1. French Defence Minister says Iran Still Pursuing Nuclear Arms
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French Defence Minister Herve Morin cast doubt on reports that Iran had halted its suspected nuclear weapons drive, speaking Thursday on a visit to Washington.
"Coordinated information from a number of intelligence services leads us to believe that Iran has not given up its wish to pursue its (nuclear) program," and is "continuing to develop" it, Morin told reporters.
The US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a consensus finding of all 16 US spy agencies, released last month, said that Tehran shelved its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
It also noted however that Tehran has refused to suspend uranium enrichment, which can be a key step towards a nuclear arsenal.
Morin said France wanted the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, to "continue carrying out all the necessary investigations" into Iran's nuclear activities.
Iran has insisted these are aimed at generating power for civilian purposes.
Morin was wrapping up a 36-hour visit to Washington where he met with his US counterpart Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He gave no details of their talks, describing them as "an exchange of information."
The United Nations Security Council on Monday began mulling a new proposal by the United States, France and four other nations, for fresh sanctions against Iran, which is accused of not cooperating on the nuclear issue.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il assured a visiting Chinese delegation that his regime was still committed to holding up its end of the stalled six-nation nuclear deal, China's official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday.
Kim met with Wang Jiarui, head of the liaison office of China's ruling Communist Party, on Wednesday and told him that "the present difficulties are temporary and can be conquered," Xinhua said.
"There are no changes in the North's stance to continue pushing forward the six-party talks persistently and implementing all the agreements," Kim was quoted as saying.
Under an agreement reached by the United States, the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and China, the North promised to deliver a complete declaration of its nuclear programs and disable its main reactor. In exchange, it is to receive the equivalent of 1 million tons of oil, along with being removed from U.S. terrorism and trade blacklists.
Pyongyang has said it has given the list to the U.S., but Washington says the declaration ï¿½ laying out the programs the U.S. wants to be dismantled by the end of the year ï¿½ is incomplete.
"As long as all the parties fulfill promises according to the 'action-for-action' principal, the talks will conquer obstacles and continuously forge ahead," Kim said.
The report came as the U.S. State Department's top Korea expert, Sung Kim, left for Pyongyang to advance the deadlocked deal after a one-day stop in Beijing.
The American expert has said he will press for the delivery of a complete declaration "as quick as possible."
North Korea has begun disabling its main nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, but has gone beyond a Dec. 31 deadline due to technical reasons. Sung Kim was not planning to visit Yongbyon during his trip, which was expected to last up to three days.
Colombia has ratified a global treaty outlawing nuclear test explosions, officials said Wednesday, hailing the move as a significant step toward bringing the accord into force.
The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization said Colombia's ratification was important because it was one of 10 countries that need to endorse the pact before it can take effect.
Organization chief Tibor Toth called Colombia's move "an important tipping point" and called on the remaining nine key countries to ratify the treaty.
The holdouts include the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
Last month the Government said it would scrap a landmark deal to sell uranium to India for civilian use because it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The rejection carries weight as Australia has the world's largest known reserves of uranium with about one-quarter of the world's supply.
"The current Government has a longstanding policy commitment as a political party and from opposition that we will not authorise the export of uranium to a country which is not a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Mr Smith told a news conference on a visit to Tokyo.
"The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has always been supported by Australia.
"The current Australian Government came to office with a new commitment to seek to be much more active... as a nation on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament matters."
The deal with India was struck by former prime minister John Howard last August before elections in November last year.
Mr Howard, a close ally of US President George W Bush, argued that the deal with India was subject to strict guarantees that the fuel would be only for non-military use.
The US called on Australia to show the same commitment to sell uranium to India as to China, which has nuclear weapons but has also signed the NPT.
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