Iran sent one of its warmest signals yet on Wednesday over prospects for improved relations with Washington, praising the election promises of President Barack Obama and declaring that change would be “happy news”.
“We look positively on the slogan that Obama raised in the elections. The world has really changed,” Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said through an interpreter at a news conference during a visit to neighbouring Iraq. “If the American administration wants to keep up with the changes, this will be happy news.... We think these changes will provide good opportunities for the American administration in its relations with the countries of the world.”
“As diplomats, we are destined to be optimistic, and we wish this would come true.” The tone of Mottaki’s remarks was warmer than many previous Iranian comments, which have tended to emphasise the burden on the US administration to prove that any changes in its foreign policy would be genuine and not cosmetic. On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to hold talks, provided they were held in an atmosphere of “mutual respect”. Notably, Ahmadinejad did not mention tough preconditions for talks as he has in the past.
In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi also made conciliatory remarks on Wednesday, saying that while Tehran was still waiting for a formal approach from Obama, it was “inclined to logic, talks and consideration”. “We do not wish that Mr Obama misses the opportunity with us if he really is after bringing about serious changes in his policies,” he said. “That is why we would not pre-empt him and make no prejudgement in this connection.”
Clinton: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that United States and Iran have a chance to “work out a way of talking” that could lead to understandings on a range of issues. In a hopeful assessment of prospects for improved relations with Tehran, Clinton told reporters at the State Department that the United States remains opposed to Iran getting nuclear weapons. She added that the Obama administration hopes the two nations can work out “a better understanding of one another.”
During an appearance with her Czech counterpart, Karel Schwarzenberg, Clinton was asked about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that Iran would welcome talks with Washington if they are based on mutual respect. “There is an opportunity for the Iranian government to demonstrate a willingness to unclench their fist and to begin a serious and responsible discussion about a range of matters,” Clinton said.
Russia: Russia meanwhile, welcomed offers made by the administration of President Obama to talk with Iran, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday at a meeting with EU officials. “We expect that the United States, considering the fresh approach that seems to be noticeable in regard to Iran, will be able to make a more effective contribution,” said Lavrov. “We attach particular significance to the declared intention of the new administration in Washington to start direct dialogue with Iran,” he said at a news conference with EU officials.
“We’re sure this will help the common efforts of the six” international powers dealing with the Iranian nuclear case, he added.
Available at: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009%5C02%5C12%5Cstory_12-2-2009_pg20_1
Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.
In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran's "development of a nuclear weapon" before correcting himself to refer to its "pursuit" of weapons capability. Obama's nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. "From all the information I've seen," Panetta said, "I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability."
The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.
As the administration moves toward talks with Iran, Obama appears to be sending a signal that the United States will not be drawn into a debate over Iran's intent.
"When you're talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive," said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-proliferation organization based in Washington.
Cirincione said the unequivocal language also worked to Obama's political advantage. "It guards against criticism from the right that the administration is underestimating Iran," he said.
Iran has long maintained that it aims to generate electricity, not build bombs, with nuclear power. But Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts increasingly view those claims as implausible.
U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.
Obama's top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran's nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.
When it was issued, the NIE stunned the international community. It declared that U.S. spy agencies judged "with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."
U.S. intelligence officials later said the conclusion was based on evidence that Iran had stopped secret efforts to design a nuclear warhead around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Often overlooked in the NIE, officials said, was that Iran had not stopped its work on other crucial fronts, including missile design and uranium enrichment. Many experts contend that these are more difficult than building a bomb.
Iran's advances on enrichment have become a growing source of alarm. Since 2004, the country has gone from operating a few dozen centrifuges -- cylindrical machines used to enrich uranium -- to nearly 6,000, weapons experts agree.
By November, Iran had produced an estimated 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium, not nearly enough to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but perilously close to the quantity needed to make a bomb.
A report issued last month by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that "Iran is moving steadily toward a breakout capability and is expected to reach that milestone during the first half of 2009." That means it would have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material.
Tehran's progress has come despite CIA efforts to sabotage shipments of centrifuge components on their way into Iran and entice the country's nuclear scientists to leave.
Iran still faces considerable hurdles. The country touted its launch of a 60-pound satellite into orbit this month. Experts said Iran's rockets would need to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds to deliver a first-generation nuclear bomb.
And there are indications that the U.S. and Iran are interested in holding serious diplomatic discussions for the first time in three decades. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that his nation was "ready to hold talks based on mutual respect," and Obama indicated that his administration would look for opportunities "in the coming months."
Hassan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday warned the U.S. not to wait for Iranian presidential elections this year, because ultimate authority rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
He also said Iran would be patient.
"Since a new administration came to power in the U.S., we do not want to burn the opportunity of President Obama and give him time to change the reality on the ground," Qashqavi said.
But experts said Iran was now close enough to nuclear weapons capability that it may be less susceptible to international pressure.
"They've made more progress in the last five years than in the previous 10," Cirincione said.
Available at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-fg-usiran12-2009feb12,0,3478184.story
Iran says it seeks to industrialize its nuclear program in the coming years, putting in motion plans to construct further nuclear plants.
Iran's First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi said Tuesday that the country has completed a semi-industrial phase in developing nuclear technology.
Tehran says the only aim of the program is the civilian applications of the technology. The US, Israel and their European allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- accuse Iran of developing a military nuclear program.
Despite profound differences over the program, Iran says it is willing to negotiate with the newly-installed administration of Barack Obama to resolve the controversy over its nuclear agenda.
At a rally celebrating the 30th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a conditional offer of dialogue, saying Tehran was ready for "talks based on mutual respect and in a climate of fairness."
The White House under former President George W. Bush refused to engage Iran in direct talks, saying a halt in Iran's enrichment program was required for such dialogue.
Iran's Prosecutor General Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri Najaf-Abadi said Tuesday that the country would never give up its right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.
In November, Iran announced there were 5,000 centrifuges operational in its main uranium-enrichment plant.
According to the UN nuclear watchdog, Iran has managed to enrich uranium-235 to a level "less than 5 percent." Nuclear arms production requires an enrichment level of above 90 percent.
The country's Atomic Energy Organization plans to install up to 50,000 centrifuges to meet the quota of generating 5,000 megawatt electricity for its national grid.
Iranian technicians are currently designing the country's second nuclear plant in Darkhovin, located in the southern province of Khuzestan.
The country's first nuclear power plant, a 1,000-megawatt plant in the southern city of Bushehr, is near completion with the help of Russia -- which has worked closely with Tehran in the field of nuclear technology over the past decade.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=85262§ionid=351020104
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he is "very optimistic" about President Barack Obama's swift engagement on key international issues and encouraged the United States to start talking to Iran to resolve the dispute over its nuclear program as soon as possible.
In a wide-ranging press conference, Ban also praised Obama's "very swift and decisive" choice of special envoys to focus on two key international issues, the Middle East and Afghanistan-Pakistan.
Ban was asked about Obama's willingness to engage Iran and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement that his country is ready for talks with the U.S. if there is mutual respect between the longtime adversaries.
"I would encourage all the parties concerned to Iranian issues, including the United States, to engage in dialogue to resolve this issue as soon as possible," the secretary-general said.
The U.S. believes Iran is secretly trying to pursue nuclear weapons, but Iran has denied this accusation, saying its program is solely for peaceful purposes such as electricity.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday the U.S. remains opposed to Iran's getting nuclear weapons but said the Obama administration hopes the two nations can work out "a better understanding of one another."
The secretary-general also called for negotiations to tackle climate change to be completed by the end of the year. He said he was consulting key countries about bringing their leaders together in the next few months, saying their "direct involvement" will be crucial.
Ban downplayed press reports that Obama might come to the U.N. for a summit on climate change, possibly in March, saying the president was busy dealing with the financial crisis.
Ban said Obama called him three days after his Jan. 20 inauguration and told him the United States would be a strong partner of the United Nations.
Elsewhere, Ban expressed concern about the plight of ordinary people in Gaza, whose population of 1.4 million is still not getting sufficient U.N. aid after the three-week Israeli ground and air offensive ended last month.
"It is critical that we consolidate the cease-fire (in Gaza), promote Palestinian unity and revive the peace process," Ban said.
The secretary-general announced that he was establishing a U.N. board of inquiry into incidents involving death and damage to U.N. premises in Gaza during the war. He said it will report to him within a month.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j8-zrOIL0rJcz8hzEIJ01ALEQp_QD968TU9G5
1. Nuclear Arms, Afghanistan Top Agenda for U.S. Talks in Moscow
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A top U.S. diplomat is in Moscow to seek cooperation on nuclear arms reduction and stabilizing Afghanistan as the Obama administration looks for ways to sidestep disputes and work with Russia.
Undersecretary William Burns arrived in Moscow yesterday to follow up on phone conversations Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama have had with their Russian counterparts since taking office, said Robert Wood, a State Department spokesman.
Wood cited recent remarks by Vice President Joe Biden that the U.S. wants to press the “reset button” on relations with Russia. The two sides have clashed over the U.S. push to admit former Soviet republics to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and last year’s Russian invasion of Georgia.
The U.S. looks “forward to working together on those areas where our interests coincide,” Wood said yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions. “There are many such areas, such as reducing nuclear weapons and working toward a stable Afghanistan.”
The Obama administration needs Russia’s help on issues such as getting supplies to the war zone in Afghanistan and persuading Iran to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Russian officials will host a six-nation forum on halting North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program that will center its discussions on regional security.
Burns, a former ambassador to Russia, is the second top State Department official to fly into Moscow this week for talks on Afghanistan. Patrick Moon, a deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia, aims to firm up details of a Russian offer to allow the transport of supplies through its territory.
The U.S.-NATO effort in Afghanistan suffered a potential setback last week when Kyrgyzstan’s President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced plans to end American access to an air base in his country used as a prime transit point for personnel and cargo moving in and out of the war zone.
On North Korea, a working group that focuses on developing a Northeast Asian peace and security mechanism will meet Feb. 19 and 20, Wood told reporters in Washington yesterday. The U.S. delegation will represent various government agencies involved and be led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Arvizu, Wood said. The group last met in August 2007.
The Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have endorsed the six-nation talks begun under former President George W. Bush, while reviewing U.S. policy toward North Korea. The negotiations aim to halt the communist regime’s development of nuclear weapons and, in the longer term, replace the armistice that ended the Korean War with a peace treaty.
The peace and security working group, led by Russia, is one of five set up in February 2007 through the six-nation talks that also involve South Korea, Japan and China. The other groups focus on areas such as denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and normalizing relations between North Korea and the U.S.
Clinton is traveling to Asia next week, planning stops in Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul and Beijing.
In remarks two days ago, Clinton said she hopes North Korea’s rhetoric on scrapping military and political agreements with South Korea and reports that it is preparing a missile test won’t trigger instability in the region.
Clinton called on Kim Jong Il’s regime to re-engage with the international community.
Even while the policy review is under way, the U.S. can contribute “preliminary views” and hear from others involved in the working group, Wood said.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=atRc2gdzXXKE&refer=home
2. US to Attend Six-Party North Korea Talks in Moscow
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The United States will send a team next week to six-country talks in Moscow on North Korean disarmament, a State Department spokesman said on Wednesday.
The Feb. 19-20 meeting in Moscow coincides with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Seoul, part of her first trip abroad that includes Japan, Indonesia and China.
The Moscow conference will focus on the framework for broad six-party talks in which North Korea agreed in 2005 to abandon its nuclear programs, spokesman Robert Wood said. The talks include the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
The six-party talks have not led to an agreement on how to verify disarmament by Pyongyang, which tested a nuclear device in 2006 and has been slow to carry out agreements on disabling its plutonium program.
A recent bout of North Korean saber-rattling has raised tension, with Pyongyang saying that it is ending all agreements with South Korea and that the peninsula is on the brink of war.
President Barack Obama's new administration is reviewing U.S. policy toward North Korea, but Wood said this did not preclude U.S. participation in the working group meeting in Moscow.
"You can go to meetings and offer preliminary views, hear from others. I don't see anything unusual about that," he said.
The U.S. delegation to the Moscow meeting will be led by Alexander Arvizu, deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, he said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCandidateFeed1/idUSN11389192
3. Russia, U.S. Must Review Position on Nuclear Arms
R. Agayev and E. Ostapenko
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Russia and the U.S. have to completely review their positions on nuclear armaments in order to conclude a new agreement on control of strategic offensive arms, as Russia is unlikely to fulfill Obama administration’s wish.
“Russia and the United States can reach an agreement on the reduction of nuclear arms, but I do not think that it will be "on American terms". Both sides will have to be satisfied with the proposals in order to have a new treaty,” said leading European expert for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons Ian Anthony.
Role of nuclear forces may increase while shaping the new image of the Russian army, RBC quoted Russian Armed Forces General Staff Chief Nikolai Makarov as saying on Feb. 9.
On Feb. 8, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov said at the Munich Security Conference that Russia was ready to negotiate new text of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). “Negotiations will begin fairly quickly as soon as the U.S. is ready,” said Ivanov.
Russian media outlets reported in December 2008 and January 2009 that START-2 would be developed. Content of the treaty was not detailed. START-2 is expected to be one of the issues to be discussed during Obama’s visit to Russia. According to unconfirmed reports, the visit will take place in April.
President Obama pledged to make nuclear arms reduction a key task of his office. He promised to resume talks with Russia to update START-1, signed in 1991. According to the agreement, both countries should limit their nuclear reserves from roughly 10,000 to 5,000 units. Observers say Russia will not agree on a large-scale reduction of nuclear arms envisaged in START-2.
“These will be complicated negotiations and there are likely to be different views on whether the final number (e.g. of 1,000) should include total deployed nuclear warheads; total deployed strategic nuclear warheads (excluding tactical weapons); total nuclear warheads (including warheads in reserve) or total strategic nuclear warheads (including strategic nuclear warheads in reserve but excluding tactical weapons),” leading expert, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute non-proliferation program head Ian Anthony wrote Trend News in an email.
There are two views – a view of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Chief and a view of the U.S., said Russian military expert Konstantin Sivkov. “There will be a severe struggle. If patriotic forces win, START-2 will either be not signed or will be signed under three positions providing security of Russia’s nuclear deterrence,” Geopolitical Affairs Academy First Vice-President Konstantin Sivkov told Trend News.
To reach a constructive agreement, it is necessary to include not only U.S. and Russia, but also countries of nuclear club to cut the nuclear powers’ nuclear potential, he said. “U.S. must refuse air space and marine Missile Defense Shield (MDS) and admit their non-fulfilling the SOA-1, destroy and dismantle nuclear warheads,” Sivkov said.
U.S.’s proposal to cut nuclear arms is dangerous for Russia, the Russian expert said. If Russia and U.S. existed in vacuum, U.S.’s initiative would be constructive, Sivkov said. However, besides Russia, UK possesses nuclear weapon, as it has 1,500 nuclear warheads. Furthermore, France has 1,000 warheads, as well as China and Israel – 200 warheads. In fact, U.S. did not fulfill SOA-1, as several thousand of warheads and carrier rockets comprise return potential. In other words, they are stored and in good order and prepared to war duty. Therefore, Obama’s proposal to reduce Russia’s nuclear armament to 1,000 warheads is an attempt to provide Russia’s nuclear disarmament, the Russian expert said. “Moreover, U.S. is deploying air MDS at Boings-747 and space platforms, as well as marine MDS, which can neutralize Russian nuclear missiles at 1,000 warheads, as Obama desires,” Sivkov said.
I think the most likely next development is a fairly simple treaty that will come into force before START I expires in December simply maintaining continuity in bilateral arms control, Anthony said. “Then during a period of negotiation, the sides can reach a more extensive agreement -- perhaps in the second half of 2010.”
According to another Russian expert Vitaly Fedchenko, Russia can agree on the proposed agreement under certain conditions.
“I would not rule out that Russia can agree on American terms, but this will be preceded by long negotiations,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute non-proliferation researcher Vitaly Fedchenko told Trend News in a telephone conversation from Stockholm.
Reduction of arms may take place, if it suits both countries, he said.
Russia’s first priority, he said, is to improve strategic nuclear forces and capabilities of strategic nuclear forces to oppose the U.S. missile defense. “If these conditions are met, Russia will be able to reduce its weapons to 1,000 warheads,” said Fedchenko.
If the Joint Staff and the Russian leadership are sure they are able to perform these tasks even if their strategic nuclear forces are only 1,000 warheads, then the U.S. proposals is acceptable,” said Fedchenko.
Available at: http://news-en.trend.az/politics/foreign/1422100.html
In a boost to India's long-standing aim to have "a nuclear weapon triad", defence minister A K Antony on Wednesday said the secretive programme to construct indigenous nuclear submarines was on the verge of completion now.
"Things are in the final stage now in the ATV (advanced technology vessel) project. There were bottlenecks earlier...they are over now," said Antony, during the ongoing Aero India-2009 here.
The hush-hush ATV project, a euphemism for the three nuclear-powered submarines being constructed at the Visakhapatnam naval dockyard, has been dogged by a series of technical hiccups since it was formally launched as far back as 1983.
The main problem has revolved around the design of miniature PWRs (pressurised water reactors) and their containment plans for the submarine's propulsion system but sources said such technical problems are a thing of the past now, with a little help from countries like Russia and France.
Sources said there had been some delay in "launching" the first prototype of the nuclear-powered guided-missile attack submarine for sea trials but it would happen soon. Antony, on his part, said, "We will announce it when it is ready."
The Navy hopes to get the first such operational submarine by 2012 or so. Concurrently, DRDO is also working on the K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which will later be integrated with the submarine.
In all, five ATVs are planned under the programme, whose cost is touching around Rs 14,000 crore now, by around 2025.
The entire aim behind the ATV programme is to have nuclear-powered submarines, armed with nuclear-tipped cruise or ballistic missiles, to ensure "credible" secondike capabilities in consonance with India's "no-first use" nuclear doctrine.
Nuclear-powered submarines have higher speeds and can stay submerged much longer than conventional diesel-electric submarines -- which have to surface or snorkel frequently to get oxygen to recharge batteries -- and thereby provide a much more invulnerable launch pad for nuclear weapons.
Though India already has nuclear-capable aircraft and mobile land-based missiles like the 700-km Agni-I and 2,500-km Agni-II being inducted into the armed forces now, it's hoped the ATV project will finally provide it with the third leg of the nuclear triad.
India, of course, is also trying to sort out the remaining few hitches in leasing the K-152 Nerpa Akula-II class nuclear submarine from Russia for a 10-year period, as reported by TOI earlier.
India and Russia had secretly signed the deal for the Akula lease in January 2004, along with the $1.5 billion package deal for the refit of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and 16 MiG-29K fighters to operate from it.
With the two nations now negotiating the around $2 billion jump in the Gorshkov contract, there is a feeling that Russia is trying to extract more money for the Akula lease also. "We will get the Akula since we have paid money for it. We will use it to train our sailors for the eventual ATVs," said a senior Navy officer.
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Indias-N-sub-in-final-stages-Antony/articleshow/4114292.cms
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Wednesday he had told Pakistan's government of his concern at the release from house arrest of nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
"I don't think it's a positive signal, this is the message that I transmitted to the authorities of Pakistan during the week. I think that ... in the moments we are living, with the problems of proliferation, it's not a good signal," Solana told Reuters in an interview in Moscow.
Pakistan's High Court declared Kahn free last week, ending five years of house arrest for the man at the centre of the world's most serious nuclear proliferation scandal.
Khan, revered by many Pakistanis as the father of the country's nuclear bomb, confessed to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya in 2004. He was pardoned at the time by the government, and put under house arrest.
A U.S. State Department official said on Monday that Washington had sought assurances from Pakistan that it will take steps to prevent Khan from getting involved in any further nuclear proliferation.
Solana, who is heavily involved in international efforts to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear programme, was in Moscow for regular talks on Russian-EU cooperation.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUKLB632838
2. Pak Promises US, AQ Khan No Threat to Proliferation Risk
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Pakistan has promised the United States that it will take steps to ensure that its nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan no longer poses a proliferation risk.
State Department’s Acting Spokesman Robert Wood gave this information yesterday in reply to a question about the Pakistani court ruling on Friday releasing Khan from five years of house arrest for selling nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea.
Asked whether the US was satisfied with the Pakistani assurance, Mr Wood said: ''Well, certainly, we have to take them at their word.
But of course, you know, we’ll have to see what comes out - see if there are - you know, see how things play out with regard to these assurances. I can’t give you further clarity on it until we see how things go.'' Earlier, Spokesman Wood recalled that US Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi during the security conference at Munich last week and expressed ''very clearly and straightforwardly'' the US concern about the court decision.
He said the Deputy Secretary also sought assurances from the Pakistani Government that Khan would not continue to be a proliferation risk. "And so, the Pakistanis clearly understand where we’re coming from on this issue. They are obviously sensitive to our concerns, and we’ll just have to see how it goes from here," Mr Wood said.
In a reply to another question, Mr Wood, however, said he was not aware whether US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, now in Islamabad, raised the issue during his discussions with Pakistani leaders.
Khan, considered as the father of Pakistan nuclear programme, was put under house arrest in 2003 after having confessed to selling nuclear secrets.
Available at: http://www.newkerala.com/topstory-fullnews-90834.html
Stephen Bosworth, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, is expected to be named as the U.S. envoy to six-party talks on curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, sources familiar with the matter said yesterday.
The sources spoke on condition they not be identified, noting that the selection of the envoy was a sensitive matter before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China next week. Reached at home, Bosworth declined to comment on whether he may be named the special envoy. A State Department spokesman also declined comment on the matter.
Near the top of Clinton’s agenda will be discussing how to approach North Korea, which in 2005 committed to abandon its nuclear program under a deal struck among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
But Pyongyang went on to test a nuclear device in 2006, has since been slow to carry out agreements on disabling its plutonium-based program and has refused to commit to a verification regime, leaving the multilateral process stalled.
Analysts believe that among Clinton’s main objectives in Asia is to reassure U.S. allies Japan and South Korea that the United States will not bargain over their heads in talks with North Korea and will consult closely on negotiating strategy.
In settling on Bosworth, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Clinton is tapping a retired diplomat with extensive experience in Asia, where he served as ambassador to the Philippines from 1984 to 1987, the period when former President Ferdinand Marcos’ government collapsed.
He also has been the State Department’s director of policy planning and executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, a consortium that was building two light-water nuclear energy reactors in North Korea until an earlier nuclear deal with Pyongyang collapsed six years ago.
Michael Green, a former National Security Council official who handled North Korea under former President George W. Bush, praised the choice, saying Bosworth offered a rare combination of Asia experience, nonproliferation expertise and negotiating skills.
“As a former ambassador to Korea, he will recognize that the first thing we need to do is not to announce some grandiose scheme for re-engaging North Korea, but instead to listen to Seoul and to listen to Tokyo,” Green said.
“The North Koreans have been extremely belligerent toward the South and the Japanese have been very anxious about the threats of a missile launch,” he added, alluding to reports Pyongyang may plan to test a long-range missile. “Success in the negotiations is going to depend on the U.S. and our allies being in lock-step.”
Jack Pritchard, who worked on North Korea under Bush and his predecessor, Bill Clinton, called Bosworth “a terrific selection,” saying “he has the respect of those within the U.S. government and no doubt in other capitals as well.”
Since taking office as secretary of state less than a month ago, Hillary Clinton has described the six-party talks as “essential” and has made clear the United States intends to continue to pursue them.
In what appeared to be a gesture in that direction, the State Department said it would send a delegation to Moscow next week for a gathering of a six-party working group on a “Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism.”
The working group is one of five set up under the six-party talks. By attending the meeting, the Obama administration seemed to signal its commitment to the multilateral track despite campaign rhetoric about the need for deeper bilateral engagement with North Korea.
Available at: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2900993
2. New Unification Minister Willing to Meet N. Koreans, But Tough Tone on Nukes
Yonhap News Agency
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Seoul's new unification minister said Thursday he will seek to resume humanitarian aid and meet with North Korean officials to mend inter-Korean relations, but retained his tough message on the North's nuclear weapons program.
Hyun In-taek, a hawkish foreign policy expert, took over the post from a moderate official amid escalating tension along the inter-Korean border.
"For the peace of the Korean Peninsula and the advancement of inter-Korean relations, I am willing to meet and talk with North Korea's responsible officials anytime, anywhere, on any agenda and in any form," Hyun said at his inauguration ceremony.
President Lee Myung-bak's pick of Hyun in a Cabinet reshuffle last month signaled there will be no shift in Seoul's stance toward Pyongyang, despite the North's criticisms and threats of retaliation.
A political science professor at Korea University in Seoul, Hyun was a major architect of Lee's policy theme that pledges to raise North Korea's per capita income to US$3,000 by the next decade if Pyongyang gives up its nuclear weapons program. The conditional policy so-called "Denuclearization, Openness, 3000" was a major break from his liberal predecessors, who provided aid to improve cross-border relations.
Pyongyang has rejected the conditional approach as "vicious," allegedly fearing that the rich South Korea may try to absorb the North.
On Sunday, North Korea warned that "inter-Korean relations will grow worse and be pushed to collapse" if Hyun takes office. Mindful of Pyongyang's hostile reaction, Hyun did not mention the controversial Denuclearization, Openness, 3000 campaign in his speech and instead used a softer slogan known as "Co-existence, Co-prosperity."
Pyongyang warned of military clashes in recent weeks in response to Seoul's "confrontational" policy, and South Korean intelligence officials say the North appears to be preparing to test-launch a long-range missile.
The new minister called for Pyongyang's denuclearization, but pledged his efforts to resume humanitarian assistance for the impoverished North. Shipments of rice and fertilizer that Seoul had sent to the North for decades were suspended after Lee took office a year ago.
"North Korea needs to denuclearize so as to fully improve inter-Korean relations and become a member of the international community," Hyun said, adding Seoul "will actively cooperate to meet North Korean needs in humanitarian assistance."
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2009/02/12/92/0401000000AEN20090212008400315F.HTML
1. German State Calls for Extension of Nuclear Power
Jeremy van Loon
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Germany’s largest producer of wind- powered electricity, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, should extend the use of its three nuclear power plants, a government minister said.
A mix of energy, including nuclear power, is the most sensible way to guarantee energy security and cut carbon-dioxide emissions, said state economy minister Werner Marnette, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Party.
The minister’s comments renew the debate over atomic energy ahead of German federal elections later this year and follow Sweden’s Feb. 5 decision to scrap a ban on new atomic plants.
“It’s essential that we allow our three nuclear plants to keep running or we won’t have enough energy,” Marnette said today in an interview in Husum. “Of course, we have to work on the security issues as well as the problem of waste.”
Schleswig-Holstein is home to three of Germany’s 17 nuclear plants and gets 40 percent of its electricity from wind power. One of the plants, near Hamburg on the Elbe River, is supposed to be closed this year according to a timetable for winding down the use of nuclear power in Europe’s largest economy.
Merkel has called for greater competition in energy policy, dismissing as “unreasonable” legislation passed under the previous Social Democratic government to phase out nuclear power by about 2021. Nuclear plants accounted for 22 percent of electricity in Germany in 2007.
Europe’s largest economy last year produced more than 14 percent of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to boost that figure to at least 20 percent by 2020, according to Germany’s environment ministry.
Nuclear power and energy security is likely to be one of the top issues in this year’s federal elections, Walter Hohlefelder, president of a German nuclear lobbying group, said in a Feb. 8 interview.
The country is wrestling with how to store nuclear waste safely, with one of the waste sites in the state of Lower Saxony in danger of partially collapsing.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=aobvt0IUsReo&refer=germany
Italy's revival of its nuclear power industry has moved a step further with the creation of a government department devoted to nuclear energy, renewables and energy efficiency.
Following a reorganisation of the Ministry of Economic Development, led by Claudio Scajola, the new Division for Nuclear Energy, Renewables and Energy Efficiency has been established. The division will be headed by Rosaria Fausta Romano, formerly the director of the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of the Minister of Economic Development since December 2006. Romano was also a member of the task force formed to advise the government on the recent Russian gas crisis.
Meanwhile, Scajola recently declared in a letter printed in the national newspaper Il Giornale that Italy is proceeding quickly with its aim to start construction of a new nuclear power plant before the end of the current legislature in 2013. He said a new plant was needed in order to reduce the country's energy dependency.
Scajola said that the government is pursuing a new nuclear strategy, which should help Italy fulfil its environmental targets while reducing energy prices, which are among the highest in Europe. The government, he said, is planning to reduce the share of oil and gas from the current 85% down to 50% by 2030. According to the plan, nuclear energy will by then provide 25% of Italy's energy and renewables 25%.
Meanwhile, a new regional energy plan has been approved for the southern island of Sicily. The plan calls for the construction of new power plants, including nuclear power plants, with a combined capacity of more than 12,000 MW.
Several companies are eager to take part in Italy's nuclear revival. In a radio interview, Klaus Schafer, manager for EOn's Italian operations, told Radiocor that the German energy company is interested in the return of nuclear energy to Italy and will eventually enter into the Italian market, alone or in partnership with a local utility.
Following a referendum in November 1987, provoked by the Chernobyl accident 18 months earlier, work on Italy's nuclear program was largely stopped. In 1988, the government resolved to halt all nuclear construction, shut the remaining reactors and decommission them from 1990. As well as the operating plants, two new boiling water reactors were almost complete and six locally-designed pressurized water reactor units were planned.
Scajola recently said that Italy made a 'terrible mistake' in phasing out nuclear power. He said that closing down of all the nuclear power plants was a 'terrible mistake, the cost of which totalled over €50 billion (approximately $68 billion), if you count direct and indirect costs.'
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=24639
3. Niger to Build Nuclear Plant in Medium to Long Term
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Niger, one of the world's top uranium producers, plans to build a nuclear power station to help solve an energy shortage in the region at an unspecified time in the future, an official said on Wednesday.
Adolphe Gbaguidi Waly, an advisor to the minister of mines and energy, said nuclear power would be part of the country's plans to increase energy independence in Niger.
"Among other solutions to solve the energy shortage in the region it was decided to build a nuclear plant ... not soon, but in a medium to long term," Waly told Reuters on the sidelines of a mining conference.
Landlocked and on the southern side of the Sahara, Niger is one of the world's poorest countries. It imports around 80 percent of its electricity from neighbouring Nigeria, Africa's top producer of crude oil.
Waly said the country has not yet decided on a specific way to go forward, but would ask South Africa, the only country on the continent with a nuclear plant so far, to help.
"Nuclear is a solution being discussed now. We haven't yet looked at details, but in a very short time we should come up with a way and the process to go forward and start approaching countries who are using nuclear power," he said.
He said finances were an obstacle to be overcome.
Niger has also discussed the potential of a plant with France's Areva (CEPFi.PA) which it awarded a licence to operate at its Niger's Imouraren mine. The mine will more than double the country's uranium output and make it the world's second biggest producer after Canada.
Insecurity in northern Niger, where Tuareg rebels are fighting government forces, has stifled investment in the vast desert nation's mining industry, but Waly said it was no longer a major hinderance to uranium prospecting. "The situation on the ground is improving ... there are no more disruptions to operations in the area as the necessary steps have been taken to prevent any major problems," he said, without giving any details.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssIndustryMaterialsUtilitiesNews/idUSLB43986820090211
4. Nuclear Power Could Provide District Heating for Most of the Capital Region
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The City of Helsinki is to produce its own report on the feasibility of using nuclear energy to supply the district heating needs of parts of the capital or the Greater Helsinki area.
Helsinki has received offers on the subject from at least Fortum and Fennovoima. Both these companies have left applications with the government on the construction of a new nuclear reactor. The licences will be handled next winter.
Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen (National Coalition Party) believes that nuclear-generated district heating could be a means by which the city could decisively reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.
In January 2008 Helsinki committed itself to a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020, relative to 1990 levels.
At present Helsinki Energy generates heat and electricity primarily through the burning of fossil fuels, in the form of natural gas and coal.
Nuclear power is a sensitive subject for Helsinki decision-makers.
"Now we have to discuss whether it is politically possible in practice to approve of the idea of nuclear power as a source of district heating", says Pajunen.
If the venture wins support and is technically and economically feasible, a decision on a reactor could be made already in 2012 and construction work could start three years later. The plant could be operational around 2020.
Fortum has offered the city a partnership deal in the building of a possible new reactor.
According to the company, a new unit at Loviisa (the site of Fortum's two existing 488MW reactors) could supply the heating requirements of the entire metropolitan area.
It would be necessary in this case to build the new facility with combined electricity generation and heating functions in mind.
In older reactors, as much as two-thirds of the heating power of the plant is driven straight into the sea as waste energy.
In the new vision, the heating component would be transported in a 70-kilometre district heating pipeline westwards to the capital. There were plans on the table for just such a venture in the 1980s; pressurised superheated water would have left Loviisa at 160°C and returned at 60°C,
The construction of a tunnel to this end is the weakest link in the entire thought-process. Building such a structure would take several years and could become so expensive that the entire idea is stillborn.
In order that Helsinki would be able to pay for the tunnel arrangements, it would be necessary in Pajunen's view for the city to be able to sell a part of the electricity production of the new reactor. In practice this would mean that Helsinki Energy would be a shareholder in the venture.
Aside from Loviisa, there is the possibility of a nuclear plant being built at Ruotsinpyhtää, with Fennovoima as the other partner.
Ruotsinpyhtää, one of three sites put forward by Fennovoima for Finland's sixth nuclear reactor, is around 20km further east on the coast.
In Pajunen's view there is equally nothing to prevent nuclear district heating from being generated on the south side of the Gulf of Finland in Estonia.
The location of a nuclear facility is always a subject of fierce debate.
Consequently Pajunen does not believe it is likely that a site could be found any closer to the capital, so as to materially reduce the costs of building the tunnel for a pipe.
Pajunen notes that from a simple security-of-supply viewpoint it is unwise for the city to rely completely on nuclear-generated district heating.
"The heating of the Greater Helsinki area cannot be dependent solely on one pipeline or one device. Nuclear district heating could for instance be used to warm half of the city."
In addition to the nuclear alternative, Helsinki is continuing to examine carbon dioxide recovery, the use of biofuels, and the building of wind-farms.
The Hanasaari B power station in the capital will come to the end of its working life in the 2020s. There is a site provisionally ear-marked for a new power station in Sörnäinen if the city decides on this as a way forward.
Available at: http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Nuclear+power+could+provide+district+heating+for+most+of+the+capital+region+/1135243444401
Legal and technical issues regarding the appraisal of an investment report on a nuclear power plant in Vietnam were examined by the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission (VAEC) and foreign experts at a seminar in Hanoi on February 11.
Scientists and planners attending the event agreed that the State Appraisal Council will assess the depth and objectiveness of the investment report and preliminarily select the necessary technology, materials, and infrastructure solutions. The council is also expected to analyse the project’s impact on the environment, ecology and defence and security matters.
Vietnam has so far put into action many programmes within the framework of the national strategy for applying nuclear energy peacefully.
However, participants in the seminar proposed a complete report be hammered out to reflect the current infrastructure needed to produce nuclear energy. Such a report is expected to be submitted to the State Appraisal Council and the National Assembly at a later date in addition to the investment report for the nuclear power project in Ninh Thuan province.
Available at: http://english.vovnews.vn/Home/Seminar-appraises-nuclear-power-project/20092/101769.vov
Research and extraction of uranium must be renewed, the Economy Deputy-Minister Valentin Ivanov said yesterday after a session of the parliamentary energy commission. The closing down of uranium production in Bulgaria starts in 1992 and up to the moment 30 million levs have been spent from the state budget for the purification of the environment, "Novinar" writes.
Up to now a total of 32 companies - Bulgarian and foreign have expressed interest in making research of the opportunities for uranium extraction in Bulgaria. Ivanov pointed out that if it is proven that uranium can be extracted, the sites can be given to firms, who performed the research, at concession. Sometime ago the Canadian company "Kameko" and the Russian corporation TVEL were interested in Bulgarian uranium.
Available at: http://international.ibox.bg/news/id_473417436
A scrap metal company had to call in government officials after it discovered that some of its scrap metal was contaminated with uranium.
KMR Stainless discovered the scrap was radioactive after it had been shipped from Saint Petersburg to Dordrecht, in the Netherlands at the end of 2008.
The firm called in inspectors from the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) after the discovery.
Inspectors have now confirmed the scrap had been contaminated with low-grade enriched uranium and officials had informed the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The scrap is now being stored by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, and will be transported to a special facility in Vlissingen, where it will be processed as radioactive waste.
However, VROM said the transport and storage of the contaminated scrap will not have put KMR Stainless' employees at risk.
According to reports from the Dutch media, inspectors said that four suspect pieces of scrap were found in the container.
Two of them were contaminated with 13% enriched uranium and the other two pieces with 4% enriched uranium.
Local media also said representatives of the IAEA had travelled to the Netherlands this month to collect samples of the radioactive scrap which will now be tested in a bid to determine their origins.
Available at: http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?id=15979&channel=0&title=Officials+confirm+scrap+contained+uranium
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