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Nuclear News - 11/19/2009
PGS Nuclear News, November 19, 2009
Compiled By: Matthew Kapuscinski

A.  Iran
    1. Obama Renews Threats Against Iran, PressTV (11/19/2009)
    2. New Sanctions on Iran to Target LNG Technology, James Bone, The Times  (11/19/2009)
    3. UN Inspectors to Visit Iran's Second Uranium Plant, AFP (11/19/2009)
    4. Rafsanjani: Give Us Nuclear Fuel or We Will Produce It, PressTV (11/19/2009)
    5. Iran Refuses to Send Uranium Abroad, Al Jazeera (11/18/2009)
    6. World 'Not Quite' at Point of Getting Tough with Iran: US, AFP (11/18/2009)
    7. IAEA: Claims of Secret Nuclear Talks with Iran 'Entirely Baseless', Haaretz (11/18/2009)
    8. New Nuclear Site Shows Iran Immune to Threats, Mark Heinrich, Reuters (11/17/2009)
    1. Obama, Lee Press North Korea on Nuclear Ambitions, Breitbart (11/19/2009)
    2. Nuclear Talks, Trade Pact at Hand, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (11/19/2009)
    3. North Korea Arms Trade Funds Nuclear-Bomb Work, Bill Varner, Bloomberg (11/19/2009)
    4. North Korea Maneuvers to Evade U.N. Sanctions: Experts, Patrick Worsnip, Reuters (11/18/2009)
C.  Pakistan
    1. Nuclear Fallout Rocks Pakistan, Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times (11/19/2009)
D.  India
    1. India and U.S. to Resolve Remaining Issues on Nuclear Deal, The Hindu (11/19/2009)
    2. Australian Opponent Criticizes Rudd for Not Selling Uranium to India, Press Trust of India (11/19/2009)
    3. Nuclear Installations Safe: Manmohan, Sandeep Dikshit, The Hindu (11/18/2009)
E.  Syria
    1. IAEA Revisits Syria Reactor in Uranium Traces Probe, Reuters (11/18/2009)
    2. US Wants 'Credible Explanation' for Syrian Uranium, AFP (11/18/2009)
F.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. Canada, India Move Closer on Nuclear Co-Operation Deal, David Akin, The Vancouver Sun  (11/17/2009)
    2. Saudi Arabia, France Discuss Nuclear Development As Iran Moves Forward, News Blaze (11/17/2009)
G.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Lavrov: Bushehr Delay Not Political, PressTV (11/18/2009)
H.  Links of Interest
    1. Russian Defense Funding at 'Unprecedented' Level: Putin, AFP (11/18/2009)

A.  Iran

New Sanctions on Iran to Target LNG Technology
James Bone
The Times
(for personal use only)

The West intends to use Iran’s planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry as part of a new wave of sanctions to punish Tehran and bypass objections at the UN.

The move to scupper technology transfer to Iran will be the centrepiece of sanctions imposed in the new year as Tehran continues to reject offers to ease tensions over its nuclear programme. “The Iranians want to set up an LNG industry and they need technology transfer — and we can deny them that,” a senior Western diplomat said.

Talks on new sanctions are expected to start after an informal end-of-year deadline set by President Obama for Iranian co-operation. The renewed focus comes after Iran rejected a UN proposal to export 75 per cent of its enriched uranium to be turned into fuel for its medical research reactor in Tehran. That proposal, brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, would have bought time for a diplomatic settlement by removing the bulk of Iran’s bombmaking material.

In recent weeks Russia and China have been moving closer to agreeing to limited additional international sanctions on Iran but it is unlikely that they will support a UN embargo on LNG technology. They are more likely to back a modest expansion of existing UN asset freezes and travel bans on companies and individuals, as well as tightening sanctions on arms trading.

The Western diplomat said that the US and Europe wanted an asset freeze on a second Iranian bank and another shipping company, as well as some other companies.

Because of Russian and Chinese opposition, therefore, Western powers will have to pursue sanctions on the LNG industry outside the UN. The technology, which cools natural gas into a liquid so that it can be transported, is controlled by about a dozen companies in the US, Europe and Japan, so the West is in a position to impose and control an embargo.

Iran has the second-largest reserves of natural gas in the world after Russia, but remains a net importer and faces a gas shortage this winter. It has aspirations to become a leading player in the world market by developing the massive South Pars field, about 60 miles offshore in the Persian Gulf. Iran says that it could become the largest gas producer by 2018 with more than a 25 per cent market share. It has no LNG plants at present.

Samuel Ciszuk, an analyst at Global Insight in London, said new sanctions would be mainly symbolic because existing US trade sanctions had already frozen Western involvement in LNG development. However, the sanctions would deflate Iranian propaganda about becoming a gas superpower.

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Obama Renews Threats Against Iran
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US President Barack Obama says the door is still open for Iran to accept the IAEA-backed proposal on a nuclear fuel deal but warned of “consequences” if Tehran does not change its mind.

The mid-October nuclear draft discussed in Vienna envisages Iran shipping out its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to be further enriched and returned to the country for the Tehran medical research reactor. The idea was first floated by the Obama administration.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced on Wednesday that Iran would not send its enriched uranium abroad to be further processed for Tehran's reactor. He said Iran was instead considering swapping the uranium on its soil.

"Iran will not send its 3.5-percent-enriched uranium out of the country," ISNA quoted Mottaki as saying. "That means we are considering exchanging the enriched uranium inside Iran.”

President Obama on Thursday reacted to Iran's announcement, saying Tehran still had time to accept the draft deal but simultaneously warned that “consequences” may await Iran should it reject the proposal.

"Our expectations are that over the next several weeks we will be developing a package of potential steps that we could take that will indicate our seriousness to Iran," Obama said.

Mottaki also said that Iran prefers to domestically enrich uranium to 20 percent, or buy the 20-percent-enriched uranium that it needs rather than exchanging its LEU with fuel rods.

"However, since they were insisting on the exchange, we decided to open a window of opportunity and study different aspects of this possibility... But since their estimate about the amount of fuel to be exchanged runs counter to that of our experts, technical examinations are still ongoing," he added.

"We have called for the Vienna technical commission to be established again so that we can present our viewpoints. The commission has yet to be established," he noted.

Iran has called for modifications to the deal, reiterating that its “economic and technical” concerns have to be reserved regarding the proposal.

The US says no alteration will be made to the draft deal, insisting that Iran should accept the deal unchanged.

Western countries have hinted that further sanctions may await Iran should it turn down the proposal.

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Rafsanjani: Give Us Nuclear Fuel or We Will Produce It
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The chairman of Iran's Expediency Council says Tehran will continue its nuclear enrichment program if the West does not provide the Islamic Republic with nuclear fuel.

Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is responsible for providing the necessary enriched uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor.

"If the US and the West go on with the same policy toward Iran, Tehran will continue its peaceful enrichment program within the legal frameworks," Mehr news agency quoted Rafsanjani as saying.

"The West and the US are well aware that the Islamic Republic of Iran has no interest in developing nuclear weapons and records of Iran's behavior prove that," Rafsanaji said in a meeting with the Swedish Ambassador to Iran Magnus Werndstedt on Wednesday.

"Any fair-minded country, including Iran which is aware of the mass killing and destruction caused by the US nuclear attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima will hate nuclear weapons," he stated.

"Before the Islamic Revolution, the West and the US volunteered to build nuclear plants in Iran and this was because of the Shah regime's obedience to them," he noted.

"The US and the West try to control Iran because of its huge energy resources and geographical location, but the Iranian nation who has an old civilization and religious beliefs will not accept dependence and being subordinated again," Rafsanjani said.

He added that the fact that the West and the US are silent about Israel's nuclear weapons shows that they only pretend to be supporters of peace and security.

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UN Inspectors to Visit Iran's Second Uranium Plant
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UN inspectors were expected to visit Iran's controversial second uranium enrichment plant on Thursday, a day after Tehran rejected a Washington-backed nuclear fuel deal.

The visit by the International Atomic Energy Agency team to the plant, which is being built near the Shiite holy city of Qom, was announced on Wednesday by Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh.

The inspection is the second by the IAEA in less than a month. Four inspectors first visited the plant on October 25 after its disclosure by Iran to the agency triggered intense outrage in the West.

"This site will from now on be under the IAEA. And for your information there will be tomorrow another inspection of this site in order to make sure that we are fully cooperating," Soltanieh told reporters in Vienna on Wednesday.

The Fordo plant, named after a nearby village where large numbers of Iranians were killed during the war with Iraq in the 80s, is guarded by anti-aircraft guns and is being built inside a mountain.

Iranian officials say the construction of the plant is a message to the West that Tehran will never give up its uranium enrichment work and that the plant is a back-up facility in case the main enrichment plant at Natanz is bombed.

Washington and arch-foe Israel have never ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities which they suspect are being used to make weapons, a charge strongly denied by the Islamic republic.

Soltanieh has said that Iran has no other enrichment plants apart from Fordo and Natanz.

The expected UN inspection comes a day after Iran rejected plans for it to send most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium abroad under the IAEA-brokered deal.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Wednesday that Iran has ruled out proposals backed by the major powers for it to ship out more than 70 percent of its stocks before receiving any nuclear fuel in return, the ISNA news agency reported.

Mottaki said Iran is prepared to consider the idea of a simultaneous exchange of uranium for fuel but the UN nuclear watchdog, which has been brokering the negotiations, has already said that idea is unacceptable to the Western powers.

The Western governments support the UN-brokered deal because they believe it would leave Iran with not enough stocks of low-enriched uranium to be able to make a bomb.

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IAEA: Claims of Secret Nuclear Talks with Iran 'Entirely Baseless'
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The United Nations nuclear watchdog has vehemently denied a report in the British newspaper The Times that it had been holding clandestine talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

These talks, the report said, would "allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear programme in return for co-operation with UN inspectors."

"These allegations are entirely baseless. It is regrettable that The Times should publish such a story without any effort to make a critical assessment of its source," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement published on its website.

According to the report in The Times, IAEA Chief Mohamed ElBaradei drew up a 13-point agreement in September aimed at convincing world powers to allow Iran to continue its contentious nuclear program under close UN inspection.

ElBaradei has apparently been trying to resolve this issue before he leaves office at the end of November, according to The Times. The newspaper said it had received the report from a concerned party privy to the issue.

The IAEA has denied that the document exists, said The Times.

The Times exclusive comes hours after the IAEA released a report western official say proves Iran is still not meeting its obligations to the international community over its nuclear program.

"[The] IAEA's latest report on Iran underscores that Iran still refuses to comply fully with its international nuclear obligations," U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Monday.

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Iran Refuses to Send Uranium Abroad
Al Jazeera
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Iran has ruled out sending its enriched uranium abroad for further processing, saying it would prefer to purchase the required fuel from other countries and keep its low-enriched uranium.

Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, told the ISNA news agency on Wednesday that a UN-backed proposal, which would have seen Tehran's stocks of low-enriched uranium sent out of the country for further enrichment, was not feasible.

"We reviewed it ... from an economic and technical aspect. We will definitely not send out our 3.5 per cent enriched uranium," Mottaki said.

Iran was supposed to export the low-grade enriched uranium to Russia and France where it could be enriched to be used as fuel in Tehran's medical-purpose reactor.

However, Mottaki said that Tehran could still be prepared to directly exchange the low-enriched uranium for processed nuclear fuel, providing the swap took place on Iranian soil.

"It means that we will [instead] consider swapping the [nuclear] fuel simultaneously in Iran," he said.

'No amendments'

The deal was seen internationally as a confidence-building measure for Iran, which wants to prove to the world that its nuclear programme is not intended for making weapons.

France said that the Iranian remarks were "extremely negative", but pledged to continue negotiations.

"There is a clear and negative response from the Iranians," Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said.

The deal had been negotiated between Iran and the five permanent United Nations Security Council members, plus Germany.

The West believes the plan would leave the Islamic republic without sufficient material to make a nuclear weapon, at least from stockpiles known to the international community.

Mottaki also said the Islamic republic was ready for another round of talks with world powers over securing fuel for its Tehran research reactor. The first meeting was held in Vienna on October 19.

"We have called for another meeting of the technical people who were part of Vienna talks and we will explain our considerations. But so far such meeting has not convened," Mottaki said.

The United States rejected earlier Iranian calls for amendments and further talks on the deal and Barack Obama, the US president, said that time was running out for diplomacy to resolve the issue.

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World 'Not Quite' at Point of Getting Tough with Iran: US
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The United States said Wednesday that the international community was "not quite" at the point of switching from trying to engage Iran to pressuring it over its suspect nuclear program.

"We're not going to close any... door on the engagement track, but at a certain point I think we're going to start paying a little more attention to the other track," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

"We're not quite at that point right now, but as I said before, I think that time is short."

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki appeared to rule out Wednesday proposals backed by the major powers for it to ship out more than 70 percent of its low-enriched uranium stocks in return for nuclear fuel.

Kelly said the US did not see his remarks, reported by Iran's ISNA news agency, as a formal response and was waiting to hear that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, had received a clear answer from the Iranians.

"What was said today doesn't inspire... our confidence that they're going to deliver up a positive response, of course," Kelly said.

The US will continue to consult with its negotiating partners Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany as well as with the IAEA about the dual track of "both engagement and pressure" over Iran's disputed nuclear program, he said.

The IAEA has been waiting almost a month for Iran to respond to the nuclear deal offered on October 21.

Under the proposals, Iran would rely on Russia and France to process low-enriched uranium to fuel a Tehran reactor that makes medical isotopes.

The Islamic republic would be left without sufficient material to make a nuclear weapon, at least from stockpiles known to the international community.

Such a deal would give the world community more time to negotiate a deal in which Iran halts its uranium enrichment program, which the West fears masks a bid to build a bomb. Iran denies the charges.

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New Nuclear Site Shows Iran Immune to Threats
Mark Heinrich
(for personal use only)

Building a second uranium enrichment site is a "political message" from Iran that neither sanctions nor possible military attack will ever stop its nuclear programme, a senior Iranian official said on Tuesday.

In an interview, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said the agency's concern Tehran may be hiding more nuclear work after it unveiled the enrichment site was wrong, unfair and a political judgment beyond its mandate.

He told Reuters Iran's disclosure in September of the Fordow site near Qom, being erected in case its much larger Natanz enrichment center was bombed, showed it was heeding transparency commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In a report on Monday, the IAEA said Iran's acknowledgement of the Fordow plant's existence was long overdue and "reduces confidence" that Tehran was not concealing other sites -- possibly support facilities Fordow.

It said Iran had told the IAEA it started building the plant within a bunker beneath a mountain in the second half of 2007, but the IAEA had satellite pictures and intelligence evidence indicating construction work got under way as early as 2002.

Iran granted IAEA inspectors full access to the site on October 26-27 but not to the plant's director and original designers. The report said Iran had not yet convincingly ruled out the existence of more covert nuclear sites or plans for any.

Referring to the scepticism conveyed by the IAEA report, Soltanieh said: "We reject this 100 percent. This kind of judgment is absolutely wrong, unfair, political and beyond the (IAEA's) mandate. There is no justification for it."

"The new Fordow site ... is a clear political message that neither U.N. Security Council sanctions nor the threat of military attack can stop (our) enrichment under full scope safeguards of the IAEA," he said, speaking in English.


"So the advice to those (Western powers) who have so far not coped with this reality is to cope with this reality -- that this enrichment will continue at any price under IAEA (monitoring) for peaceful purposes," said Soltanieh.

"This is a contingency site, complementary to Natanz, in order that our enrichment process will never, ever be suspended. Its purpose is just to have a more protected, secure site."

The inspectors found the Fordow installation in "an advanced" state of construction. Iranian officials told them it would start up with 3,000 centrifuge machines in 2011.

Iran says the site, like Natanz, is meant to yield low-enriched fuel only for civilian power plants, of which it has none except for the almost completed Bushehr facility which is to be run with Russian enriched uranium.

Western nuclear analysts say Fordow's small capacity makes it unsuitable for any purpose but to enrich smaller quantities of uranium suitable for a bomb. Enrichment sites generally need tens of thousands of centrifuges to feed a nuclear power plant.

Western suspicions rest on Iran's history of nuclear secrecy and restricting IAEA inspections and access for investigations.

Iran has defied U.N. Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions over its refusal to suspend enrichment in exchange for trade benefits or grant unfettered IAEA inspections meant to verify it has no clandestine nuclear arms programme.

Western diplomats said in September that Iran owned up to the Fordow site only after learning that their spy services had detected it and an announcement by Western leaders was imminent.

At a G-20 summit in Pittsburgh on September 25, they condemned Iran's cloak of secrecy over the plant and said it heightened suspicions Iran's professed peaceful enrichment programme was a mfacade for efforts to "weaponize" the technology.

Soltanieh said Iran's subjection of the plant to IAEA monitoring made a mockery of the Western stance.

"(We have shown) that the reaction in Pittsburgh, these speculations and misjudgements and other avalanches of bombardments in the (Western) media were unjustified," he said.

Soltanieh said Iran had declared the site's existence "well in advance" of its legal obligations to the IAEA.

But IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei told reporters during a visit to Italy on Tuesday: "(Iran) should have declared it from the day they decided to do it. They were on the wrong side of the law by not complying with our regulations."

The IAEA toughened its transparency statute for member states in 1992 to require them to alert it of nuclear plans as soon as they are drafted. Iran accepted the new code a decade later, but renounced it in 2007 in protest at sanctions.

Iran re-adopted the previous rule mandating only 180 days' notice before nuclear materials are brought into a new facility.

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North Korea Arms Trade Funds Nuclear-Bomb Work
Bill Varner
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North Korea is running a global arms smuggling enterprise to finance its nuclear weapons program, a United Nations panel said in a report on sanctions imposed on the regime.

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has established a highly sophisticated international network for the acquisition, marketing and sale of arms and military equipment,” said the report by a panel established in June to assess the effectiveness of the UN punishments.

The report said arms sales banned by the UN “have increasingly become one of the country’s principal sources for obtaining foreign exchange.”

North Korea has used “reputable shipping entities, misdescription of goods and multiple transfers” to hide arms smuggling, according to the report, which has been circulated within the Security Council and was obtained by Bloomberg News. It has not yet been publicly released. The council is set to discuss the findings today in New York.

UN sanctions, first adopted in 2006, have failed to prevent North Korea from obtaining the money to expand its nuclear program, twice detonate nuclear weapons in tests and test-fire ballistic missiles.

Negotiations over the nuclear program with the U.S., Japan, China, Russia and South Korea stalled last year, and North Korea formally quit the forum to protest the UN condemnation of its April 5 firing of a rocket over the Sea of Japan.

‘It Takes Time’

“No one expected this to stop North Korea cold,” Abraham Kim, Asia analyst for the Eurasia Group, a New York-based political-risk analysis firm, said of the UN sanctions in an interview. “The whole purpose was to increase the cost of North Korea to do business by increasing the risk. It takes time. I think the report highlights that.”

President Barack Obama said yesterday in Beijing that he thanked President Hu Jintao for China’s efforts to bring North Korea back into the so-called six-party talks. The U.S. said earlier this month that it would accept North Korea’s invitation for a senior U.S. official to visit Pyongyang to discuss resumption of the talks.

The UN panel also reported on illegal financial transactions that fund North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

Use of Subsidiaries

North Korean companies and banks that have been barred from foreign transactions are circumventing the prohibition through subsidiaries, according to “indications” from some member governments, the report said. The Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., cited in April for violations of UN sanctions, “continues to operate through its subsidiary companies,” according to the report.

The Kwangson Banking Corp. and Amroggang Development Bank substitute for or act on behalf of Tanchon Commercial Bank and the Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp., the UN panel said authorities in unspecified countries have determined. The U.S. earlier this year froze the assets of the Kwangson and Amroggang banks.

The Security Council voted on June 12 to adopt a resolution that punishes North Korea for its nuclear-bomb test on May 25 and missile launches through cargo inspections and enforcement of restrictions on financial transactions.

The measure calls for the interdiction at seaports, airports or in international waters of any cargo suspected of containing arms or nuclear- or missile-related materials going to or from North Korea.

The UN panel said North Korea is believed to have exported arms to countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Only a “very small percentage” of North Korea’s illegal arms trade has been reported or discovered, the report said.

An example of attempted trade in contraband was reported in August by the United Arab Emirates, which seized a ship carrying North Korean-manufactured munitions, detonators, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades bound for Iran.

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Nuclear Talks, Trade Pact at Hand
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
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President Obama will discuss luring North Korea back to nuclear dialogue and finishing by next year a long-delayed trade deal with South Korea in talks with President Lee Myung-bak today, the end of his Asian tour.

Obama, who arrived in Asia last week and will fly home later in the day, and Lee have been putting pressure on the destitute North by targeting its finances and telling Pyongyang it will win reap rewards if it abandons its atomic ambitions.

North Korea rattled regional security just ahead of Obama's first visit to Seoul since taking office by sparking a naval fight with the South and telling the world early this month it had produced a fresh batch of arms-grade plutonium.

But Pyongyang has muffled the rhetoric since Obama began his trip to Asia a week ago.

The summit in Seoul is expected to be less problematic for Obama, who just arrived from China, where he barely bridged divides on trade, currency policy and the Tibet issue.

"Obama and Lee will send a clear message that they want a comprehensive settlement with North Korea, and there is no divide in how they see the issue," said Chung Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think tank near Seoul.

The Obama administration plans to send its first envoy to North Korea in the next few weeks to revive comatose six-way talks on ending the North's nuclear ambitions in return for lots of aid to repair its failed economy and better global standing for the largely ostracized state.

Analysts said Obama would not have agreed to the visit unless his government was given some reassurance that Pyongyang would respond by reviving the broader disarmament dialogue.

One area of conflict may be a trade deal struck two years ago under President George W. Bush and yet to be approved by legislatures in either country. Estimates said it could increase their $83 billion a year in two-way trade by about $20 billion.

Obama said on Wednesday he wanted to iron out remaining issues with President Lee on the stalled free trade pact and that the agreement could benefit U.S. exporters.

"I want to get the deal done," Obama said in an interview with Fox News during his nine-day trip to Asia.

Asked if he thought passage of the agreement could be completed next year, Obama said: "The question is whether we can get it done in the beginning of 2010, whether we can get it done at the end of 2010. There's still some details that need to be worked out."

South Korea insists it will not renegotiate the deal, the biggest trade pact for the United States since the NAFTA accord of the mid-1990s with its immediate neighbors. But Seoul has left the door open for discussions for side deals on areas such as the auto trade.

South Korea removed a potential source of friction by saying at the end of October it would dispatch a security contingent of police and troops to Afghanistan to help support the U.S.-led mission there.

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Obama, Lee Press North Korea on Nuclear Ambitions
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U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak reasserted their call for North Korea on Thursday to scrap its nuclear programs, with Obama unveiling a plan to send his top North Korea policy envoy to the North in December.

Lee said at a joint news conference with Obama after their talks in Seoul the two reconfirmed a solid bilateral security posture, including the U.S. policy of keeping South Korea under its nuclear umbrella.

He also said he and Obama agreed to offer North Korea a "grand bargain" package of political and economic incentives for the one- step, irreversible dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

Obama said he will send Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, to the North on Dec. 8 as part of efforts to bring the North back to the six-party denuclearization talks.

"The thing I want to emphasize is that President Lee and I both agree we want to break the pattern that existed in the past in which North Korea behaves in a provocative fashion, and then is willing to return to talk...and then that leads to seeking further concessions," Obama said.

North Korea agreed in September 2005 to scrap its nuclear programs in an aid-for-denuclearization deal struck at the six-way talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

But it withdrew from the multilateral talks in April to protest a U.N. Security Council condemnation of its rocket launch, which was widely regarded as a long-range missile test.

North Korea added to the tension by detonating a nuclear device in May.

The two leaders also exchanged views on how to promote each country's planned congressional ratification of a bilateral free trade agreement.

"We are committed to working together to move forward" on the FTA, which was signed by the two countries in 2007, but which has been languishing in Congress.

Obama is visiting South Korea on the final leg of a four-country swing around Asia that has already taken him to Japan, Singapore and China.

He is to leave for the United States later Thursday.

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North Korea Maneuvers to Evade U.N. Sanctions: Experts
Patrick Worsnip
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North Korea appears to be taking elaborate measures to evade U.N. sanctions aimed at its nuclear and missile activities, arms trading and import of luxuries, U.N. experts say in a new report.

The Security Council imposed the sanctions, including arms embargoes, asset freezes and travel bans, in resolutions in 2006 and 2009, in response to North Korean nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. This year for the first time, it listed eight entities and five people who were being targeted.

Pyongyang has denounced the measures, and six-country talks on ending its nuclear ambitions are dormant.

A report obtained by Reuters on Wednesday was the first to be written by an expert panel set up by the Security Council in May to vet implementation of the sanctions. It is due to be discussed in closed-door council consultations on Thursday.

The report said there were "several indications that the DPRK (North Korea) is engaged in trade, transactions and activities proscribed by (U.N.) resolutions ... and is seeking to mask these transactions in order to circumvent the Security Council measures."

The six experts said there were several different techniques employed by the isolated communist state to conceal its involvement.

"These include falsification of manifests, fallacious labeling and description of cargo, the use of multiple layers of intermediaries, 'shell' companies and financial institutions to hide the true originators and recipients," the report said.

"In many cases overseas accounts maintained for or on behalf of the DPRK are likely being used for this purpose, making it difficult to trace such transactions, or to relate them to the precise cargo they are intended to cover."


The experts said North Korea likely also used correspondent accounts in foreign banks, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers "and other well known techniques that can be used for money laundering or other surreptitious transactions."

The report cited statements by the U.S. Treasury Department on several North Korean firms and individuals thought to be acting on behalf of others who were on the sanctions list for involvement in nuclear and missile programs.

The Korea Mining Development Trading Corp, sanctioned for involvement in ballistic missile sales, continued to operate through subsidiaries. The Kwangson Banking Corp and Amroggang Development Bank had been determined to be acting for the listed Tanchon Commercial Bank and Korea Hyoskin Trading Corp.

On illicit arms shipments, the report raised the case of the seizure of a "substantial cargo" of weapons from North Korea. It was apparently referring to arms seized in August by the United Arab Emirates from an Australian-owned ship.

The report also said the North continued to import luxury goods intended for its leadership, despite a U.N. ban. It noted that in July, Italy blocked the sale of two yachts that police said were destined for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The panel, which began work just two months ago, said it would work on recommendations to the Security Council for further firms and individuals to be put on the sanctions list as well as goods whose import by North Korea should be banned.

It also promised more exact definitions of small arms -- the only kind of arms Pyongyang can import under existing sanctions -- as well as of luxury goods.

The 20-page document submitted to a sanctions committee grouping diplomats from all 15 Security Council countries was described as an interim report. The panel promised a full report by next May.

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C.  Pakistan

Nuclear Fallout Rocks Pakistan
Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times
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Sharp differences between Pakistani leaders over safeguarding the country's nuclear arsenal are placing increasing pressure on the embattled administration of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Zardari is already seriously at odds with the military establishment over dealing with the Taliban-led insurgency and there is a strong likelihood that his government will face a make-or-break test within weeks in the form of mass street protests.

Pakistan has reacted strongly to an article in The New Yorker by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh on November 16, "Defending the arsenal", in which he claimed that Pakistan was discussing "understandings" with the US that could even see specialists take sophisticated nuclear triggers out of the country to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

The administration of President Barack Obama is clearly deeply concerned over the safety of Pakistan's weapons, especially after militants last month entered the Pakistani army headquarters in Rawalpindi and subjected it to a bloody 22-hour siege.

General Tariq Majid, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, said the claims were "absurd and plain mischievous".

This might be the case, but within Pakistan, the issue of the arsenal - estimated to contain between 80 and 100 warheads - has turned into a major political row.

In an obvious attempt to address international concerns, the chairman of the National Assembly's standing committee on defense, Azra Fazal Pechuho, rushed a report of her 17-member committee into the assembly on November 11 seeking immediate legal endorsement to the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) ordinance of 2007, which sets out a multi-layered structure for the control of the nuclear arsenal.

According to this report, the president would be chairman of the authority and the prime minister would be the deputy chairman. Other members would be the ministers for foreign affairs, defense, finance and interior, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, three services chiefs and the director general of the Strategic Planning Division.

The operational control of the nuclear weapons is currently solely in the hands of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff Committee, General Majid.

The Nuclear Command Authority bill seeks to bring into law an ordinance from the time of former president, General Pervez Musharraf, to strengthen control over the country's nuclear weapons.

However, the bill was deferred by the speaker, Fehmida Mirza, on a request from Parliamentary Affairs Minister Babar Awani, who gave no reason for the move.

Asia Times Online has learned that obstacles created by former premier, Nawaz Sharif, led to the deferment. Sharif, leader of the opposition, apparently sees Zardari as unreliable, and wants the authority to be headed by the prime minister. He also urged that the leader of the opposition be a part of the NCA.

Over the past months, Zardari has become increasingly isolated. He has lost the trust of the military, which the US now views as the power to deal with in Pakistan, the political opposition is growing more assertive.

People close to Sharif say a mass campaign, much like the one in March that forced the government to restore the judiciary that had been dismissed by Musharraf, is inevitable.

The current situation is a fresh episode of an overall political imbalance that occurred after the assassination of former premier, Benazir Bhutto, (Zardari's wife) in December 2007 that led to the August 2008 resignation of Musharraf as president and the election of Zardari as president in September 2008.

In just over a year, General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, the army chief, has eclipsed Zardari and he is now Washington's point man on the Pakistani side of the South Asian war theater. The Americans believe Kiani will push relentlessly to gain victory in the tribal areas against the Pakistan Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Significantly, the US sees Kiani as the most trusted person to protect Pakistan's nuclear assets. Hersh wrote in his article:

The ongoing consultation on nuclear security between Washington and Islamabad intensified after the announcement in March of President Obama's so-called Af-Pak policy, which called upon the Pakistan Army to take more aggressive action against Taliban enclaves inside Pakistan. I was told that the understandings on nuclear cooperation benefited from the increasingly close relationship between Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Kayani [Kiani], his counterpart, although the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and the Departments of Defense, State, and Energy have also been involved.

General Majid denied parts of the article that suggested an American role in the protection of Pakistan's arsenal, but Kiani, whose dealings were a major discussion point in the article, did not utter a single word.

During US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent visit to Pakistan, it was made clear that Washington's political administration also approves of Kiani. (See US puts its faith in Pakistan's military Asia Times Online, November 6, 2009. )

This faith in the military, rather than in any political force, comes at a time when the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) is due to expire on November 28 and opposition parties are ready to challenge it in court. Legal experts are unanimous that the ordinance is discriminatory and directly clashes with the constitution and that the judiciary will not allow it to be extended.

The NRO was promulgated in 2007 by Musharraf after a deal was brokered by Washington and London between him and Benazir Bhutto, who at the time was the West's preferred person to succeed Musharraf's military government. The NRO pardoned all corruption cases pending against Benazir Bhutto and Zardari, as well as dozens of activists of her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) who had held important positions in previous governments.

Although Zardari, as president, cannot be tried under the law, cases could be opened against many incumbent ministers after November 28, which would be a major setback for the Zardari government. The PPP's secretary general, Jehangir Badr, has already warned party cadre who benefited from the NRO to obtain bail before possibly being arrested.

The military establishment has seized the moment to hand over a list of names to Zardari of people it believes should be immediately replaced. At the top of the list is the ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, whom the army has always regarded as a foe for being too close to the American administration. Minister of the Interior Rahman Malik is second in line. Although he has been credited with helping destroy the financial arteries of militants, he is regarded as too close to Western intelligence agencies and he often bypasses the military establishment in anti-terror operations.

The ministers for water and power, agriculture, health and many others are also named in the list, accused of incompetence or corruption. Initially, Zardari agreed to replace them, but now he is stalling.

Zardari has also indicated that he is unwilling to immediately shed his constitutional powers, such as the right to appoint armed forces chiefs and dissolve parliament. He has given a March 2010 date for the delegation of these powers to the prime minister.

This is unacceptable to Zardari's main rival, Sharif, who aims to launch a protest campaign against Zardari by mid-December. It was Sharif's campaign that forced Zardari to restore the judiciary this March.

The military has indicated to Sharif that it won't disturb the democratic setup, come what may; rather, it will press for the removal of people with whom it is uncomfortable and live with a weakened Zardari. It does not want mid-term elections in which Sharif's victory would be most likely. Although the military has good relations with Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League, it views him as too independent and too assertive.

In these uncertain times, Musharraf has re-emerged on the scene. Asia Times Online has learned that he is pondering the formation of a new political party and that he recently funneled large amounts of money into the coffers of former aides to promote his cause. These include former minister of information, Sheikh Rasheed, whom some reports say has been paid US$1 million - the same amount that went to a public relations team to boost Musharraf's image.

Insiders say that Musharraf has vast wealth, much of it accumulated through donations from individuals (these, some say, include Libya's Muammar Gaddafi) and corporations to aid previous election campaigns. There are reports that Musharraf received US$30 million from the United Arab Emirates via one of its top bankers, and $3 million from a Pakistani cellular phone company.

Musharraf believes that with his contacts - especially to the Saudi royal family - and being internationally known, he could play a decisive role in the South Asian "war on terror" theater in which the Americans are looking for new ways to approach the Taliban for reconciliation, along with the elimination of al-Qaeda.

The militants, meanwhile, are not standing idly by.

On Tuesday evening, the Taliban chief in the Malakand Division of North-West Frontier Province, Mullah Fazlullah, showed up in Afghanistan and confirmed a report by Asia Times Online that Pakistani militants from Swat and Malakand - who retreated in the face of military operations earlier this year - were regrouping in the Afghan province of Nuristan. (See Militants change tack in Pakistan Asia Times Online, November 18, 2009.)

Fazlullah claimed that the militants would resume their insurgency in the Swat Valley, and, ominously, he said it would coincide with the planned mass protests against Zardari next month.

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D.  India

Australian Opponent Criticizes Rudd for Not Selling Uranium to India
Press Trust of India
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Back from India, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd today faced flak from the opposition which said not selling uranium to New Delhi was a "colossal missed opportunity."

"We are the one of country with the largest reserve of uranium in the world and when we were in government we agreed in principal to sell uranium to India, subjecting very stringent safeguard," said the deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop.

"We were confident that Australian uranium would be used for peaceful purposes in India, particularly to expand their nuclear power generation programme," she added.

In an interview to a TV channel she said that Australia's loss would be Canada's gain as Ottawa appeared ready to fulfil the Indian demand for nuclear fuel.

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India and U.S. to Resolve Remaining Issues on Nuclear Deal
The Hindu
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The U.S. and India will attempt to close the nuclear agreement by trying to resolve the remaining issues, including reprocessing, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s four-day visit to Washington beginning on Saturday, U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer told newspersons here on Wednesday.

“We are optimistic that all these issues will be resolved soon. We are pushing hard,” Mr. Roemer said in response to a question on the steps required to complete the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal.

He identified the pending issues as enactment of legislation on liability by India, negotiations on setting up of dedicated reprocessing facility in India and licensing aspects.

“We have made tremendous progress in all these areas,” he added.

India has already announced two sites for nuclear parks in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat to fulfil its assurance of giving 10,000 MWe worth of nuclear energy business to U.S. companies.

“It is a win-win situation for both of us” that would enable both countries to move from one issue to “four or five big global issues.” U.S. President Barack Obama and Dr. Singh are expected to come out with a joint statement reflecting their intention to join hands in resolving issues of strategic global importance such as terrorism, climate change, food security, poverty alleviation and green technology.


Mr. Roemer said terrorism emanating from Pakistan and the situation in Afghanistan would be the other high points of talks between the two leaders and noted the intelligence sharing between the Indian and U.S. agencies on a “daily, monthly and weekly basis.”

As the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks approaches later this month, Mr. Roemer expected both leaders to discuss the course of subsequent events and reiterated Washington’s desire to walk “shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand” on this issue.

The U.S., he said, would like Pakistan to prosecute the seven militants suspected to have masterminded the Mumbai attacks in November last as well as bring Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Sayeed to justice.

“I have been asked time and again and the U.S. has consistently stated that we need to see action and resolve from our friends in the Government of Pakistan … our Pakistani friends need to recognise this internal threat,” he said.

The U.S. Ambassador also expected Dr. Singh and Mr. Obama to have “healthy and robust” discussions about the AfPak strategy.

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Nuclear Installations Safe: Manmohan
Sandeep Dikshit
The Hindu
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A day after nuclear installations were put on high alert following inputs that terrorists might target them, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh allayed fears about their safety.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of nuclear installations,” Dr. Singh said on Tuesday in response to a question on the threat to nuclear plants and India’s quest to step up the civil nuclear energy component in its energy mix.

At a joint press conference with Dr. Singh here, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper described India as a safe and reliable country and Canada had no reservations in negotiating a civilian nuclear deal with it.

Combating terror

Both leaders revealed that they had discussed the case of Canadian born Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Tahawwur Rana and resolved to step up exchange of information on terrorism. While declining comment on the case, as investigations were under way, Dr. Singh said he and Mr. Harper had useful discussion on expanding the area of cooperation in combating international terror.

“We work closely with the U.S. [which has Rana and his associates in custody] and have resolved to work closely with India on cooperation and exchange of information in this area,” added Mr. Harper.

In a joint statement at the end of delegation-level talks, Mr. Harper reiterated Canada’s commitment to be India’s ally in tackling global terrorism. Both Prime Ministers also called for an early conclusion of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism within the United Nations framework.

Although an agreement on civil nuclear energy could not be finalised despite three previous rounds of discussions, India and Canada signed pacts that would advance bilateral trade and sourcing of raw materials for conventional as well as non-conventional energy.

Energy research

With the second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and proven expertise in advanced mining and oil extraction technologies, the memorandum of understanding on energy aims to enhance cooperation in energy research and development as well as in sustainable exploration and production, mining and drilling. Canada is one of the biggest suppliers of uranium and also has substantial reserves of iron ore, nickel, zinc and diamond.

With the U.S., Canada’s main market, still facing recession, the formation of a Joint Study Group (JSG) to examine the feasibility of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement would be the first step in improving the business climate in both countries as well as deepening trade and investment flows. The JSG would identify trade barriers and suggest streamlining of regulations, noted Mr. Harper.

He met top Indian corporate leaders in Mumbai on Monday to encourage them to step up investments in his country.

Mr. Harper leaves for Amritsar on Wednesday to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple.

Dr. Singh and Mr. Harper have met several times in the past, including at CHOGM in Kampala in 2007 and the G-8 summit in Hokkaido last year.

There are over 10 lakh people of Indian origin in Canada, and Punjabi is the fourth largest spoken language. The Indian community is politically active, with 12 MPs in the House of Commons and one in the Senate.

Canada, a member of the G-8, will host the next G-20 summit.

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E.  Syria

IAEA Revisits Syria Reactor in Uranium Traces Probe
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U.N. inspectors revisited a Damascus nuclear research reactor on Tuesday to take more swipe samples after judging Syria's initial explanation for uranium traces found there to be doubtful.

An International Atomic Energy Agency official confirmed inspectors were at the site a day after an IAEA report said tests of samples taken in August 2008 showed the traces did not come from Syria's declared nuclear inventory, as it maintained.

The report also said Syria was still blocking follow-up IAEA access to a desert site of what U.S. intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to yield atomic bomb fuel, before Israel bombed it in 2007.

The Vienna-based IAEA has been checking whether there could be a link between the Damascus and Dair Alzour sites since discovering mysterious particles of processed uranium at both.

Some analysts have said the findings raised the question of whether Syria used some natural uranium intended for the alleged reactor at Dair Alzour in tests applicable to learning how to separate out bomb-grade plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.

Syria, an ally of Iran which is under IAEA investigation over nuclear proliferation suspicions, has denied ever having an atom bomb programme and has said the intelligence is fabricated.

Syria told the IAEA earlier this month that the traces at the Damascus site could have come from domestically-produced uranium concentrate known as "yellow cake", or from imports of commercial uranyl nitrate which it had not declared to the IAEA.

Tuesday's inspector trip aimed to verify that assertion.

Syria at first told the IAEA that the traces found last year came with contaminated equipment used at the site, but IAEA test results did not stand up this explanation, and the particles could not be traced to Syria's declared inventory.

"They have (now) acknowledged doing experiments with natural uranium compounds, some originating from yellow cake which they have got from their own facility or laboratory," a senior official close to the IAEA said.

IAEA inspectors examined the desert Dair Alzour site in June 2008 but Syria has barred renewed access and also not let them visit three military sites, whose appearance was altered by landscaping after the IAEA first asked to check them.

"No progress has been made since the last report to clarify any of the outstanding issues," Monday's agency report said.

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US Wants 'Credible Explanation' for Syrian Uranium
(for personal use only)

The United States on Tuesday said it hopes for a reasonable explanation from Syria on how traces of uranium were found at a nuclear research reactor in Damascus.

"That's what we want: a credible explanation," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

"We want them to open up what the IAEA is asking them to open up in terms of access to sites and access to information," Kelly said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed to AFP earlier Tuesday its inspectors were in Damascus after a report from the agency said it doubted Syria's initial explanation.

Asked about any possible consequences to situation, Kelly said it would "depend on the response" from Syria to the IAEA's requests.

Samples taken at the so-called Miniature Neutron Source Reactor in August 2008 confirmed the presence of "particles of anthropogenic natural uranium of a type not in Syria's declared inventory," according to the international nuclear watchdog.

The discovery of the uranium traces at the reactor raised eyebrows because the IAEA is already investigating allegations that Syria had been building an undeclared nuclear reactor in a remote desert site called Dair Alzour until Israel bombed it in 2007.

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F.  Nuclear Cooperation

Canada, India Move Closer on Nuclear Co-Operation Deal
David Akin
The Vancouver Sun
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper called India "a stable and reliable friend" and said he has no hesitation in making a deal that would give India access to Canadian nuclear technology.

"We believe Canada and India have a prosperous civilian nuclear future ahead of us," Harper said Tuesday here after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "We also have great faith in our Indian friends and partners."

The two countries are close to signing a nuclear co-operation deal, an agreement that would herald a new era of Canada-India relations that had been, for more than 35 years, decidedly cool. Canada cut off nuclear relations in 1974 after India used Canadian technology to develop its first nuclear bomb.

"We are not living in the 1970s. We are living in 2009," Harper said.

"Notwithstanding the challenges this country faces and the neighbourhood in which it lives, this is a stable and reliable friend of our country and we have no reservations about pursuing this kind of agreement."

Ottawa's Crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited is keen to expand into the Indian market but cannot do so until a co-operation deal is signed.

"We're definitely gearing up on the expectation that this will be a significant initiative for us," Hugh MacDiarmid, chief executive of AECL, said in an interview with Canwest News Service. "We're waiting to move forward when this deal gets done. Every indication we have is that it's not a matter of if but a matter of when and that suggests months, not years, and we're ready to go when it happens."

Singh promised that there would be no repeat of the situation in 1974.

"We have entered into nuclear co-operation deals now with the United States, Russia and France. We will do all that is within our power to ensure safety and security of our nuclear installations. There should be no doubt about that," said Singh.

MacDiarmid was among a group of senior Canadian and Indian nuclear energy executives who met privately with Harper Tuesday.

Canwest News Service has learned that representatives of Canadian uranium miner Cameco Inc. and Montreal-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin also attended the meeting.

The prime minister's aides were unusually secretive about the meeting. They neither gave reporters travelling with the prime minister advance notice that he was holding the private hour-long session nor would they provide any details about the attendees or the topics discussed.

The issue of nuclear power was thrust into the spotlight here Tuesday when the country's major newspapers all put the story on their front pages that India put its nuclear facilities on high alert because of a possible terrorist threat. And in a twist, Indian intelligence agencies may have learned of the threat using information gleaned from a Canadian terror suspect who is currently in jail in Chicago.

Security agencies here and in the U.S. believe that the jailed suspect, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, may also be connected to the 11/26 attacks in Mumbai last year that killed more than 190 people, including two Canadians.

Both Harper and Singh said they talked about that case during an hour-long meeting here Tuesday.

Rana, a 48-year-old Pakistani-born Canadian, was arrested Oct. 3 in Chicago and has been charged with supporting terrorism for his role in what the FBI says was a plot against a newspaper in Denmark that published editorial cartoons that offended him.

But new information emerged this week that Rana may be involved in much more than that.

Major Indian newspapers here reported that Rana was travelling in India prior to last year's deadly Mumbai attacks. Security agencies here also believe he travelled to nuclear installations on India's coast.

"We worked very closely with our American friends in this matter," Harper said, noting that he and Singh discussed the case. "We are resolved to co-operate closely and exchange information on these matters."

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Saudi Arabia, France Discuss Nuclear Development As Iran Moves Forward
News Blaze
(for personal use only)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has started a one-day-trip to Saudi Arabia, to meet with King Abdallah in Riyadh. Among other issues such as the Middle East peace process, the two leaders are also expected to discuss the Iranian nuclear weapons development program.

Also on Sarkozy's agenda during his visit is the signing of an agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation between Saudi Arabia and France that could lead to the sale of French atomic energy technology to the Gulf kingdom.

However, it seems that the kingdom intents to build up its own nuclear capacities as well. In August 2009 Saudi minister Abdullah Al Hosain disclosed to the Saudi daily Al Watan, that a research center in Riyadh is currently working on plans for Saudi Arabia's first nuclear plant.

Alirza Nurizadeh, an expert from the Arab-Iranian Center for Strategic Studies in London states that such an initiative by Saudi Arabia counters Iranian nuclear ambitions. Mustafa Ozjan, a Turkish Middle East analyst concurs: "the construction of nuclear power plant in Saudi Arabia is a response to Iran's attempts to become a nuclear power in the region."

On March 3rd 2009 Saudi Foreign Minister at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo called for a joint Arab strategy, a common vision to deal with the "Iranian challenge" including its nuclear drive.

On December 16, 2008, Saudi Arabia and other GCC states met with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to express their concerns about Iran's nuclear program and to support for the efforts of the six world powers to pressure Iran to halt potential nuclear-weapon development activities. The Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal urged Iran to comply with its nuclear obligations to spare the Middle East "devastating conflicts, futile arms races and serious environmental hazards."

On March 29, 2008, Saudi Arabia's leading newspaper Okra Reports wrote that the Saudi Shura Council is preparing "national plans to deal with any sudden nuclear and radioactive hazards that may affect the kingdom following experts' warnings of possible attacks on Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactors."

Iran triggers arms race in the region

Iran's developing missile program and test firing, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolutions, causes grave regional security concerns and has cascading effects on leading GCC states particularly Saudi Arabia, to bulk up their militaries.

Saudi Arabia, like other GCC states, has massively improved its deterrence capacity with conventional weapons. Since 2003, Arab military spending has increased to unprecedented levels. The weapons purchased by the GCC states seem well-suited to counter Iranian threats. Saudi Arabia is procuring long-range strike fleets, refueling capabilities, and standoff weapons. It signed agreements to buy at least seventy-two state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. In a deal worth $1.5 billion, the Royal Saudi Air Forces asked the Pentagon to upgrade its AWACS and aerial tanker aircraft with advanced communications and surveillance/ air traffic management systems.

Saudi Arabia along other GCC states strengthen security alliances with Western countries. In 2006, the U.S. launched a Gulf Security Dialogue in which bilateral military committees increase U.S.-GCC security cooperation.

Diplomatic relations

Since the establishment of the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iran have had an increasingly difficult relationship. Saudi Arabia fears a nuclear Iran with growing influence of Shiite populations in surrounding neighbor states and inside the kingdom itself. Officials in Riyadh feel that Tehran is threatening the physical security of the Saudi kingdom and even banding together with the Shiite population, which lives in the oil rich regions of Eastern Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is also involved in an extensive number of proxy-wars with Iran: In Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, Yemen and other places. Experts say that the confrontation between the two strong powers in the region can increase if one of the sides transfers to the military use of nuclear energy.

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G.  Nuclear Energy

Lavrov: Bushehr Delay Not Political
(for personal use only)

Russia has denied reports that a delay in launching Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant is linked to a meeting between Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and his US counterpart Barack Obama.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore on Sunday, a day before the Russian energy minister announced another delay in the launch of the power plant in southeastern Iran.

"There is no link between what is going on at talks on Iran's nuclear program and the construction of the Bushehr NPP," Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. "This is not politics — technological issues are being addressed."

The Bushehr plant was originally scheduled to be completed in 1999, but its finalization has repeatedly been delayed and after some ten years Moscow is still postponing the launch of the facility.

Russia is also running behind schedule with regards to an agreement to deliver Iran the sophisticated S-300 defense missile system — a mobile land-based system designed to shoot down aircrafts and cruise missiles.

Iranian lawmakers on Tuesday hinted that Russia's impediment may backfire, costing the federation its "economic and political ties with Iran”.

"The Russians should know if they politicize the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant project, then ... ties between Iran and Russia would face many changes," the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Energy Hamidreza Katouzian said.

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H.  Links of Interest

Russian Defense Funding at 'Unprecedented' Level: Putin
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