1. Russia Calls on Iran to Freeze Uranium Enrichment
(for personal use only)
Russia has called on Iran to freeze uranium enrichment until key issues in its nuclear program have been cleared up with the IAEA, a Russian deputy foreign minister has said.
In an interview posted on the Foreign Ministry's official website on Tuesday, Sergei Kislyak said Iran should freeze enrichment activity until all of its nuclear program's "complicated points have been worked out."
"I believe that all this is entirely achievable if the appropriate political decisions are taken. International concerns can be easily allayed to create more favorable conditions for Iran's extensive cooperation with other countries," Kislyak said.
Western countries, particularly the U.S., suspect Tehran is pursuing a covert weapons program. However, Tehran has consistently claimed it needs nuclear power for civilian power generation and is fully entitled to its own nuclear program.
The Russian official hailed Iran's cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog in clarifying all the outstanding issues over its nuclear program. "This is very important in the context of restoring confidence related to Iran's [nuclear] program."
"Frankly speaking, our Iranian colleagues could have started this work long ago and not wasted so many years on confrontation, first with the IAEA Board of Governors, and then with the UN Security Council."
He said the necessity for cooperation with the UN Security Council and compliance with recommendations from the IAEA Board of Governors would be reflected in a new UN Security Council resolution on Iran.
The five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany agreed at talks in Berlin on January 22 on a draft for a third sanctions resolution against Iran calling for travel ban, asset freeze and vigilance on all banks in the Islamic Republic.
"When the document is made public, you will see it contains serious signals for Iran and envisions decisions to expand sanctions earlier adopted by the Security Council," Kislyak said.
However, he said the new resolution, as well as the previous ones, was being drafted in compliance with UN Charter article 41 of chapter 7, which excludes the use of force.
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Sunday he was making progress in finishing an inquiry into Iran's nuclear past ahead of his next report awaited by those powers mulling new sanctions.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director Mohamed ElBaradei also said he was still hopeful Iran would allow broader IAEA inspections to shed light on its present program, which the West fears has a covert purpose to produce atom bombs.
"We are going to have my next report to the (IAEA) Board (of Governors) sometime around the end of this month," he told reporters in Cairo after talks with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.
"We are making good progress in resolving the remaining outstanding issues of the past," said ElBaradei, whose verdict on Iranian cooperation will influence the extent of more U.N. sanctions against Tehran being prepared by world powers.
Iran, a major oil exporter which hid efforts to enrich uranium from the IAEA until 2003, says its nuclear energy program is solely for generation of electricity.
Its defiance of U.N. Security Council demands that it suspend enrichment and show complete transparency about its program led to two batches of limited sanctions. World powers have drafted broader measures as they await ElBaradei's report.
During a rare Tehran visit by ElBaradei on January 11-12, Iran agreed to answer remaining questions in a long-stalled inquiry into past nuclear activities by mid-February.
It also handed over some information on efforts to produce "a new generation" of centrifuges able to refine uranium much faster, and for the first time allowed ElBaradei and aides to visit a workshop developing such centrifuges, diplomats said.
FRESH SANCTIONS PUSH
In Berlin last month, six world powers agreed the tentative outline of a new Security Council sanctions resolution although diplomats said the draft lacked punitive trade measures the United States had sought.
Asked about Western suspicions of Iran, ElBaradei said: "The agency can carry out inspections and give guarantees about the past and the present, but we cannot read future intentions.
He has urged Washington to join talks with Iran rather than trying to isolate it.
Diplomats have said the IAEA is in the last stage of its investigation, with Iran addressing intelligence about past efforts to "weaponise" nuclear materials.
ElBaradei's report will spell out whether Iran has done enough for the four-year-old inquiry to be wrapped up, detail information provided on development of advanced centrifuges, and provide an update on enrichment activity at its Natanz plant.
The ambiguity surrounding the nuclear drive of Shi'ite Muslim Iran has concerned the mainly Sunni Arab world, including U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose group of six oil-rich countries, have declared interest in developing nuclear power, raising concerns of a possible arms race with Iran.
ElBaradei played down fears that Arab countries were interested in developing nuclear weapons. "All Arab countries' nuclear activities will be under the agency safeguard system so I don't see a reason why anybody should be concerned," he said.
1. North Korea Still a Nuclear Proliferation Risk: Intel Report
(for personal use only)
North Korea remains a nuclear proliferation risk and is probably still pursuing a uranium enrichment capacity, a US intelligence assessment concluded Tuesday.
In an annual threat assessment to Congress, US national intelligence chief Mike McConnell noted that Pyongyang missed a December 21 deadline for making a full declaration of its nuclear program.
"The IC (intelligence community) continues to assess that North Korea has pursued a uranium enrichment capability at least in the past, with at least moderate confidence that the effort continues today," the report said.
In discussing proliferation risks, the report noted North Korean missile sales to Iran and several Middle Eastern countries.
"We remain concerned North Korea could proliferate nuclear weapons abroad," it said.
But the assessment said Pyongyang probably views its missile and nuclear capabilities "as being more for deterrence and coercive diplomacy than for warfighting and would consider using nuclear weapons only under certain narrow circumstances."
"We also assess that Pyongyang probably would not attempt to use nuclear weapons against US forces or territory unless it perceived the regime to be on the verge of military defeat and risked an irretrievable loss of control," it said.
A North Korean nuclear test in October 2006 supported previous US assessments that Pyongyang has produced nuclear weapons even though it produced a yield of less than one kiloton, the report said.
It said North Korea has produced enough plutonium for at least half a dozen weapons.
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee says India may face global isolation if it does not go ahead with a nuclear deal with the US.
The landmark deal has been stalled because of stiff opposition from the ruling government's communist allies.
The communists say the deal would give the US too much influence over India's foreign policy.
They have threatened to end support for PM Manmohan Singh over the issue, which could trigger an early election.
The deal would give India access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel even though it has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Mr Mukherjee has said India faced isolation if it backed out of the deal at this stage.
"We do not live in isolation. If we do not fall in line [and sign the nuclear accord], there may be sanctions. We will face problems," Mr Mukherjee was quoted by The Telegraph newspaper as telling a meeting of businessmen.
India has held talks with the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, in Vienna on the controversial deal -one of the stages in the approval of the agreement.
India's communist parties have said they retain the right to reject the deal even after the IAEA has sifted through it.
Mr Mukherjee was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying that India and IAEA were yet to find a common ground on the issue and that talks were still on.
He said India could not "depend on coal reserves alone" for its energy needs.
The landmark deal has also been criticised by many outside India.
Under the agreement, India is allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel - something that is opposed by some members of the US Congress.
The Democratic presidential debate last month in Manchester, N.H., was noteworthy in one significant respect. For the first time during this long presidential campaign, the candidates were asked how they would work to prevent an act of nuclear terrorism against the United States.
I hope that this is not the last time this issue is raised during this campaign. The prospect that a terrorist group will detonate an improvised nuclear weapon in an American city is the single greatest national security danger facing the United States today. It is the solemn responsibility of our government to confront this grave challenge, and the American people should hold our elected officials accountable.
During my first year as a United States senator, and as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have met with outside experts to evaluate the threat of nuclear terrorism. I have learned a series of disturbing facts.
Al-Qaeda leaders have openly declared their stated goal of acquiring a nuclear weapon to use against the United States and our friends and allies.
Since the early 1990s, there have been hundreds of reports of attempted smuggling from the former Soviet Union's vast nuclear stockpile of highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium, the fissile materials that give nuclear weapons their explosive power. Although the quantities intercepted so far have been very small, we are likely missing some thefts, and small amounts of fissile material can be aggregated into a sufficient core for an improvised nuclear weapon.
Too many nuclear facilities across the globe still do not have the security safeguards we should demand for stockpiles of fissile material, which should be guarded as tightly as Fort Knox. Today, as many as 40 nations possess the key materials and components required to assemble a nuclear weapon, with security conditions varying greatly from nation to nation and site to site.
While nuclear terrorism is a frightening threat, there is reason for hope: We know what needs to be done to meet the challenge. Even a terrorist group as sophisticated as al-Qaeda cannot build a nuclear weapon from scratch. The production of nuclear weapons and fissile material remains a capacity limited to national governments.
First, the United States should work in concert with other nations to lock down nuclear warheads and weapons-grade materials around the world and prevent terrorists from acquiring them in the first place. We're making some progress on this front, but we're not moving fast enough. While additional funding is required, we also need high-level attention from world leaders to break through the bureaucratic obstacles and political inertia blocking improved security.
Second, the United States must also bolster its ability to deter the use of nuclear weapons in a terrorist attack. We must brand any efforts by individuals and businesses to assist terrorists in obtaining nuclear weapons as international crimes against humanity and demand the most severe punishments. While nihilistic groups like al-Qaeda are undeterrable, the states from which they acquire or steal nuclear material are not. The United States can work with international partners to assemble a global library of nuclear fissile-material samples from every nuclear power in the world, so that, in the aftermath of an attack, we can quickly identify the origins of the fissile material used and assess which states may have been culpable.
Finally, we must rededicate ourselves to the overall effort to combat nuclear proliferation. It is a simple equation: The more states that acquire nuclear weapons, the more likely it is that some of those weapons may be vulnerable to theft or illicit sales to terrorist groups. The current political turmoil in Pakistan demonstrates why it is so important to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, especially to unstable and undemocratic regimes.
God forbid, if an act of nuclear terrorism were to occur on American soil, we are likely to ask the morning after the following questions: What could our government have done to prevent such a detonation? What international initiatives should we have pursued? The answers are available to us today; we have no excuse for not acting immediately. The next president, with a strong mandate from Congress, must place at the very top of his or her agenda a full-scale effort to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.
DISCLAIMER: Nuclear News is presented for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to visit the websites from which the source material originates. Views presented in any given article are those of the individual author or source and not of RANSAC. RANSAC takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained in any article presented in Nuclear News.