1. Ahmadinejad Hails West's 'Retreat' on Nuclear Issue
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the West has retreated in its nuclear dispute with Tehran, as it is no longer talking of suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment activities.
"We have now entered a stage of cooperation. At the moment, one of the key issues is Iran's participation in projects such as the international [nuclear] fuel bank or reactor and plant construction," Ahmadinejad said in a Wednesday night televised interview.
"There is no more talk of suspension. We have reached a stage where we are cooperating, on a high level, with other countries that have the technology through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," he added.
The progress made on talks on the nuclear issue has upset Israel and several European states, as they wanted the so called 'nuclear challenge' to continue so that they could use it to spread propaganda against Iran, Ahmadinejad said.
"Israelis and a number of Western countries are angry about this. They are trying to prevent us from forming cooperation. They want the talks to break down and end in dispute."
Ahmadinejad's comments came after an Israeli military official repeated the regime's past threats against Tehran, saying Tel Aviv was readying all options to try to force Iran to halt its nuclear program.
Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of Israel's armed forces, said that he expected world leaders to decide by the end of 2009 which course of action to take with regard to Iran.
“We are readying all the options and decision-makers will have to consider which paths to take” to stop Iran's nuclear development, Ashkenazi told the Israeli parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“If the Iranians understand that they will have to pay a steep price, it wouldn't be illogical or unreasonable to say they may change their current direction,” he added.
Israel continues to insist that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, while lacking any evidence to prove its claim. The IAEA reports issued so far and even reports released by the United States' main intelligence agencies all point to the contrary.
Tel Aviv refuses to relinquish the war rhetoric against Iran, although it remains one of the only three regimes that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Iran, an NPT-signatory, has called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction from across the globe.
Israel is believed to be the sole possessor of nuclear arms in the Middle East with over 200 ready-to-launch warheads in its stockpile.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=111095§ionid=351020104
2. Blix: Iran's Nuclear Work Raising Mideast Tensions
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Iran can't convince the world it doesn't want nuclear weapons as long as it is producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale, former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Wednesday.
Iran has defied a U.N. Security Council demand that it halt its uranium enrichment program, insisting it has a right to produce fuel for civilian power plants. But while Iran says it has no intention of producing nuclear weapons, "they could change their mind tomorrow," Blix told CNN's "Amanpour" program.
"I don't think they can convince the world about it, and only a termination or strict control of the enrichment process could calm the world," Blix said.
Industrial-scale uranium enrichment could also give the Islamic republic the capability to produce weapons-grade uranium, a more difficult task. The United States and Israel have accused Iran of working toward a nuclear bomb, and Iran has so far balked at an international proposal to send its uranium stocks to Russia and France for conversion into fuel for medical research and treatment.
"The fact is that that enrichment very much increases tension in the Middle East, and it may even lead to other countries in the Middle East thinking of going for enrichment," Blix said. But he said the United States "holds the key" to breaking the impasse, and could convince Iran to halt its nuclear fuel program by offering security guarantees or a resumption of diplomatic relations with Tehran.
Blix led the U.N. effort to find Iraq's suspected nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His reports that no such weapons were turning up were discounted by the United States, which insisted those programs were being concealed. After the invasion, Iraq was found to have dismantled its weapons programs years before.
Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/11/11/iran.nuclear/index.html
3. S-300 Missile Deliveries to Iran Under Review — Russian Official
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Russia is still considering the possible deliveries of advance air defense systems to Iran and will not freeze the contract as a concession to the United States, a government official said.
Russia signed a contract with Iran on the supply of S-300 air defense systems to the Islamic Republic in December 2005. However, there have been no official reports about the start of the contract's implementation since then.
"The issue of S-300 deliveries [to Iran] is still under discussion. There are some technical and other problems," said Konstantin Biryulin, deputy director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation.
The possible deliveries of S-300 missiles to Iran have aroused serious concern in the West and in Israel.
The official denied media speculations that Russia could freeze the Iranian contract in exchange for Washington's decision not to place interceptor missiles in Poland and a missile tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
"I do not understand why there is so much media frenzy over the deliveries of S-300 to this region...Russia has the right to decide on its own whether to deliver these systems to any country which is not under the UN Security Council's sanctions," Biryulin said.
He also denied the link between recent talks on delivery of S-300 systems to Saudi Arabia and the Iranian contract. Media reports earlier speculated that Russia could sell S-300 to Saudi Arabia instead of Iran to compensate for potential financial losses. "If Saudi Arabia asks us to deliver S-300s, we will consider the request without linking it to other countries. Russia has never delivered military equipment to a country while hurting the interests of another country," the official said.
The latest version of the S-300 series is the S-300PMU2 Favorit, which has a range of up to 195 kilometers (about 120 miles) and can intercept aircraft and ballistic missiles at altitudes from 10 meters to 27 kilometers.
It is considered one of the world's most effective all-altitude regional air defense systems, comparable in performance to the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot system.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi urged Russia on Wednesday to fulfill its contract on the supply of S-300 air defense systems to Iran.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20091112/156801026.html
4. Turkey's FM in Phone Call With Baradei Over Iran's Nuclear Program
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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had a phone conversation with Mohammed El Baradei, head of UN's atomic watchdog, and discussed Iran's nuclear program, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan got together with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last weekend in Istanbul over a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference.
Davutoglu informed El Baradei, chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency, about talks with Ahmadinejad as well as his meeting with his Iranian counterpart Manuchehr Motaki, spokesman Burak Ozugergin said.
Davutoglu exchanged views with El Baradei on the phone, and El Baradei gave technical information to Turkish foreign minister, Ozugergin said, adding that Turkish officials would keep in touch with El Baradei.
UN nuclear watchdog agency proposed Turkey as a third-country destination in a draft deal that would provide Iran with fuel for its Tehran research reactor.
Bloomberg website quoted Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, as saying in an interview, "Iran has a lot of trust in Turkey."
The Obama administration would agree to this proposal because the U.S. is very comfortable with Turkey, he said.
Davutoglu said last week they talked the proposal when Iranian President Ahmedinejad was in Turkey for an Islamic meeting.
However, Iranian media said, Iran had not accepted the proposal earlier.
Turkey favors diplomatic option and dialogue for solution to Iran's nuclear issue.
Available at: http://www.worldbulletin.net/news_detail.php?id=49845
Iran has effectively stopped expanding active uranium enrichment since September, diplomats said, while considering a big power offer to fuel a medical reactor if it turns over enriched material seen as an atomic bomb risk.
While Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) has likely risen by 200-300 kg from 1,500 kg reported by U.N. monitors in August, the number of operating centrifuge machines at its Natanz enrichment plant has remained at about 4,600, they said.
Iran's potential enrichment capacity was much higher. It had installed at least 8,700 centrifuges in all by late September, diplomats said. A fresh figure was not yet available.
But it was unclear why almost half the centrifuges were not yet enriching, remaining idle or undergoing vacuum tests.
Diplomats and analysts said possible reasons ranged from technical glitches to politically motivated restraint, to avoid closing the door to diplomacy with world powers and provoking harsher international sanctions or even Israeli military action.
"The situation is now pretty much as it was in September," said a senior diplomat in Vienna, where the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is based. Officials at Iran's IAEA mission were unavailable for comment.
Precise figures will come next week in a new IAEA report on its inspections and investigations in Iran, whose record of atomic secrecy has raised suspicions it is illicitly pursuing nuclear weaponry and drawn U.N. sanctions.
The IAEA's last report showed Iran was enriching uranium with about 300 fewer centrifuges than the almost 5,000 operating earlier in the year, the first such scaleback in three years. The report did not give possible reasons but diplomats said at the time Iran may have taken down centrifuges for maintenance.
Iran says it will refine uranium only to low levels needed for electricity, not to the high purity suitable for atom bombs.
The size of Iran's LEU reserve is of great interest to world powers since an IAEA-brokered draft deal calls on Iran to send some 75 percent of it abroad to be turned into fuel for a Tehran research reactor that makes isotopes for cancer treatment.
But diplomats say Iran has backpedalled from the basics of the deal. Iranian officials have said Tehran prefers to buy reactor fuel from foreign suppliers rather than part with its LEU, or at most swap small amounts of LEU for the reactor material on Iranian soil. They have called for more talks.
The United States and France, the other parties to the deal along with Russia, have vowed not to renegotiate the main conditions. They say Iran's proposals would leave intact enough LEU for conversion into nuclear explosive.
Iran has amassed enough LEU for 1-2 bombs, analysts say.
The IAEA is consulting on possible compromises to save the deal, including Iran placing its LEU under escrow in a friendly third country, like Turkey pending delivery of reactor fuel. Iran and Turkey discussed the idea in talks this week.
The impasse over fine print in the fuel deal has prevented follow-up talks on a broader solution to Iran's contested nuclear programme, with sanctions relief and trade benefits on offer to Tehran if it curbs enrichment as a whole.
IAEA TO REPORT ON SECOND ENRICHMENT SITE
The IAEA will also report next week on its initial visit to a second, hidden enrichment site that Iran revealed in September after, Western diplomats said, discovering that U.S., British and French spy services had detected it. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said in New York media interviews last week that his inspectors found "nothing to be worried about" in what he called a "hole in a mountain" without nuclear equipment or material.
Tehran has referred to the bunkered site near Qom as a fallback for its professed civilian enrichment programme in case the much larger Natanz complex were bombed by a foe like Israel.
But Western diplomats and nuclear experts say the Qom site's planned capacity -- 3,000 centrifuges -- makes little sense as a standalone civilian enrichment center since it would be too small to fuel a nuclear power station around the clock but ideal to yield fissile material for one or two bombs per year. Diplomats said it was too early for next week's report to draw conclusions as the IAEA would need time to compare plant documentation to be provided by Iran against their impressions of its layout and intelligence provided by Western powers.
"I'd be surprised if any (sinister) evidence was found there. Rather, the most important issue to be resolved is why this site exists at all, what is its chronology, is it plausible for (civilian) purposes?" said a senior Vienna diplomat.
Iran has said the plant under construction will not start operating before the end of next year.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE5A81TW20091111
6. West Trying to Trick Iran to Relinquish Its Nuclear Fuel: MP
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A top lawmaker said on Tuesday that the West is trying to trick Iran to relinquish its nuclear fuel.
“Although providing fuel for the Tehran reactor fuel is not that complicated…, media outlets are cunningly portraying it as highly important and complicating the issue,” Kazem Jalali, the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee rapporteur, told reporters.
In spring 2008, Iran sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency announcing it needs nuclear fuel for the Tehran research reactor, however, the IAEA sent the letter only to the U.S. and Russia rather than to all nuclear fuel suppliers, he said.
On the proposed exchange of uranium, he said, “The fact is that we do not completely trust the West and the plans (put forward) in negotiations because they have repeatedly proved that they do not live up to their commitments.”
Jalali referred to a voluntary suspension of nuclear activities in Iran in the past which was only intended to build trust over nuclear program but the West sought to bring Iran’s nuclear activities to a permanent halt.
The nuclear fuel talks between Iran, Russia, the United States, and France in Vienna concluded on October 21 without a final agreement, but IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei then presented a proposal for the four countries to study.
Under the draft deal, a large consignment of Iran’s enriched uranium would be shipped out of the country for processing into fuel rods with a purity of 20 percent, which would be used by a research reactor in Tehran that manufactures medical radioisotopes.
Jalali said on Monday that the proposed exchange of uranium should be done in Iran.
If Tehran is going to exchange some of its low-enriched uranium for 20 percent enriched uranium, this exchange should be done in Iran, he told the MNA
The committee chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi also told reporters on Sunday that Iran will only exchange its low-enriched uranium after it receives the 20 percent enriched uranium promised in the latest nuclear deal.
However, he said Iran’s first priority is to buy uranium for the Tehran research reactor that produces radioisotopes.
“If we cannot buy 20 percent enriched uranium for the Tehran reactor, we can exchange it in a limited way on the provision that we receive the 20 percent enriched uranium before” delivering the 3.5 percent enriched fuel, the MP added.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=207650
7. U.S. Official Says IAEA Has Evidence Iran Sought Atomic Warhead
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A U.S. arms-control official said today there is “strong evidence” Iran sought to develop the means to put a nuclear weapon on a missile prior to 2003 and perhaps afterward.
Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, said the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna will report on the issue next week.
The IAEA will “address Iran’s continuing failure to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation of the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program, including strong evidence that it has done work on a missile warhead for delivering nuclear weapons,” Einhorn said.
Einhorn spoke to a conference hosted by the Middle East Institute in Washington as the U.S. awaits a response from Tehran to a deal on enriched uranium.
Einhorn said he was referring to warhead work done prior to 2003, the year Iran halted its nuclear weapons program, according to a U.S. intelligence estimate made in 2007.
“That’s not to say categorically that there’s no such activities taking place since then,” Einhorn added, leaving open the possibility that warhead design has continued.
Einhorn said “a number of governments,” including the U.S., have provided the IAEA with “substantial information, some of it acquired on a laptop computer, regarding work done in the past on the design for what all experts seem to agree is a nuclear warhead.”
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The U.S. and European allies as well as Russia and China have been pushing Iran to prove that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=amVUVY2wEtmU&pos=9
1. Clinton Says Korea Naval Fight Won't Deter U.S. Envoy Visit
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A naval skirmish between the two Koreas will not derail the Obama administration's plans to send its first envoy to Pyongyang to revive dormant nuclear talks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
The rival Koreas exchanged gunfire for the first time in seven years on Tuesday. The clash took place near a disputed sea border and left a South Korean vessel pockmarked with bullet holes and a North Korean patrol ship ablaze as it retreated home.
"This does not in any way affect the decision to send Ambassador (Stephen) Bosworth. We think that this is an important step that stands on its own," Clinton told a news conference on the sidelines of an APEC meeting in Singapore.
North Korea has often used military action to force its way onto the agenda of major diplomatic events, and recently caused alarm by announcing increased production of arms-grade plutonium. Yet at the same time, it has also been seeking direct talks with Washington.
"We're obviously hoping the situation does not escalate, encouraged by the calm reaction that has been present up until now," Clinton said.
President Barack Obama is due in Japan later this week to start his first tour through Asia since taking office, and the security threat North Korea poses to the economically vital region will be high on the agenda.
The United States said on Tuesday it had agreed to send Bosworth, its special envoy for North Korea, to the country to hold bilateral talks in the hopes of coaxing Pyongyang back into broader negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear arms program.
South Korea's military was on high alert for another possible incursion but there has been no suspicious activity from the North near the disputed sea border, officials said.
North Korea for nearly a year has boycotted the six-country talks aimed at having it scrap its nuclear program in exchange for aid to rebuild its broken economy and a better diplomatic standing that could help it receive international finance.
Analysts said Washington would not have signed off on the Bosworth visit unless it had assurances Pyongyang would return to disarmament talks.
Few expect the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to ever give up nuclear weapons, which his state's propaganda machine said have fended off invasion attempts by a hostile United States and are the crowning achievement of his "military-first" rule.
Regional powers are hoping for at least a return to pledges reached in 2005 under a six-way deal where the North resumes taking apart its aging Yongbyon nuclear plant -- the source of its arm-grade plutonium -- and allowing in international nuclear inspectors to verify claims it made about its nuclear program.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has tried to prevent Tuesday's clash from harming a recent warming of ties between the Koreas, who are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended with a cease fire and not a peace treaty.
"We do not want this to be an obstacle in the improvement of South-North Korea relations," Kim Eun-hye, a spokeswoman for the presidential Blue House.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSSEO34671120091111
2. Seoul Supports U.S. Decision to Send Envoy to North Korea: Spokesman
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea supports Washington's decision to send a special envoy to Pyongyang as part of the six-party process to denuclearize the North, the government said Wednesday.
The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that Stephen Bosworth, Washington's special representative on North Korea policy, will go to Pyongyang "at an appropriate time" by the end of the year as part of efforts to bring the North back to the multilateral denuclearization talks.
"The government supports the U.S. decision to seek a visit by special envoy Bosworth to North Korea aimed at a swift resumption of the six-party talks and securing the promise of denuclearization, including the accord from the Sept. 19 (2005) joint statement," Moon Tae-young, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said.
The 2005 deal calls for the North's nuclear dismantlement in return for hefty economic aid, diplomatic recognition and establishment of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula to replace the fragile armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
Moon added South Korea looks forward to the pending bilateral meeting to "contribute positively to the North Korean nuclear stalemate" by bringing the North back to the negotiation table.
"South Korea and the U.S. have held close consultations during the process (of seeking the U.S.-North Korean bilateral talks) and will maintain a sturdy alliance in seeking practical progress on the North Korean nuclear issue," the spokesman said
Earlier reports said that North Korea has agreed that Bosworth will meet with Kang Sok-ju, North Korea's first vice foreign minister and the immediate superior of Kim Kye-gwan, the North's chief nuclear negotiator.
The two sides also agreed to hold at least two bilateral meetings before Pyongyang returns to the six-party talks, reports said. The agreement was reached at talks between Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy for six-party forum, and Ri Gun, director general of the North American affairs bureau of North Korea's foreign ministry, in New York and San Diego recently on the sidelines of academic seminars, according to the reports.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il early last month agreed to return to the six-party talks pending the outcome of bilateral talks with the U.S.
Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said the North's gestures were the results of successful implementation of international financial sanctions and an overall arms embargo, which Washington believes have effectively cut off revenues from arms sales, the only source of hard currency for the impoverished communist state.
"We have to believe that North Korea has felt, you know, some of that pressure," Crowley said. "You know, so you've seen a shift in their strategy, the so-called charm offensive that they have engaged in for the past couple of months."
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2009/11/11/3/0401000000AEN20091111003100315F.HTML
3. U.S. at Work on Strangling Kim Jong-il's Cash Flow
The Chosun Ilbo
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The U.S. envoy charged with UN sanctions, Philip Goldberg, is still trying to block North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's cash flow, even as Washington has agreed to talks with Pyongyang aimed at persuading it to return to nuclear negotiations.
North Korea invited U.S. North Korea envoy Stephen Bosworth on Aug. 4, when former U.S. president Bill Clinton was in Pyongyang to win the release of two American journalists. The same day, Goldberg was on his way to Moscow, where he met Russian Vice Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin and reportedly asked Russia to crack down on a mafia gang based on a tip-off that it had been involved in the laundering slush funds for Kim Jong-il.
South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities believe that North Korea recently earned a lot of foreign currency by smuggling ivory from Africa and distributing fake Viagra as well as selling drugs and circulating counterfeit dollars.
The North allegedly laundered money or operated secret bank accounts with the help of the Russian gangsters after it became practically impossible for the North to carry out normal transactions using the real names of top officials or agencies. Russia then passed an advisory circular which the U.S. had sent around Russian banks.
According to the source, North Korea expanded arms exports even after UN Security Council Resolution 1874 took effect in the wake of its second nuclear test on May 25. "North Korea has developed new markets in Africa and Latin America, in addition to expanding exports to its existing markets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East," the source said. "It seems the North is mainly exporting small vessels such as Hovercraft and patrol boats and Air Force equipment including radar and GPS to Africa and Latin America."
Goldberg then visited China in late October to persuade his hosts to implement sanctions against the North. He pledged to concentrate on blocking any money flow related to weapons of mass destruction. There are fears that the sanctions lost their bite when China in early October promised the North a massive aid package, but some experts disagree.
Prof. Cho Young-ki of Korea University said, "The U.S.-led financial sanctions will deal a blow especially to Kim Jong-il's slush funds and the North's munitions economy. Unlike in 2005 when it sanctioned Banco Delta Asia, the U.S. now seems to have found a way to inflict pain on the North while not allowing it to openly resist."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apparently believes Golberg's efforts have been successful, saying Monday that North Korea now wants dialogue because nations of the six-party talks are taking concerted action in implementing sanctions against the North.
Available at: http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2009/11/12/2009111200476.html
The US government has rejected a report that Washington has a team ready to secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal due to fears that the country is unstable.
Ian Kelly, a state department spokesman, dismissed the report by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker which said that the US has a special force in place that would move to secure Pakistan's nuclear weaponry in the event of a crisis.
"The US has no intention of seizing Pakistani nuclear weapons or material – we see Pakistan as a key ally in our common effort to fight violent extremists and to foster regional stability," Kelly said.
He said the US was "working very closely with Pakistan on a number of important initiatives regarding regional security".
"We do provide them with assistance, as you know," he said, but added: "We have confidence in the ability of the Pakistani government to provide adequate security for their nuclear programmes and materials."
Rapid response force
Hersh, a Pulitzer prize-winning writer, said in his report that the US and Pakistan have agreed on a security protocol allowing a special US team to assist in the guarding of Pakistan's nuclear armaments.
"There certainly is a rapid response force; I'll take it a step further – it is called a 'Tailored Fest'," he told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
"I just wish they would not deny stuff that is actually publicly available if you know where to look for it. It is a force that [will act] in case of any nuclear incident or any other terrorism-related incident.
"The men, and the women, who I assume will work on it include not only US state department counter-terror people but also the CIA, the FBI and other special operators, as a unified team.
"They have to report within four hours of a crisis to Andrews air field [in Washington DC] and be sent on their way."
Hersh said that the unit was scrambled last summer to respond to an alert in Pakistan, but the incident proved to be a false alarm.
"There was a report that turned out to be aborted [about] some nuclear incident, probably a missing nuke in Pakistan. This is a super worry for the United States of America, and it always has been," Hersh said.
Pakistan is thought to have set up its nuclear programme in 1971, soon after a war with India. The country is estimated to possess between 60 and 120 nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon has said the US is providing some training and equipment to Pakistan to improve its nuclear security.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said in the wake of an attack on Pakistan's military headquarters in Rawalpindi in October that Washington had "confidence in the Pakistani government's control over nuclear weapons".
But during a subsequent visit to Pakistan, she urged Islamabad to acknowledge the threat of what she called "nuclear-armed extremists", while calling on the country to join nuclear non-proliferation talks.
Washington and Islamabad have each denied that US special forces are on standby inside Pakistan, but Hersh insists they are there.
"Eight years ago I wrote about another group in the New Yorker, right after 9/11. [That group] had been set up in the late 90s in the Pentagon.
"So there are at least two groups that are involved, and there is probably a separate group in the [US] department of energy that also does stuff," Hersh told Al Jazeera.
"So we have a lot of groups that have a lot of responsibility in case of a nuclear crisis. The group I am writing about [now], which is on a standby basis, I think is basically in [Pakistan], whether it is in Islamabad or the US embassy.
"This is a standby group whose mission is in case of trauma inside Pakistan – we are not talking about the Pakistani Taliban taking over, that is not going to happen – but basically in case of a mutiny … they are there in case the Pakistanis want back-up."
Available at: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/11/200911110442955448.html
1. Nuclear Power Industry May Benefit From Climate Change Levy Exemption
(for personal use only)
The Government is considering fresh tax breaks for Britain’s nuclear power industry that could smooth the way for the construction of a new generation of UK reactors, The Times has learnt.
Whitehall insiders have told The Times that officials at the Department for Energy and Climate Change have been studying the possibility of an exemption for nuclear electricity from the climate change levy, a tax on industrial energy consumption that was created to boost energy efficiency.
The levy, which was introduced in 2001, raises an estimated £1 billion a year for the Treasury. Suppliers pay the levy on electricity provided to businesses to Customs & Excise and then pass on the costs to customers.
Other low-carbon sources of electricity, such as wind energy, are already exempt from the levy, but it draws no distinction between low nuclear and higher-emitting coal or gas generation.
Jeremy Nicholson, a spokesman for the Energy Intensive Users’ Group, an industry association that has been lobbying for the switch, estimated that an exemption for nuclear power would be worth up to £300 million a year to the industry, or £3 billion over the next decade, during which a big construction programme for new reactors is planned.
While no decisions have been made, the tax break would act as a sweetener for energy companies that are considering investing in new nuclear stations by ensuring that nuclear electricity is more competitive compared with electricity generated from gas or coal.
Matthew Farrow, head of energy at the CBI said that the employers’ organisation had been pressing hard for the levy to be dropped for nuclear power generation. He said that the CBI had held regular meetings with Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, and officials from his department to discuss the issue, as well as other forms of support for new nuclear infrastructure.
“They are clearly thinking about these issues,” Mr Farrow said. “Our view is that there should be a change to the levy. It’s common sense. Whether that would be sufficient is unclear . . . but any low-carbon electricity production ought to be exempt.”
At a cost of at least £4 billion per 1.6 gigawatt reactor, nuclear plants are far more expensive to build than conventional gas or coal stations and questions have been raised over the willingness of utilities to invest.
For example, a two-gigawatt gas plant being built by RWE, the German utility company, at Pembroke, West Wales, is expected to cost £1 billion.
Last week, EDF, the French utility group, told The Times that it was not guaranteed that the plants would be built unless the Government offered guarantees to ensure profitability.
However, a spokesman for the Department for Energy and Climate Change insisted that the Government had “no plans” to introduce any form of additional financial support for nuclear power. “The economics of new nuclear stack up as it’s the cheapest form of low-carbon baseload in the UK. The fact that three consortia have now invested heavily in sites suitable for new build in the UK shows that’s the case.”
On Monday, Mr Miliband reiterated the Government’s position that there would be “no subsidy for new nuclear” and that he was focused on striking a strong deal at the forthcoming United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen that would bolster investment in low-carbon power by driving up carbon prices.
Such an exemption would not be classed as a formal subsidy and would not require primary legislation, Dominic Maclaine, of New Power Consulting, said. “It would make nuclear electricity cheaper compared with fossil fuels and is one possible way that they could provide a financial incentive ... It would be easy to do.”
The CBI argues that other incentives, such as a floor price on the permits that companies need to pay to emit carbon dioxide, may be preferable.
“I suspect that we will see a change in the fiscal treatment of carbon,” Ian Marchant, the chief executive of Scottish & Southern Energy, said.
The Government set out plans on Monday for a big expansion of nuclear power, including the construction of ten reactors by 2025. The aim is to increase the share of power generation from nuclear electricity to 25 per cent by 2025, from 13 per cent last year.
All but one of the UK’s reactors are due to be retired from service by 2023.
The Government hopes that the new nuclear plants will help to plug a yawning supply gap that is opening up in Britain’s energy supplies by 2015 as ageing coal-fired stations are taken out of service to meet tough new European Union pollution rules.
The first new reactor is due to be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset by EDF, which hopes that it will be operational by the end of 2017. EDF also hopes to build two new reactors at Sizwell in Suffolk.
Horizon Nuclear Power, which is a joint venture between E.ON, another German utility group, and RWE, is planning to build four more reactors at sites at Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa, on Anglesey. Each of the new EDF plants will generate 1.6 gigawatts of electricity — enough to supply a city the size of Manchester — and are designed to last for 60 years.
MPs are likely to step up their calls for an investigation into how the “big six” energy suppliers are failing to pass on plunging wholesale gas prices to consumers (Angela Jameson writes).
More than 100 MPs have now signed an Early Day Motion calling for a Competition Commission investigation.
Greg Clark, the Shadow Energy Secretary, and Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat energy spokesman, have signed the motion, tabled by John Grogan, the Labour backbencher.
Ofgem, the industry regulator, rejected a call for a Competition Commission inquiry last month but Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, could choose to refer the energy suppliers directly to the Competition Commission.
The big six — British Gas, EDF, E.ON, ScottishPower, Scottish and Southern and npower — were cleared last year by Ofgem of collusion to fix prices, but Mr Grogan believes that the Competition Commission, which has greater investigatory powers than the regulator, could yet find evidence of collusion. He has the backing of Consumer Focus, the national consumer watchdog.
The big suppliers have cut bills by only 4 per cent this year, despite wholesale costs, which make up 60 per cent of the bill, halving in the past 12 months.
Although Ofgem had insisted that the market was working, the regulator’s own Energy Supply Probe, which published its initial report in October 2008, found that pre-payment and electricity-only customers had been overcharged by £500 million between 2006 and the end of 2008.
Available at: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/utilities/article6913118.ece
2. Russia to Produce New Nuclear Reactors by 2014 - Medvedev
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Russia will produce next-generation nuclear reactors and new types of nuclear fuel by 2014, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.
"The programs of developing nuclear power engineering have been separated as a special area in the modernization project, with next-generation nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel enjoying a demand within the country and abroad and will appear in Russia by 2014,"Medvedev said in his state-of-the-nation address to both houses of parliament.
Medvedev said nuclear developments would also be actively applied in other spheres, first of all, in medicine, adding that Russia would also participate in an international project of thermonuclear synthesis as these technologies held promise for the future.
Medvedev said Russia, as a member of the world's club of nuclear technology developers, would team up with foreign partners to open access to a virtually unlimited source of energy.
Russia has repeatedly announced its new nuclear developments and plans to introduce them within the country and promote them on global markets.
Russian nuclear power corporation TVEL, which accounts for about 17% of the world's nuclear fuel market, is developing a new type of nuclear fuel, TVS-Kvadrat, to be used for western-designed nuclear reactors.
Russia is also a world leader in the construction of fast neutron reactors. The Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant in Russia's Urals has been in operation using a fast neutron reactor for more than 20 years.
Russia is also making a large contribution to the project of an experimental thermonuclear reactor in France, which is expected to conduct its first plasma operation in 2016.
The $10-billion project involving Russia, South Korea, China, Japan, India, the European Union, and the United States to build a reactor in Cadarache near Marseilles is designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological potential of nuclear fusion, amid concerns over growing energy demand and the impact on the global climate of burning conventional fossil fuels.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20091112/156807875.html
3. Malaysia Evaluates Nuclear Energy Programme Post-2020
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The Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry is evaluating the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity with the cooperation of the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, the Dewan Rakyat was told Wednesday.
Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui said the nuclear energy development programme would take between 10 and 15 years.
"This is unavoidable although the government will optimise the use of renewable technology and encourage efficient use of energy.
"It will be costly to continue to use gas and coal to generate electricity post-2020, so the government is looking seriously into the use of nuclear energy," he said when replying to Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan (BN-Tanjong Malim).
Chin said at present, 90 per cent of the electricity supply in the peninsular was generated by coal and gas with the remaining 10 per cent by hydropower.
Available at: http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=454311
4. U.A.E. Nuclear Program May Send Region Into Arms Race
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The United Arab Emirates, which plans to award the Persian Gulf’s first nuclear power contracts this year, may start a regional arms race as its neighbors seek similar technology, according to a Chatham House report.
“Risks from nuclear proliferation cannot be eliminated entirely” from the U.A.E.’s program, Ian Jackson wrote in “Nuclear Energy and Proliferation Risks: Myths and Realities in the Persian Gulf,” published today. “It is possible that the genuine desire of Gulf states to engage in civil peaceful nuclear power could possibly tip the region into a nuclear arms race, especially if state intentions are misunderstood.”
The U.A.E., the fourth-biggest OPEC producer, is turning to nuclear power because it doesn’t produce enough natural gas to meet demand. The government has an atomic-energy agreement with the U.S., a necessary step to awarding construction contracts, and will prohibit the enrichment of uranium on U.A.E. soil.
A French group including Areva SA and Electricite de France SA is competing for U.A.E. power-plant contracts against groups led by General Electric Co. and Korea Electric Power Corp.
The civil nuclear agreement may create more than 10,000 jobs, while commercial opportunities could exceed $40 billion, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“The judgment on which Arab countries may be permitted to develop nuclear energy has become a political decision of western states, which must authorize the technology transfer,” said Jackson, a consultant on nuclear energy regulation.
Other Gulf nations’ oil income allows them to acquire the latest advanced nuclear technology to meet future power demand and “it is unlikely” this can be kept totally separate from the technology for nuclear weapons which requires similar scientific knowledge, the report said.
“The UAE would probably gain sufficient domestic capability to weaponize its civil nuclear energy program within 10 years,” said Jackson. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. plans to train 2,300 of its citizens by 2020, he said.
Arab Gulf states, including the world’s biggest oil producer Saudi Arabia, may also seek to counter Iran’s nuclear developments, the report said. The Sunni-led Gulf monarchies fear Iran’s Shiite clerical regime.
“A matching civil nuclear energy program undertaken jointly and rapidly by Gulf Arab states would be a sensible strategic precaution” to Iran’s ambitions, Jackson wrote. It would have “an implied military deterrent value because it keeps opponents guessing about whether the state also has a hidden nuclear weapons capability.”
A spokesperson for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., responsible for implementing the U.A.E.’s nuclear program, declined to comment.
By foregoing the development of domestic uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing capabilities, “the U.A.E. has made it impossible for any future U.A.E. nuclear sector to produce weapons-usable nuclear material, thus severing the principal link between civil nuclear energy and nuclear weapons development,” according to a Web site produced by the U.A.E. embassy in Washington D.C.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aFuRyH1eOEvM
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's aides have indicated that negotiations for a bilateral civil nuclear agreement are underway between India and Canada, and will be signed during his visit to India next week.
Harper will visit India between Nov16 and 19. He will visit New Delhi, Mumbai and Amritsar.
The civilian nuclear agreement has existed between both countries in draft form since the summer.
The accord would mirror similar deals reached by the United States, France and the European Union. Canada's International Trade Minister Stockwell Day is keen to add Canada to the list, the Globe and Mail reports.
Both countries are also expected to formally start work on a free trade agreement (FTA) and a joint study group to examine the feasibility of a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement that would free up trade in goods, services and investment.
Canada is facing strong competition from China in the US, its traditional export market, and is now looking at diversifying its presence in other parts. India being one of the fastest growing emerging economies, it is interested in expanding ties with the country.
Available at: http://news.oneindia.in/2009/11/12/indiacanada-to-sign-civil-nuclear-agreement-duringharp.html
Japan will reassure the United States that their alliance is in good shape, Tokyo said on Thursday, as a feud over a Marine base strains relations ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama.
Japan's new government has pledged to steer a diplomatic course more independent of its key ally, raising worries about the alliance which is central to security arrangements in a region home to a rising China and an unpredictable North Korea.
But Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said he wanted to allay such concerns in talks on Friday with Obama, who will make his first visit to Japan as president.
"There are many people (in the United States) who have been supportive of our new government, while there are those who have been worried about the change," Hatoyama told reporters.
"One big purpose of the Japan-U.S. summit is to tell those who are concerned that there is nothing to be worried about, that things are all right."
Obama and Hatoyama are expected to turn down the heat in a dispute over the U.S. Marines Futenma air base on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, a key part of a realignment of the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan.
U.S. officials have made crystal clear they want Tokyo to implement a 2006 deal under which Futenma, now located in a crowded part of Okinawa, would be closed and replaced with a facility in a remoter part of the island.
But Hatoyama said before the August election that swept his Democratic Party to power that the base should be moved off the island, reluctant host to more than half the U.S. forces in Japan.
No breakthroughs are expected on the issue during Obama's visit, although Hatoyama said on Thursday he would tell the U.S. leader that he wants to resolve the issue soon.
The two sides will instead likely stress the positive as they look for ways to adjust the decades-old alliance to changes in the region.
"I will obviously be discussing bilateral issues with President Obama, but I also want to spend time talking about more global issues," Hatoyama said.
The mass circulation Yomiuri newspaper said the two leaders would issue a statement pledging to cooperate to promote nuclear disarmament, as well as calling on North Korea to rejoin stalled multilateral talks on its nuclear arms program and urging Iran to allay suspicions about its atomic energy program.
As the leader of the only country to suffer atomic bombings, Hatoyama has backed Obama's calls for a world free of nuclear arms -- although presently Japan relies on the U.S. "nuclear umbrella" for deterrence.
The leaders will also agree to cooperate in developing environmental and energy technologies, including capturing and storing emissions, the Nikkei business daily reported.
About 50 protesters gathered near the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Thursday, calling for U.S. military bases to be moved out of Japan and for the United States to end the war in Afghanistan.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE5AA1O620091112
3. Russia, India Holding Talks on More Nuclear Reactors
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The Russian Federation, which is keen on having the ‘first pour of concrete’ for the third nuclear reactor at Koodankulam next year, is negotiating with the Indian government for constructing more reactors in India, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Semyonovich Sobyanin said on Wednesday.
He was at Koodankulam to inspect the 2 X 1,000 MWe nuclear reactors being constructed with Russian assistance at a cost of Rs.13,171 crore.
During an informal chat with reporters, Mr. Sobyanin, heading a nine-member high-level delegation, said installation of equipment was on at Koodankulam.
The construction of the reactor had been satisfactorily completed. Many systems had been commissioned and put into operation. Commissioning works of various systems were in progress.
The first reactor of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project would attain criticality during next year and negotiations on construction of the third and fourth reactors had reached the final phase. “…The Russian Federation is prepared to construct new, cost-effective nuclear reactors in India, considering its energy needs, and negotiations are on in this direction,” said Mr. Sobyanin, who inspected the control room, water treatment plant, generator room and caisson.
Chairman and Managing Director, NPCIL, Shreyans Kumar Jain; Director-General, State Corporation, ROSATOM, Russian Federation, S.V. Kirienko; President, Atomstroyexport, Dan Belenkiy; Director-General, Atomenergoproject, Generalov; Additional Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, A.P. Joshi; Director (Projects), NPCIL, K.C. Purohit; Station Director, KKNPP, M. Kasinath Balaji; Chief Construction Engineer, KKNPP, A.K. Pal, and others accompanied the Russian Deputy Prime Minister.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/2009/11/12/stories/2009111260390400.htm
Talks between Moscow and Washington to replace a key nuclear disarmament treaty that expires next month have hit a snag over proposed restrictions on Russian missiles, a newspaper said Thursday.
The dispute threatens to derail high-stakes talks on a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which US President Barack Obama's administration hopes to replace before it expires on December 5.
The Kommersant daily, citing an expert familiar with the START talks, said Washington was seeking to keep a provision from the original treaty for monitoring Russia's arsenal of mobile ground-based missiles.
"They are offering to keep and even strengthen control over our mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) such as the Topol," the expert was quoted as saying by Kommersant.
Russia is against the proposal since the United States currently does not have its own mobile ground-based ICBMs and it is therefore of "unilateral character," he said.
The maximum number of "carriers" capable of delivering nuclear warheads remains another sticking point, the newspaper reported.
"In their package, the Americans stipulated a new ceiling for warhead carriers that we don't quite agree with," the expert told Kommersant, referring to proposals presented to Moscow last month by US National Security Adviser James Jones.
Besides ground-based ICBMs, the term "carriers" also encompasses submarine-launched missiles and heavy bombers.
US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency earlier this week that Washington was "disappointed" with Russia's answer to Jones' proposals.
But in a sign that both nations were still keen to reach a deal, Russian and US diplomats have already started looking for a venue where the two countries could sign the new agreement, Kommersant said.
START, a landmark treaty seen as a cornerstone of Cold War-era strategic arms control, led to steep cuts in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals.
On Monday, the two countries resumed what they said would be the last round of their marathon talks in Geneva.
Available at: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_world/view/1017729/1/.html
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