1. Russia Delivers Third Fuel Shipment to Iran's Nuclear Plant
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Russia delivered on Friday the third fuel shipment to the Bushehr nuclear power plant it is building in southern Iran, the country's official news agency said, citing officials.
IRNA quoted the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran as saying that 11 metric tons of low-enriched uranium had been delivered to the plant, which has been the focus of international attention over fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
The shipment is the third Russia has supplied to the Islamic Republic under a contract. The remaining five batches will be delivered according to a previously agreed timetable.
The first delivery to the plant, being built by Russian contractor Atomstroyexport, came on December 16, 2007 following months of project delays that Moscow attributed to payment arrears, but which Iran blamed on pressure from Western nations.
Under a bilateral intergovernmental contract, Russia is set to deliver a total of 82 metric tons of fuel divided into eight batches by late February. Deliveries are monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
United States President George W. Bush, who has led international calls for sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze its nuclear program, said last month that he supported the start of Russia's enriched uranium deliveries to the Islamic Republic, and that Tehran no longer has any excuse to develop its own enrichment capabilities.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed Bush's comments in late December, saying it would not be economically useful for Iran to continue its uranium enrichment program.
However, Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali-Hamenei insisted earlier this month that Tehran would continue enriching uranium for future nuclear power plants.
Tehran plans to hold tenders for the construction of 19 new nuclear reactors.
Western governments have concluded that Syria and North Korea were collaborating on a nuclear weapons program at a mysterious site in the Syrian desert that was bombed by Israel last year, a senior European diplomat said Wednesday in a rare comment about the episode by a high-ranking official.
The diplomat said that after a review of available intelligence, Western governments have reached "some sort of common ground . . . that there seems to have been cooperation between Syria and North Korea" at the site. The official's remarks were made on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject
Since the Israeli bombing in September, U.S. and allied officials have said little about the attack, the site or the possible existence of a Syrian nuclear weapons program, which could further destabilize the turbulent Middle East. Officials at the CIA and the State Department declined comment again Wednesday.
But the European official's remarks represented both an acknowledgment of the attack and the conclusion of Western governments that the site was a nuclear installation. Before Wednesday, leading Americans, Israelis and Western allies had avoided addressing either issue.
An international consensus that the governments in Pyongyang and Damascus have collaborated on nuclear weapons would mark a new setback to U.S. efforts to entice North Korea to scrap its nuclear armament program. It also could blunt efforts to pursue engagement with Syria, after apparent U.S. overtures before November's Mideast peace conference in Annapolis, Md.
Yet some observers have remained skeptical that the Syrian structure was part of any nuclear program.
Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has said that on the basis of satellite photos, IAEA experts believe it unlikely the site housed a nuclear reactor. ElBaradei's comments came in a Jan. 8 interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat.
Syrian officials have said repeatedly that the building was not a nuclear installation but an empty military structure. Israeli officials have acknowledged the attack in vague terms but have provided no detailed information concerning the site.
U.S. allies acknowledge that the evidence of weapons activity could be stronger.
The European diplomat acknowledged that the available intelligence is "not as much as we would love to have about that."
He also said it was not clear how far along the Syrian effort was, or what the Syrian government is doing now at the site.
There have been some signs of rebuilding at the site, on the banks of the Euphrates in eastern Syria. Recent satellite photos by a private Colorado firm, DigitalGlobe, show a new building on part of the site, based on photos kept on the firm's website. However, private analysts said it was unlikely the Syrians would try to duplicate facilities destroyed in the Israeli attack.
The European diplomat said it was "possible" that the structure that seems to be under construction at the site was being built simply to conceal the nature of past activities.
David Schenker, a former Pentagon specialist on Syria now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said a general agreement among Western governments that North Korea and Syria collaborated at a nuclear site would be "a pretty significant development."
There has been wide agreement that North Korea has helped Syria on its arms program. Pyongyang helped Damascus build Scud missiles, the crude, short-range weapons used by Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, as well as more advanced designs, Schenker noted. Syria has sought to buy nuclear reactors in years past from several countries, including Russia, analysts say. International officials know of only one small reactor operating in Syria, a 30-kilowatt Chinese-supplied plant at Dayr Al Hajar. .
ElBaradei, in his Al Hayat interview, said IAEA officials would like to examine the Syrian site but have so far been barred by Damascus. Syria is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which allows for periodic inspections of declared nuclear materials and activities.
U.S. officials have asked North Korea whether it has worked with Syria on a nuclear program; the North Koreans have denied it.
As part of the ongoing denuclearization talks between North Korea and five international powers, U.S. officials are awaiting a formal declaration of Pyongyang's nuclear activities, including any nuclear collaboration with Damascus. North Korea, however, has said it plans no further disclosures, jeopardizing what had been considered a promising deal.
The potential warming between U.S. and Syrian officials already had begun to encounter strains.
After hints of progress last fall, friction has developed recently over Lebanon's selection of a new government. U.S. officials are unhappy with what they consider Syrian meddling in the process.
On Tuesday, as President Bush toured the Middle East, a bomb exploded near a U.S. Embassy convoy in Beirut, killing three people and injuring more than 20, including two U.S. Embassy employees who are Lebanese.
Schenker said the bomb may have been intended as a warning from Syrian-supported militants to U.S. officials.
The ï¿½sentiment in the Nuclear Suppliers Group has moved perceptibly in favour of India,ï¿½ according to Shyam Saran, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister.
Tracing this ï¿½senseï¿½ to Indiaï¿½s engagement with the NSG countries over the past year, Mr. Saran told The Hindu here on Thursday that the assessment covered China too.
Going by the Joint Statement issued after Prime Minister Manmohan Singhï¿½s latest talks with the top Chinese leaders in Beijing, he said it ï¿½is a good signï¿½ that India and China expressed willingness to work together in the civilian nuclear energy domain.
Mr. Saran was here on his way from Australia.
India needed the NSGï¿½s endorsement for gaining access to high-tech nuclear know-how and equipment for power generation. And, New Delhiï¿½s ï¿½initiativeï¿½ of engaging the NSG should be seen in the context of the U.S.-India nuclear deal, he said.
Asked whether India felt the need to re-engage some key NSG countries in East Asia, he said: ï¿½I donï¿½t think that we can expect the world to stay still while we are working on this initiative.ï¿½
Mr. Saran said: ï¿½I had gone there to brief the new Australian Government at the political level on the current state of affairs with regard to the India-U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreement and also to seek the support of Australia in the Nuclear Suppliers Group when this issue comes up.
ï¿½I did not raise the issue of [potential] uranium supply [to India from Australia]. But, the Foreign Minister of Australia, on his own, did bring to my notice the fact that the Australian Labour Party has had a long-standing position that Australia should not sell uranium to non-NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] countries. So, I said, ï¿½I have noted your position.ï¿½ But, I also pointed out that India itself has had a very impeccable record in non-proliferation.
ï¿½In any case, the question of nuclear supplies is not something which is, at the moment, moot. Because, until there is a change in the international regime, the question of any kind of nuclear supplies from the NSG countries does not arise.ï¿½
Indiaï¿½s current dialogue with China on civilian nuclear energy issues acquired importance ï¿½both in terms of facing the energy challenge and also the climate change challenge.ï¿½
Answering questions from the audience, after delivering a lecture held under the auspices of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Mr. Saran said: ï¿½There is a feeling that rather than being seen as rivals in this [East Asian] region, both India and China can work together ... as partners ... to create ... a more loosely structured architecture.ï¿½
1. USA Suspends Financial Participation in ITER Project for 2008
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The USA is to suspend its financial participation in the international fusion reactor project ITER for 2008, because of a cut in the American research budget, ITER international communications director Neil Calder said.
'The American scientific community was shocked to discover at the end of December that the budget for scientific research had, instead of being increased as hoped, been cut by 400 mln usd,' Calder told Agence France-Presse.
Of this sum, 160 mln usd was to be allocated to the ITER project.
The decision will not mean an increase in other partners' contributions, Calder said, explaining that 'it is not a cash contribution that has been removed from the project, but equipment that the Americans were due to build which will be delayed.'
Calder added that 'discussions are continuing between the US government and the energy department to see if there is any possibility of changing the situation.'
ITER is an experimental fusion reactor being developed in conjunction with the EU, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, and the US. Costing a total of 15.5 bln usd, the project will generate power through the fusion of the hydrogen isotopes of deuterium and tritium extracted from sea water.
George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, Sam Nunn
The Wall Street Journal
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The accelerating spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear know-how and nuclear material has brought us to a nuclear tipping point. We face a very real possibility that the deadliest weapons ever invented could fall into dangerous hands.
The steps we are taking now to address these threats are not adequate to the danger. With nuclear weapons more widely available, deterrence is decreasingly effective and increasingly hazardous.
One year ago, in an essay in this paper, we called for a global effort to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, to prevent their spread into potentially dangerous hands, and ultimately to end them as a threat to the world. The interest, momentum and growing political space that has been created to address these issues over the past year has been extraordinary, with strong positive responses from people all over the world.
Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in January 2007 that, as someone who signed the first treaties on real reductions in nuclear weapons, he thought it his duty to support our call for urgent action: "It is becoming clearer that nuclear weapons are no longer a means of achieving security; in fact, with every passing year they make our security more precarious."
In June, the United Kingdom's foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, signaled her government's support, stating: "What we need is both a vision -- a scenario for a world free of nuclear weapons -- and action -- progressive steps to reduce warhead numbers and to limit the role of nuclear weapons in security policy. These two strands are separate but they are mutually reinforcing. Both are necessary, but at the moment too weak."
We have also been encouraged by additional indications of general support for this project from other former U.S. officials with extensive experience as secretaries of state and defense and national security advisors. These include: Madeleine Albright, Richard V. Allen, James A. Baker III, Samuel R. Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Warren Christopher, William Cohen, Lawrence Eagleburger, Melvin Laird, Anthony Lake, Robert McFarlane, Robert McNamara and Colin Powell.
Inspired by this reaction, in October 2007, we convened veterans of the past six administrations, along with a number of other experts on nuclear issues, for a conference at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. There was general agreement about the importance of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons as a guide to our thinking about nuclear policies, and about the importance of a series of steps that will pull us back from the nuclear precipice.
The U.S. and Russia, which possess close to 95% of the world's nuclear warheads, have a special responsibility, obligation and experience to demonstrate leadership, but other nations must join.
Some steps are already in progress, such as the ongoing reductions in the number of nuclear warheads deployed on long-range, or strategic, bombers and missiles. Other near-term steps that the U.S. and Russia could take, beginning in 2008, can in and of themselves dramatically reduce nuclear dangers. They include: ï¿½ Extend key provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991. Much has been learned about the vital task of verification from the application of these provisions. The treaty is scheduled to expire on Dec. 5, 2009. The key provisions of this treaty, including their essential monitoring and verification requirements, should be extended, and the further reductions agreed upon in the 2002 Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions should be completed as soon as possible.
ï¿½ Take steps to increase the warning and decision times for the launch of all nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, thereby reducing risks of accidental or unauthorized attacks. Reliance on launch procedures that deny command authorities sufficient time to make careful and prudent decisions is unnecessary and dangerous in today's environment. Furthermore, developments in cyber-warfare pose new threats that could have disastrous consequences if the command-and-control systems of any nuclear-weapons state were compromised by mischievous or hostile hackers. Further steps could be implemented in time, as trust grows in the U.S.-Russian relationship, by introducing mutually agreed and verified physical barriers in the command-and-control sequence.
ï¿½ Discard any existing operational plans for massive attacks that still remain from the Cold War days. Interpreting deterrence as requiring mutual assured destruction (MAD) is an obsolete policy in today's world, with the U.S. and Russia formally having declared that they are allied against terrorism and no longer perceive each other as enemies.
ï¿½ Undertake negotiations toward developing cooperative multilateral ballistic-missile defense and early warning systems, as proposed by Presidents Bush and Putin at their 2002 Moscow summit meeting. This should include agreement on plans for countering missile threats to Europe, Russia and the U.S. from the Middle East, along with completion of work to establish the Joint Data Exchange Center in Moscow. Reducing tensions over missile defense will enhance the possibility of progress on the broader range of nuclear issues so essential to our security. Failure to do so will make broader nuclear cooperation much more difficult.
ï¿½ Dramatically accelerate work to provide the highest possible standards of security for nuclear weapons, as well as for nuclear materials everywhere in the world, to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb. There are nuclear weapons materials in more than 40 countries around the world, and there are recent reports of alleged attempts to smuggle nuclear material in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. The U.S., Russia and other nations that have worked with the Nunn-Lugar programs, in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), should play a key role in helping to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 relating to improving nuclear security -- by offering teams to assist jointly any nation in meeting its obligations under this resolution to provide for appropriate, effective security of these materials.
As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put it in his address at our October conference, "Mistakes are made in every other human endeavor. Why should nuclear weapons be exempt?" To underline the governor's point, on Aug. 29-30, 2007, six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads were loaded on a U.S. Air Force plane, flown across the country and unloaded. For 36 hours, no one knew where the warheads were, or even that they were missing. ï¿½ Start a dialogue, including within NATO and with Russia, on consolidating the nuclear weapons designed for forward deployment to enhance their security, and as a first step toward careful accounting for them and their eventual elimination. These smaller and more portable nuclear weapons are, given their characteristics, inviting acquisition targets for terrorist groups.
ï¿½ Strengthen the means of monitoring compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a counter to the global spread of advanced technologies. More progress in this direction is urgent, and could be achieved through requiring the application of monitoring provisions (Additional Protocols) designed by the IAEA to all signatories of the NPT.
ï¿½ Adopt a process for bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into effect, which would strengthen the NPT and aid international monitoring of nuclear activities. This calls for a bipartisan review, first, to examine improvements over the past decade of the international monitoring system to identify and locate explosive underground nuclear tests in violation of the CTBT; and, second, to assess the technical progress made over the past decade in maintaining high confidence in the reliability, safety and effectiveness of the nation's nuclear arsenal under a test ban. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization is putting in place new monitoring stations to detect nuclear tests -- an effort the U.S should urgently support even prior to ratification.
In parallel with these steps by the U.S. and Russia, the dialogue must broaden on an international scale, including non-nuclear as well as nuclear nations.
Key subjects include turning the goal of a world without nuclear weapons into a practical enterprise among nations, by applying the necessary political will to build an international consensus on priorities. The government of Norway will sponsor a conference in February that will contribute to this process.
Another subject: Developing an international system to manage the risks of the nuclear fuel cycle. With the growing global interest in developing nuclear energy and the potential proliferation of nuclear enrichment capabilities, an international program should be created by advanced nuclear countries and a strengthened IAEA. The purpose should be to provide for reliable supplies of nuclear fuel, reserves of enriched uranium, infrastructure assistance, financing, and spent fuel management -- to ensure that the means to make nuclear weapons materials isn't spread around the globe.
There should also be an agreement to undertake further substantial reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces beyond those recorded in the U.S.-Russia Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. As the reductions proceed, other nuclear nations would become involved.
President Reagan's maxim of "trust but verify" should be reaffirmed. Completing a verifiable treaty to prevent nations from producing nuclear materials for weapons would contribute to a more rigorous system of accounting and security for nuclear materials.
We should also build an international consensus on ways to deter or, when required, to respond to, secret attempts by countries to break out of agreements.
Progress must be facilitated by a clear statement of our ultimate goal. Indeed, this is the only way to build the kind of international trust and broad cooperation that will be required to effectively address today's threats. Without the vision of moving toward zero, we will not find the essential cooperation required to stop our downward spiral.
In some respects, the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons is like the top of a very tall mountain. From the vantage point of our troubled world today, we can't even see the top of the mountain, and it is tempting and easy to say we can't get there from here. But the risks from continuing to go down the mountain or standing pat are too real to ignore. We must chart a course to higher ground where the mountaintop becomes more visible.
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