1. Russia: Poland Risks Attack Because of US Missiles
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A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported.
The statement by Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn is the strongest threat that Russia has issued against the plans to put missile defense elements in former Soviet satellite nations.
Poland and the United States on Thursday signed a deal for Poland to accept a missile interceptor base as part of a system the United States says is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations. Moscow, however, feels it is aimed at Russia's missile force.
"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike ï¿½ 100 percent," Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying.
He added, in clear reference to the agreement, that Russia's military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons "against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them." Nogovitsyn that would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, he said, according to Interfax.
At a news conference earlier Friday, Nogovitsyn had reiterated Russia's frequently stated warning that placing missile-defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic would bring an unspecified military response. But his subsequent reported statement substantially stepped up a war of words.
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski was quoted Friday by the Polish news agency PAP as saying that Poland is open to Russian inspections because it wants to give Moscow "tangible proof" that the planned base is not directed against Russia.
U.S. officials have said the timing of the deal was not meant to antagonize Russian leaders at a time when relations already are strained over the recent fighting between Russia and Georgia over the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia.
Russian forces went deep into Georgia in the fighting, raising wide concerns that Russia could be seeking to occupy parts of its small, pro-U.S. neighbor, which has vigorously lobbied to join NATO, or even to force its government to collapse.
"I think the Russian behavior over the last several days is generally concerning not only to the United States but to all of our European allies," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, when asked about Russian threats against Poland as a result of the missile defense agreement.
He also suggested that earlier U.S. offers for broad cooperation with Moscow on the missile defense program may be reevaluated considering the latest developments.
Under the agreement that Warsaw and Washington reached Thursday, Poland will accept an American missile interceptor base.
Washington says the planned system, which is not yet operational, is needed to protect the U.S. and Europe from possible attacks by missile-armed "rogue states" like Iran. The Kremlin, however, feels it is aimed at Russia's missile force and warns it will worsen tensions.
In an interview on Poland's news channel TVN24, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the United States agreed to help augment Poland's defenses with Patriot missiles in exchange for placing 10 missile defense interceptors in the Eastern European country.
He said the deal also includes a "mutual commitment" between the two nations to come to each other's assistance "in case of trouble."
That clause appeared to be a direct reference to Russia.
Poland has all along been guided by fears of a newly resurgent Russia, an anxiety that has intensified with Russia's offensive in Georgia. In past days, Polish leaders said that fighting justified Poland's demands that it get additional security guarantees from Washington in exchange for allowing the anti-missile base on its soil.
"Simply the existence of this installation increases Poland's security," Polish President Lech Kaczynski said Friday.
2. Ukraine Seeks Integration into European Missile Defense
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Ukraine may integrate its early warning missile system with Europe or propose other countries use its missile defense capabilities, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
Earlier in the year Russia and Ukraine had withdrawn from an agreement on Moscow's renting radar sites in Ukraine. The agreement, signed in 1992, defined the main principles for using early-warning missile systems located in Ukraine, as well as the operational order for Mukachevo and Sevastopol units and their provision, funding, modernization and reconstruction.
"Ukraine's withdrawal from the agreement offers the possibility of developing active cooperation with European countries with a view to integrating units of early missile warning and space systems with similar systems," the ministry said.
The statement from the Ukrainian diplomatic body comes amid Russia's concerns over U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Europe.
The United States and Poland signed an agreement on Thursday to deploy 10 U.S. interceptor missiles in the former Communist-bloc country.
Russia is strongly opposed to the missile shield plan, which it says will undermine its nuclear deterrent and threaten its national security.
Washington says plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland coupled with a radar system in the Czech Republic are intended to counter possible attacks from what it calls "rogue states," including Iran.
1. N. Korea Says US Is Hampering Nuclear Disarmament
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North Korea accused the United States on Monday of using human rights to block progress in a six-nation agreement on eliminating nuclear weapons in the communist country.
President Bush "blustered that he would handle the 'human rights issue' as 'an element for negotiations with North Korea,'" the official Korean Central News Agency said, referring to comments made by Bush during his recent visit to Asia.
"We categorically dismiss this as a premeditated act of the U.S. to deliberately throw a hurdle in the process of the six-party talks" and avoid implementing key points of a disarmament deal, KCNA said.
In the disarmament pact, North Korea pledged to disable its nuclear facilities and fully declare its nuclear programs by the end of last year in exchange for energy aid and political concessions, including its removal from a U.S. terrorism blacklist.
In June, North Korea demolished its nuclear reactor's cooling tower and submitted its long-delayed nuclear declaration. But Washington has said it will only remove North Korea from the terror list when it has agreed to a full nuclear verification plan.
Bush, in South Korea earlier this month, commented on human rights in North Korea at a news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
"The human rights abuses inside the country still exist and persist," Bush said.
KCNA accused the U.S. of raising the human rights issue to shift the blame to North Korea for not removing it from the terror list.
The deal was concluded last year by China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States, which have engaged in talks since 2003.
The report came as South Korea's No. 2 nuclear negotiator, Hwang Joon-kook, met Monday with Sung Kim, the State Department's top Korea expert, to discuss verification and other pending issues in the disarmament process.
A top UN atomic watchdog official was holding fresh talks on Iran's nuclear drive on Monday, just a day after Tehran announced it sent a rocket into space in a move Washington branded "troubling."
Olli Heinonen, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived in Tehran for his second round of talks this month, the official news agency IRNA reported.
Heinonon has made a number of visits as part of the agency's longstanding efforts to ensure there is no military dimension to the nuclear drive, which some Western states fear could be a cover for a secret weapons project.
His trip, which comes ahead of a new IAEA report on Iran expected in September, follows up on August 7 talks in Tehran that Iranian officials described as "positive" but without giving details.
On Sunday, Iran announced it had fired into space a rocket carrying a dummy satellite, a launch likely to further exacerbate tensions with the West over its nuclear work.
Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar also vowed that Iran will soon put its own satellite into orbit.
State television said the Safir (Ambassador) rocket is capable of putting a "light satellite into low earth orbit" between 250 and 500 kilometres (150 and 300 miles) above the earth.
Sunday's launch raised concern in Washington that the rocket technology could be diverted to military applications, with the White House calling the development "troubling."
"This action and dual use possibilities for their ballistic missile programme have been a subject of IAEA discussions and are inconsistent with their UN Security Council obligations," the White House said.
Iran's arch-foe Israel, which considers the Islamic republic its greatest threat, however played down concerns over the rocket launch.
Tehran "deliberately exaggerates its air and space successes in order to dissuade Israel or the United States from attacking its nuclear sites," said the head of Israel's space agency, Yitzhak Ben Israel.
"The threat posed by Iran comes from its nuclear programme and not from its satellites or ballistic missiles," he said.
Israel and its staunch ally the United States have never ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear sites, although currently Washington has said that for the moment it is pursuing the diplomatic option.
Iran risks a possible fourth round of UN sanctions after it failed to give a clear response to an incentives package offered by six major world powers in return for halting uranium enrichment, a process which makes nuclear fuel but also the core of an atomic bomb.
Heinonen, who is in Tehran at the invitation of the country's atomic energy organisation, is accompanied by another unnamed IAEA expert, IRNA said.
Since April, his visits have focused on studies which the IAEA suspects Iran has carried out in the past into the engineering involved in making a nuclear warhead.
In his last report on Iran in May, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei accused the Islamic republic of withholding key information on the so-called weaponisation studies.
Iran dismissed the allegations as "baseless", insisting it had provided a comprehensive response.
ElBaradei is due to submit another report on Iran's nuclear programme and its cooperation with the IAEA in mid-September, before the next meeting of the agency's board of governors.
Tehran has already been slapped with three sets of UN sanctions over its failure to heed successive Security Council ultimatums to freeze uranium enrichment.
Iran has said it was ready to hold more talks with the European Union on the package offered by Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
The leading OPEC member, which is the world's fourth oil producer, insists however that its nuclear programme is aimed solely at generating energy for its growing population.
1. U.S. Proposes India Nuclear Waiver, Approval in Doubt
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The United States has proposed to waive a ban on nuclear trade with India without conditions such as compliance with a nuclear test ban or U.N. inspections, but diplomats said on Thursday the draft was unlikely to pass.
The draft, circulated among members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and unveiled late on Wednesday by an arms control advocacy, will be discussed by the NSG next week in Vienna.
A green light by the 45-nation NSG, which operates by consensus, is necessary for the 2005 U.S.-India deal on nuclear trade to proceed to U.S. Congress for final ratification.
It would lift a 34-year embargo on nuclear trade for civilian purposes with the Asian atomic power, which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and has tested atomic bombs.
But diplomats from several NSG member states said the draft fell behind earlier U.S. proposals, had unacceptable clauses and omissions, and went against existing U.S. laws on the deal.
"I would be very surprised if that would happen," said a diplomat, who like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity.
"There are no conditions. Obviously what is missing is that (the waiver) is void if there is another atomic test."
A second diplomat said: "I think a majority of countries feel that the current draft is very weak and there is no conditionality at all... I don't really think that the U.S. expect that they are able to pass this draft."
If the waiver does not get NSG approval next week or at a second meeting likely early next month, it may not get ratified by the end of September, when U.S. Congress adjourns for November elections, and could face indefinite limbo.
The draft was published by the U.S.-based Arms Control Association (www.armscontrol.org) late on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the U.S. mission in Vienna declined to comment.
A senior Indian foreign ministry official said they were happy with the draft. "We are hopeful the deal will make it to U.S. Congress by Sept. 8," the official said.
Several NSG nations are unlikely to approve an exemption unless it makes clear certain events -- such as India testing a nuclear bomb or not allowing inspections at its nuclear facilities -- would trigger a review.
Such demands are also stipulated in U.S. legislation regarding the U.S.-India deal -- known as the Hyde Act -- which requires permanent, unconditional inspections in India and says trade must stop if it tests another atom bomb.
A powerful congressional leader wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week saying if the waiver does not spell out such minimum conditions, the Bush administration should not bother seeking NSG approval before it leaves office in January.
But the draft states only that NSG members "have taken note of steps that India has taken voluntarily," including its unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests and its commitment to allow inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. It mentions no consequences in case India does not adhere to the measures.
Indian media reported last week that Washington, under pressure from India, had removed a paragraph from an earlier draft that would have given NSG member states a right to suspend the deal if they felt India had reneged on its promises.
Diplomats said the overall weakness of the draft might be a tactical U.S. move to overcome India's aim to win a "clean and unconditional" waiver by prompting resistance from NSG states.
India's government almost collapsed last month when the Communists left the coalition, saying the nuclear deal would make India dependent on the United States.
"The Indian left is opposed to any demands coming from the Americans, but if they come from other countries, that may go down better domestically," a third diplomat said.
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