not clear whether the United States can win a third round.
"We believe the diplomatic track can work, but it has to work both with a set of incentives and a set of teeth," Rice said.
The Bush administration has pursued a cautious outreach to Iran despite internal divisions over how best to contain or counter Iran's growing regional ambitions and alleged nuclear weapons program.
Rice declined comment on remarks over the weekend from her French counterpart warning of possible war with Iran.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Sunday said "we must prepare ourselves for the worst" if Iran obtains nuclear weapons, and he specified that could mean a war.
He appeared to soften the warning a bit on Tuesday, emphasizing instead a need to "negotiate, negotiate, negotiate without respite."
1. U.S. Prepared to Resume Talks Next Week Over North Korea
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The U.S. said Tuesday that it would be prepared to resume the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program next week after an unexpected delay.
The latest round in the four-year-old talks had tentatively been expected to begin midweek in Beijing, but South Korean and Japanese officials said Monday they would be postponed. It wasn't immediately clear why the talks have been delayed.
"The Chinese have talked to us about the possibility of an envoys level meeting next week and we are ready to go next week if everybody else is ready to go," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said. Mr. McCormack wouldn't comment on reports that the U.S. has intelligence that North Korea was helping Syria develop a nuclear program.
But asked about speculation that China had delayed the meeting because it was concerned that the U.S. was preparing to confront North Korea about the intelligence, Mr. McCormack said that U.S. negotiators believe that nonproliferation was an appropriate topic for the talks.
"Can you raise nonproliferation at these talks?" he said. "Absolutely, that is the case. We have done so and will continue to do so in the context of the six-party talks."
The reports of North Korea's cooperation with Syria followed an Israeli air incursion over Syria this month. Details of the incursion remain unclear. U.S. officials have said Israeli warplanes struck a target. A senior U.S. nonproliferation official said last week that North Korean personnel were in Syria helping its nuclear program, raising speculation that the Israelis were targeting a nuclear installation.
Syria and North Korea denied Tuesday they are cooperating on a Syrian nuclear program, and they accused U.S. officials of spreading the allegations for political reasons.
Andrew Semmel, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation policy, said Syria may have had contacts with "secret suppliers" to obtain nuclear equipment. He did not identify the suppliers, but said North Koreans were in Syria and that he could not exclude involvement by the network run by the disgraced Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan.
Syria's nuclear program has long been considered minimal, and the country is known to have only a small research reactor. In Vienna, officials for the International Atomic Energy Agency declined comment. But a diplomat associated with the agency said the IAEA "didn't know anything about any nuclear facility in Syria, and if there is something there, we should know."
A special meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group is expected to be held in Vienna on Thursday to discuss India's demand for a "clean, unconditional" exemption in order to operationlise the Indo-US nuke agreement.
Ahead of the meeting, Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar said India, not being a signatory to nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, expects the US to work out clean and unconditional exemption from NSG for India.
It is expected that the NSG will hold a meeting in this regard at the Japanese centre. However, India has to wait for such a demanding waiver from NSG.
Even as the Left's opposition to operationalisation of Indo-US nuclear deal mounted, Kakodkar said everyone in the nuclear community wants early negotiations between India and IAEA and the NSG to help implement the deal.
Indian Ambassador to Austria Sheel Kant Sharma and other officials had a meeting with the NSG's Troika -- South Africa, Brazil and Germany (past, present and future leaders of the grouping) -- -- as a part of the outreach programme of the NSG.
"India has made its position very clear that it expects clean, unconditional exemption after recognising it as a unique country," Kakodkar told a select group of Indian reporters.
The 123 Agreement has made provision for sustained supply of fuel for the imported reactors and the NSG guidelines would have to be consistent with it. "That is why we are emphasizing on clean, unconditional exemption," Kakodkar said.
India has to reach a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) soon and the NSG has to change its guidelines to allow international nuclear trade with India to operationalise the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, he said.
He said these things have to be done in a correct manner fully protecting Indian interests. Kakodkar, who met US Energy Secretary Samuel W Bodman earlier this week, said the US also expects India to pursue the safeguards issue with the IAEA.
"Everyone in the nuclear community wants this to be carried out -- sooner the better," he said.
Kakodkar said getting the exemption from the 45-member NSG was the responsibility of US negotiators.
IAEA sources said Kakodkar is expected to meet IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei during the week.
The AEC chief had meetings with his counterparts from the US, Russia, France, Vietnam, Bangladesh and South Africa on cooperation programmes.
Kakodkar in his briefing also said as far as the world framework, which is emerging on nuclear renaissance is concerned, there is a lot of thinking going on.
He said since the energy demands are increasing, nuclear energy option is inevitable.
"Of course, additional risks in terms of safety, security and proliferation are there once the programme is expanded to large number of countries and, therefore, India has to actively participate in evolving framework with other member states of IAEA."
Several ideas are being floated and IAEA is also examining many of them, he said.
When pointed out that his idea of "inclusive" partnership, spent fuel reprocessing (closed fuel cycle) and thorium utilisation was welcomed by the international community at the scientific forum on Tuesday, he said, "welcoming the idea and adopting are two different things."
"We have to go with less of politics and take ideas of people with lot of experience to have a good impact on the furthering of global nuclear renaissance," Kakodkar added. Kakodkar refused to directly comment on meeting ElBaradei. He said every year, they meet during the General Conference of the IAEA.
1. Russia Vows Comprehensive Support to Nuke Innovative Technologies
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Russia will give comprehensive support, including that financial, to the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergei Kiriyenko said at the 51st session of IAEA General Conference in Vienna on Tuesday.
ï¿½Russia has suggested the IAEA study of infrastructural, legal, institutional and other aspects of the atomic energy industry, such as fuel supplies conditioned on the return of spent fuel and the use of movable reactors,ï¿½ he said.
Russia will complete the accession to another project, Generation IV, by the end of this year. The entry into that international forum was announced last July.
Also, Russia is ready to fund the formation of a nuclear fuel reserve at the Angarsk International Uranium Enrichment Center in reply to the IAEA initiative, he said.
It is the question of ï¿½up to two sets of nuclear fuel for a 1,000-megawatt reactor,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½The IAEA may control the reserve. We think that the reserve may be shipped with the IAEA consent to a country, which implements a peaceful atomic energy program and abides by the non-proliferation regime, but encounters a political decision of a uranium enriching country and the market to cease the supplies,ï¿½ he said.
The Russian suggestion ï¿½will test the new mechanism of guaranteed supplies and promote the development of an international atomic energy infrastructure,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said.
Last Sunday he said that Russiaï¿½s initiative of forming an international uranium enrichment center in Angarsk and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) suggested by the United States supplement each other; these projects are not rivals.
The only implemented international initiative of safe atomic energy uses is the Angarsk center, Kiriyenko said.
ï¿½Russia, which enriches 45% of uranium in the world, is a recognized leader. Our [uranium enrichment] technology is one of the most progressive. We can ensure guaranteed access to enrichment services without breaching technology non-proliferation principles,ï¿½ he said.
The International Uranium Enrichment Center has been established, and related documents are being signed. ï¿½Russia has a 90% stake in the project, while Kazakhstan has 10%. Russia does not need such a large stake, and it may transfer some of the stock to other countries,ï¿½ he said.
An increasing number of countries decide to build nuclear power plants on their territories against the background of the fuel deficit. Yet, the fuel delivery question immediately arises. ï¿½They are trying to create national uranium enrichment facilities, like Iran, but the international community shows concern and says that such facilities can be used not only for making nuclear fuel but also for producing war-grade uranium,ï¿½ he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested a different way. He said that countries, which already have uranium enrichment facilities, should guarantee an access of our countries to nuclear fuel. Russia made an unprecedented decision and excluded from the list of restricted areas the Angarsk Chemical Plants for opening an international uranium enrichment center on its premises under the IAEA control. This center will guarantee an access to uranium enrichment services for all states.
At the same time, the center will not install new centrifuges but use the equipment available at the Angarsk Chemical Plant.
ï¿½Each country may acquire a stake in the center, receive uranium enrichment services and certain revenues,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said. ï¿½The only thing they wonï¿½t get will be the Russian uranium enrichment technology.ï¿½
Kiriyenko thinks that such limits are founded, as this technology has dual use. The Angarsk International Uranium Enrichment Center will promote safe development of the atomic industry and ensure non-proliferation of sensitive technologies, the official said.
ï¿½Uranium enrichment is a necessary technological process in the production of fuel for nuclear power plants. It is also the weakest link in the nuclear fuel cycle from the proliferation point of view,ï¿½ he said.
ï¿½The Angarsk center will guarantee the access to uranium enrichment facilities and the owners of nuclear power plants wonï¿½t have to create their own nuclear fuel cycle, which is rather time-consuming and costly,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said.
The center ï¿½ a joint venture between Russia and Kazakhstan ï¿½ is functioning on market terms. ï¿½Apart from fully meeting the domestic demand, the partners will receive dividends,ï¿½ Kiriyenko said.
ï¿½The center is open to third countries without any political pre-conditions. It has been added to the list of nuclear fuel cycle sites, which may use IAEA guarantees,ï¿½ he said.
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