Foreign Secretary David Miliband has set out a six-step programme to create the conditions to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
The move came amid reports that US President Barack Obama is planning talks with Russia on a new agreement to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), with the possible aim of reducing stockpiles to 1,000 warheads on each side.
Mr Miliband outlined his proposals in a policy paper designed to add momentum to British efforts to reinvigorate the disarmament process, which has stalled over the last decade amid worries about proliferation to states like North Korea and Iran and the potential acquisition of nukes by terror groups.
In a speech in January 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to put the UK "at the forefront of the international campaign to accelerate disarmament amongst possessor states, to prevent proliferation to new states, and to ultimately achieve a world that is free from nuclear weapons".
And the UK will next month host a conference on minimising the proliferation risks associated with the expansion of civil nuclear power expected as economies around the world seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Britain has unilaterally cut its operationally available nuclear arsenal by 20% to fewer than 160 warheads - equivalent to a 75% reduction on the UK's Cold War-era explosive power.
While the USA, France and Russia have also made significant reductions, Mr Miliband said that further progress will require action on three fronts: watertight anti-proliferation measures; an international legal framework for reduced arsenals in existing nuclear states; and new solutions to the challenge of moving from small numbers of warheads to a nuclear weapon-free world.
Britain is carrying out work on how to verify nuclear disarmament and is proposing a five-nation conference later this year to discuss confidence-building measures.
The six steps include securing agreement among signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty for the implementation of tougher measures to prevent the spread of weapons to more states or terror groups, and working with the International Atomic Energy Agency on helping states develop civil nuclear energy in ways which are safe and secure and minimise the risk of military use.
Also outlined in the plan is a move to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force by securing ratification in the US, China, Iran, North Korea, Israel, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Egypt.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5iFiIwMazKCBSBsL06XXe2qOwHbfQ
2. Israel Sees no Pressure on Nuclear Ambiguity Policy
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Israel does not expect to come under pressure to scrap the secrecy around its nuclear capabilities as the United States reviews strategies towards Iran's atomic ambitions, an Israeli official said on Wednesday.
Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, but neither confirms nor denies this under an "ambiguity" policy billed as deterring foes while avoiding the sort of public provocations that can spur arms races.
Yet Western concern over Iran's uranium enrichment has led some analysts to suggest Israel could be asked by its U.S. ally to submit its own nuclear facilities to inspection as part of a drive to guarantee a region free of weapons of mass destruction.
Asked at a security conference whether he expected such a proposal from the new administration of President Barack Obama, who expressed readiness to talk directly to Iran, Israeli Atomic Energy Commission deputy director-general David Danieli said:
"Israel has always had a responsible and wise nuclear policy, and this was recognised as such by others in the international community, and there is no reason to doubt that it will continue to be so in the future."
He added that he looked forward to "good dialogue with the upcoming American administration on all arms control and national security issues." Obama, in office since January 20, has begun a broad review of foreign policy that under predecessor George W. Bush sought to isolate rather than engage Iran without preconditions. Tehran has rejected that approach and expanded enrichment meanwhile.
According to declassified American documents cited by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists magazine, under President Richard Nixon the United States knew Israel had developed nuclear weapons but opted against insisting that its ally come clean on the capability and accept international regulation. This sanctioned reticence is a major irritant for Arabs and Iran, which see a double standard in U.S. policy in the region.
By not declaring itself to be nuclear-armed, Israel also skirts a U.S. ban on funding countries that proliferate weapons of mass destruction. It can thus enjoy some $3 billion (2 billion pounds) in annual military aid from Washington.
Israel, like the United States, has vowed to prevent Iran -- which denies having any hostile intent -- from getting the bomb.
But some Israeli experts believe Iran will not be stopped and that the Jewish state may have to resort to an enhanced policy of deterrence by lifting some of the secrecy and making clear it can still outgun its arch-foe in any nuclear war.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKTRE5135SW20090204?sp=true
3. Six Powers Hold Iran Talks as U.S. Mulls Policy
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Diplomats from six nations discussed how to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons in the first meeting on the issue since President Barack Obama took office and offered Iran talks “without preconditions.”
U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns and foreign ministry officials from China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany met today in Wiesbaden, Germany, near Frankfurt, to review their strategy toward Iran, a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
Iran said yesterday it launched its first domestically made satellite, prompting U.S., French and British statements of concern about Iran’s efforts to develop ballistic missile technology. Leaders of Germany and France said they may back new sanctions if diplomacy fails to halt “the Iranian threat.”
“We will not permit an Iranian nuclear bomb because this would threaten world peace,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a joint article published today in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “We favor a diplomatic solution.”
Obama has shifted U.S. policy since taking office on Jan. 20, saying he supports “tough and direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions” and will “use the power of American diplomacy to pressure Iran to stop their illicit nuclear program, support for terrorism and threats toward Israel.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that “if Tehran does not comply with United Nations Security Council and IAEA mandates, there must be consequences.”
She spoke after talks in Washington with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has urged Iran to take up Obama’s offer of dialogue. Steinmeier said the satellite launch underscored Iran’s “technical capabilities” and the need of the six powers to work together.
The U.S. and some allies, including Israel, say Iran is seeking to develop nuclear arms. Iran says its uranium enrichment program only aims to produce fuel for nuclear power plants to meet the country’s growing electricity demand.
Iran, the second-largest oil producer in the Middle East, is under three sets of UN sanctions after the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, sent the dispute to the Security Council in March 2006.
The Bush administration ruled out talks with Iran unless the country ended uranium enrichment work within its nuclear program.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601100&sid=a0TfwdIic1VE&refer=germany
4. World Powers Welcome Obama's Talk Offer to Iran
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World powers on Wednesday said they were committed to a diplomatic solution on the issue of Iran's nuclear programme and welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's offer to talk directly with Tehran.
"(We) emphasise a common commitment to a diplomatic solution based on the dual track strategy," said a German official who quoted from a joint statement from the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
He was referring to the longstanding two-track approach of using diplomacy and the threat of international sanctions to persuade Tehran to rein in its nuclear programme.
The powers, who met on Wednesday for the first time on Iran since Obama took office on Jan. 20, urged Iran to comply fully with U.N. demands, which include a halt to uranium enrichment and opening up to a U.N. nuclear watchdog investigation.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman had no immediate comment on the big powers' statement.
Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, opposed direct talks with Iran to resolve the standoff, but Washington is now reviewing its Iran policy. The new administration is considering a range of options to get Iran to change its behaviour.
A European official, who was involved in the talks but declined to be named, told Reuters that all partners present were encouraged by the change in U.S. approach.
"This is going to be an important period we are going into. It's a new beginning although still on the dual track," he said.
"(The United States) didn't come to this meeting to tell us what their new policy was, they came to talk through where we were ... This was not a moment for anyone to make (new) policy. This meeting was part of the policy review."
Another European official said there had been no talk of new sanctions at the meeting and that partners would meet again once Washington had completed its review process, with a gathering likely to take place in London in March.
But a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the possibility that the hostile state of relations with Washington would change under Obama.
"Opposing the Zionist regime and defending oppressed people are among the pillars of the Islamic revolution and Iran and America's relationship will not change because of Obama taking office," said the representative to the Revolutionary Guards in northwestern Zanjan province, cleric Hojjatoleslam Ali Maboudi, according to the Fars News Agency.
By "Zionist regime", he was referring to Israel -- Washington closest Middle East ally -- whose existence is not recognised by the Islamic Republic.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a weekly news conference there would be no talks between Iranian and American officials at a security conference in the southern German city of Munich this weekend.
The U.N. Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment. Western powers suspect the work is aimed at building an atomic bomb. Tehran says it is for peaceful power generation only.
Iran has rejected the powers' longstanding demand for an enrichment suspension before talks can begin and has gradually expanded its programme during the stalemate, raising fears it may be approaching bomb-making capability.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-37841220090204?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true
EHUD Barak, leader of the Israeli Labour party in next week's elections, has vowed to "smash" and "topple" Hamas, while urging the US to set a clear timetable for talks with Iran.
"We will destroy Hamas and all our enemies. We will not accept the recent firing of rockets," the Defence Minister said yesterday at the Herzliya Conference, a gathering of military and foreign policy experts at the International Disciplinary Centre in the city of Herzliya.
He spoke a day after Kadima's candidate for prime minister, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, gave a speech on military issues, and the day before the frontrunner in next Tuesday's election, Likud leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was due to address the conference.
Mr Barak toughened his rhetoric to match that of Mr Netanyahu, who this week warned of a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Mr Barak acknowledged the push by US President Barack Obama to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, but said Israel could not allow the process to go on indefinitely.
"We must reach an understanding with the US over timetables for (talks on) the nuclear program," he said.
Describing Hamas as "bloodthirsty", he said if it was necessary for Israel to take a more forceful response to the group "we know how to do that".
"We will destroy, we will smash, we will topple Hamas, we will destroy all our enemies," said one of the architects of last month's assault on Gaza, which killed at least 1300 Palestinians.
To become prime minister again, Mr Barak needs to take support from Likud on the Right and Kadima on the Left.
While Ms Livni's vision outlined the day before was that she would "integrate military force with a political initiative", Mr Barak had a more hardline position. "Military deterrence without compromise with all the other options," he said.
"There is no doubt as to what the Israeli Defence Forces are capable of doing," he said.
"Hamas was dealt a terrible blow, and we know the IDF will be able to do it once again if necessary."
Mr Barak said Hamas had used civilians in the Gaza as human shields, but the IDF was "the most moral and ethical army in the world" -- they had dropped thousands of leaflets and made telephone calls to houses in Gaza warning people to leave before the attacks.
As prime minister, he said, he would refuse to negotiate with Hamas, claiming the group was run from Iran. Israel should engage with moderate Arab countries in the search for a solution to the Palestinian conflict, he said.
Labour's struggles in the polls have left the controversial Avigdor Lieberman poised to oust Mr Barak as defence minister in the post-election negotiations for form a coalition.
The Russian immigrant's ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) party is poised to become parliament's third largest, nudging out centre-left Labour, which ruled Israel for more than half of its 60 years, opinion polls show.
"The winning gimmick of the elections" and "the new trend" is how the press has described the pudgy and bearded former nightclub bouncer, whose vitriolic harangues against Israeli Arabs have previously earned him the monickers of "fascist", "racist" and "embarrassment to democracy".
The jump in support has come as Mr Lieberman's hardline campaign messages found fertile ground among Israelis disappointed that the Gaza war ended without Hamas toppled, disenchanted with career politicians, and exhausted by the region's never-ending violence.
Available at: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25009124-2703,00.html
2. Iran's New Missiles Add to Europe's Nuclear Worries
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Iran alarmed the international community this week by using newly-developed missile technology to launch a satellite into space. Envoys from six countries are meeting in Germany on Wednesday to plan a response.
Envoys from six major powers are finding themselves confronted by a new twist in their attempt to get Iran to drop its nuclear weapons program: Iran has already developed the technology it would need to launch long-range missiles at Israel or southern Europe despite United Nations sanctions.
Iran announced on Tuesday, Feb. 3, that it had launched a rocket-propelled satellite into space, causing alarm on both sides of the Atlantic.
"In the case of Iran, one of the biggest concerns we've always had is that any country that can put a satellite into orbit has thereby demonstrated that they can send a nuclear weapon to intercontinental distances," Rick Lehner, a spokesman of the US Missile Defense Agency, told AFP.
Countries sharpen criticism of Iran
Officials reacted by threatening more sanctions and even military action, if necessary. Iran is already under three sets of UN sanctions over its nuclear program. But that apparently has not stopped the country from developing its rocket technology and many experts fear Iran is similarly increasing its nuclear capabilities.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the satellite launch "does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly to advance stability or security in the region."
The United States, he added ominously, has pledged to use "all elements of our national power to deal with Iran."
If Iran's reports of the launch were correct it would be a "worrying development and a disturbing sign," Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned Tuesday as he met with his counterpart Hillary Clinton in Washington.
The West suspects Iran of wanting enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies, claiming its nuclear work is for peaceful energy purposes.
A blow for diplomacy
"We have been trying for years to stop Iran from developing its own nuclear program and its own nuclear weapons. So far we have not succeeded," Steinmeier said.
Yet finding a way forward will not be easy. The timing couldn't have been worse for Western allies hoping to start a dialogue with Iran on nuclear issues.
The announcement of the satellite launch came just a day before a long-planned meeting of senior diplomats from United States, Britain, Germany, France, China and Russia. They are in Frankfurt Wednesday to discuss Iran's nuclear program.
And the launch came less than a week before an important international security conference in Munich where many had hoped that the United States would talk directly to Iran, something which has not happened in 30 years.
While President Obama had signaled his willingness to support direct diplomacy with Iran over the nuclear issue, if Tehran does not abide by UN resolutions "there must be consequences," Clinton said Tuesday.
A technology leap
The technology for launching satellites "is very similar to ballistic (missile) capabilities," said French foreign ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier.
"We can't but link this to the very serious concerns about the development of military nuclear capability," Chevallier told reporters.
Experts agree that the launch was a way for Iran to show off its rocket technology.
"In the face of world opposition and sanctions, Iran has joined a very exclusive club: those countries that have managed to orbit a satellite," Geoffrey Forden, research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote on armscontrolwonk.com.
Based on data released by the US space agency NASA and reports from amateur observers, Forden said it appeared the satellite was successfully sent into a relatively low orbit. But not all rocket technology is created equal. It remains unclear if Iran used a three-stage rocket similar to Soviet-era Scud missiles or if it had developed a two-stage rocket, Forden told reporters. Forden said some amateur observers believe Iran used a two-stage rocket, although there is no official confirmation.
One unnamed US official who works in national security told reporters that he did not find the satellite launch overly alarming.
"It's certainly something to keep an eye on but it's not ringing any alarm bells," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Satellite technology is not new, and there are different levels of sophistication and I wouldn't put this in the category of advanced satellite technology at all," the official said.
Europe, Israel threatened
If Iran has long-range rockets, it means that the country could theoretically hit Israel or southeast Europe, experts say.
"If it was a two-stage missile then they had a huge jump in technology and that would be very scary," MIT's Forden said.
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that any diplomacy between the US and Iran must be limited in time and backed up by "harsh sanctions and readiness to take action," if needed.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted defiantly to the suggestion that the satellite launch served military goals, saying it carried a message of "peace and brotherhood" to the world.
"This is a scientific and technical achievement and has no military aims," foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told reporters.
Available at: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,4001129,00.html
A former British Ambassador to the UN is calling on the UK government to urgently alter its policy with regard to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Speaking ahead of the latest 5 + 1 talks to be held in Frankfurt on Wednesday, Sir John Thomson suggested that Britain should follow US President Barack Obama and drop its demand for Iran to suspend its enrichment programme as a pre-condition for negotiations.
“Britain and the other Europeans were important when we were hanging on to (former US president) George Bush's coat-tails,” said Thomson, who is now a research affiliate at MIT in the US.
“But we followed the US line with such enthusiasm that, now that Obama has replaced Bush, we find ourselves, together with France, to the right of Washington; strange for a Labour government,” he said.
“Were we to persuade the new US team to stick with "suspension", we might well wreck the best chance of a negotiated settlement,” the former ambassador warned in an article for the Independent on Sunday weekly.
He said that “time, as the five-plus-one privately admit, is against us. So are the facts. We have slipped into denying reality. The Iranians, as they have repeatedly said, are not going to ‘suspend’.”
“We pretend that Iran has not already produced enough low-enriched uranium to make one bomb were they to enrich it further to "weapons grade". Russia and China refuse to support tough sanctions. Iran has seen off unanimous Security Council resolutions. In short, our policy has failed and, if we persist with it, the failure will grow.”
Thomson, who was British ambassador to the UN between 1982 and 1987, suggested that there was an alternative policy and that Britain “could be the catalyst to make it work.”
“Back in 2006, we insisted that the US join the negotiations, basically because we understood that there had to be an accommodation between the two main protagonists. Now we must promote that accommodation by facilitating US-Iranian talks,” he said.
The former envoy believed that the nuclear issue with Iran “needs to be resolved quickly,” but that a “real accommodation involves more.”
“We should propose to Tehran and to our colleagues in the five-plus-one that if the Iranians will discuss the proposals made by the five-plus-one in June 2008, we will discuss the Iranian proposals of May 2008,” he said.
While it would be impractical to consider all the ideas in the two proposals simultaneously, he suggested taking one political security item that appears in each, say Iraq and Afghanistan, and one economic/energy item like Middle East resources and add to these the nuclear problem as an acceptable initial agenda, which could be used first in confidential bilateral US-Iran discussions.
“We should urge the Americans to say to the Iranians that they have noted repeated statements by the Iranian President and Foreign Minister favouring an international consortium to enrich uranium in Iran,” Thomson said.
“By comparison with the continuance of this situation, an international consortium, albeit enriching on Iranian soil, is preferable.”
He suggested this would lead to an end to sanctions, Security Council approval, the return of the nuclear file to the IAEA and Iran would achieve their bottom line, enrichment on their soil, even though it contrasts with the UK’s current policy.
If Foreign Secretary David Miliband wants accommodation in the Middle East and no nuclear weapons in Iran, “this is a deal you cannot afford to miss,” the former ambassador urged.
Available at: http://www5.irna.ir/En/View/FullStory/?NewsId=336205&IdLanguage=3
1. 3 N. Korean Firms Face U.S. Sanctions for Proliferation
The Korea Herald
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The United States announced Tuesday that it has imposed two-year sanctions on three North Korean firms for their involvement in the spread of missile technology and weapons of mass destruction.
This is the first official decision of the Barack Obama administration on dealing with North Korea.
According to the U.S. Federal Register notice, the Washington government included the Korea Mining and Development Corporation, the Moksong Trading Corporation and the Sino-Ki in its proliferation blacklist.
The notice said the North Korean companies were involved in proliferation of missiles and WMDs, but it did not elaborate what kind of activities or U.S. laws the companies were involved in or violated.
Similar penalties were also imposed on an Iranian company and two Chinese firms.
The move coincided with media reports that North Korea is preparing to test-fire its long-range Taepodong-2 missile.
Analysts here say the U.S. measure shows the Obama government's stern policy against the North's proliferation of missiles and WMDs.
Obama has stressed the importance of dialogue in handling North Korea, but also pledged to curb global proliferation of WMDs.
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday denounced the North's missile activity as provocative.
"Its missile programs are of concern to the region," Robert Wood, the department's spokesman told reporters. "A ballistic missile launch by North Korea would be unhelpful, and frankly, provocative."
The sanctions, under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and several other acts, bar U.S. companies and government agencies from doing business with the North Korean firms.
They went into effect Feb. 2.
North Korea has pursued a ballistic missile capability for over 30 years. The North fields some 36 launchers and 700 missiles, and develops ballistic missiles that could reach the continental United States.
Pyongyang is also the world's leading ballistic missile proliferator. It has exported missiles or missile technology to a range of countries including Egypt, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/02/05/200902050045.asp
2. North Korea Must See Cost of Nuclear Ambition: Hill
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North Korea must "understand the true cost" of clinging to nuclear weapons ambitions, but not cut from talks, Washington's top nuclear negotiator with the country said.
"Some people doubt the point of negotiating. They say, 'how can you talk to these terrible people?'" Christopher Hill said in an address at the Asia Society in New York.
"The format, we think, is working. The problem I think remaining is whether North Korea, taking the plutonium they've already produced, are really prepared to give up that plutonium."
Five states are involved in negotiations with North Korea -- South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
Hill, reportedly a leading candidate to be the next US ambassador to Iraq, said North Korea must "understand the true cost" of holding on to the approximately 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of plutonium Pyongyang claims to have ready to use.
That cost, he said, includes preventing a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula and blocking access for the impoverished communist state to the global economy and development funds.
Hill criticized the North Koreans as "complete momentum killers" during six-nation negotiations aimed at dismantling the nuclear program.
But he said negotiations should be stepped up, with North Korea reassured that full disablement of its nuclear plans would open the way to bilateral talks "leading to normalization of relations."
He stressed that firmness is required with North Korea and that the five other six-party partners have a strong hand.
"I think we ought to be able to get this done," Hill said. "A country with such belligerent attitudes to its neighbors ... needs to be dealt with firmly with respect to its nuclear weapons. I just can't imagine we'd ever accept it."
Hill indicated he also favors the approach by new President Barack Obama on exploring direct talks with Iran, a sharp change of policy from his predecessor George W. Bush.
"I have found it is much better to make sure your interlocutor, sometimes your adversary, understands what your views are and I have found the best way to do this is directly," Hill said.
"It's much better to have face to face (discussion) and therefore be in their face and make them understand very clearly what you're trying to do."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jBNMVuLFePJD7MwDr1UB6XTqMO2Q
1. Moscow Welcomes President Obama's Plan for Cut in Nuclear Weapons
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Russia moved swiftly today to extend a hand to President Obama over American plans for big cuts in nuclear weapons.
Sergei Ivanov, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia was ready to sign a new strategic missile treaty with the United States after The Times disclosed that Mr Obama is to seek an 80 per cent reduction in stockpiles.
"We welcome the statements from the new Obama Administration that they are ready to enter into talks and complete within a year, in this very confined timeframe, the signing of a new Russian-US treaty on the limitation of strategic attack weapons," said Mr Ivanov, a hawkish former defence minister once seen as a candidate to become president of Russia.
He added: "We are also ready for this, undoubtedly."
The landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) signed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1991 is due to expire in December. It reduced stockpiles held by the two states from 10,000 to 5,000 but there has been little progress in negotiating a successor treaty.
Talks faltered in part over President George W. Bush's enthusiasm for siting a missile-defence shield in eastern Europe, a move that infuriated Russia. Mr Obama has not said whether he will press ahead with the plan to put ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.
A delay in the programme could ease Russian concerns and pave the way for talks to cut the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 each. An official in the US Administration told The Times: “We are prepared to engage in a broader dialogue with the Russians over issues of concern to them.”
The significance of missile defence as an obstacle to successful negotiations was underlined by a former chief of staff for the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. Colonel-General Viktor Yesin said that a deal on missile cuts made sense only if Washington accepted Moscow's security concerns.
"If the American Administration really intends to radically cut Russia's and the US's strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,000 warheads, this would undeniably be a step that could promote real nuclear disarmament," he told Interfax news.
"However, with such considerable reductions of nuclear arsenals, an equal level of security for Russia and the US could be ensured only on condition that Washington drops the idea of deploying . . . its missile defence system in Europe."
Andrei Piontkovsky, executive director of the Strategic Studies Centre in Moscow, said that defence experts in Russia understood that the US missile shield posed no military threat, but Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister and former president, was determined to prove that the West could not decide anything in Eastern Europe without Moscow's approval.
"The Start treaty for Russia is a symbol that it is still a superpower, so I think the Kremlin would be satisfied with the fact that Obama is not pushing this issue [missile defence] ahead," Mr Piontkovsky said.
Pavel Felgengauer, one of Russia's leading defence analysts, told The Times that Mr Obama would face domestic pressure to accelerate the missile-defence programme after Iran's success in launching a satellite into space yesterday.
"This puts a serious shadow over the arms-control negotiations because it was assumed that the Democrats would freeze or postpone deployment of this project until the missile threat emerged. Now it has," he said.
"The pressure is going to be on the new US Administration to continue deployment and maybe even speed it up. With missile defence in Europe getting this new impulse from Tehran, that makes it even more difficult to achieve results with Russia."
Available at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5660089.ece
Russia plans to start up a nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr plant by the end of the year, the head of Russia's state nuclear corporation said on Thursday.
"If there are no unforeseen events...then the launch will go according to the timetable," Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters in the Kremlin.
"The launch is scheduled for this year," he said, adding that this was the original plan laid down in a timetable agreed with Iran. "I plan to be at the Bushehr plant in February."
The West, which suspects Iran of seeking to produce its own nuclear bomb, has been critical of Russia's involvement in Bushehr. Russia says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons programme.
Analysts say Iran could become a key issue in relations between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and new U.S. President Barack Obama, who said last month that the United States was prepared to talk to Tehran.
A Rosatom spokesman said Kiriyenko was talking about the so- called "technical" start-up, which will be the first time the reactor is fully switched on and aims to test its systems before electricity is supplied to the grid.
The start up the Bushehr plant's nuclear reactor has been delayed frequently, though Russia last year completed delivery of nuclear fuel to the station under a total contract estimated to be worth about $1 billion (683 million pound).
Analysts say Russia has used Bushehr as a lever in relations with Tehran, which is suspected by the United States and some European countries of seeking to build nuclear weapons.
Russia started deliveries of nuclear fuel for the plant in late 2007, a step both Washington and Moscow said removed any need for Iran to have its own uranium enrichment programme.
European diplomats say Russia's leverage with Tehran has played a constructive role in talks on Iran and cite joint work on Iran as an example of good cooperation between powers.
But switching on the Bushehr plant could still dismay some in the United States, Israel and Europe who are deeply suspicious of Iran's intentions.
Russia agreed to build the plant in 1995 on the site of an earlier project begun in the 1970s by German firm Siemens. The Siemens' project was disrupted by Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Work on readying the reactor for start up has been complicated by having to integrate German infrastructure that was as much as 25 years old, Kiriyenko said.
"We are working to integrate the old equipment, it is a unique project that no-one has ever done before -- we are integrating in the project old German infrastructure that was delivered 25 years ago,"
"The absolute priority is security. No matter how many times we need to prepare for a safe start up we will do it," he said.
Russia says the plant poses no proliferation risk as Iran will return all spent fuel rods to Russia.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKL577763420090205
1. Russia, India Ink Nuke Cooperation Deal, Arms Control Today
Arms Control Today
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During a Dec. 5 visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to New Delhi, Russia agreed to provide India with four new nuclear power plants as part of a nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries. The agreement marks the third such accord India has signed with nuclear suppliers since a Sept. 6 decision by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to lift a long-standing prohibition against providing nuclear technology to India. (See ACT, October 2008.) India signed similar agreements with France and the United States in September and October, respectively.
Russia and India also concluded several additional agreements on a range of issues, including defense and space cooperation.
The nuclear cooperation agreement cements a memorandum of understanding agreed in January 2007 regarding Russia's provision of four additional power reactors to be constructed at Kundankulam, in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu. (See ACT, March 2007.) The four reactors would join two reactors Russia is constructing at that site that are near completion.
Russia and India agreed on the construction of the first two reactors in 2001 over U.S. objections that such cooperation violated Russia's commitment to NSG rules. (See ACT, December 2001.) This time, however, Moscow waited until after the NSG decision to formalize the reactor construction deal. That decision exempted India from the group's 1992 rule not to provide nuclear technology to states that do not have full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
Full-scope safeguards require all nuclear activities in a state to be subject to monitoring and inspections by the agency to ensure that they are not diverted for weapons purposes. India, which has not joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) but tested nuclear devices in 1974 and 1998, has an active nuclear weapons program that is off-limits to such inspections.
As part of India's nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States, New Delhi has agreed to formulate a plan to ensure that its military facilities and civilian facilities will operate autonomous of each other. It has pledged then to place all of its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards by 2014. India currently has a total of 17 operating nuclear power reactors and has plans to construct an additional 25-30 by 2030 to help meet expected energy shortages.
In addition to the construction of the four new plants at Kundankulam stipulated under the Russian-Indian nuclear cooperation accord, a joint declaration signed by Medvedev and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated an intention to construct nuclear power reactors in other sites in India and "to expand and pursue further areas for bilateral cooperation in the field of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy."
The Indo-Asian News Service quoted Russian ambassador to New Delhi Vyacheslav Trubnikov Dec. 7 stating that Russia is "ready to build 10 more nuclear plants" should the Indian government decide to do so.
Russia's nuclear cooperation with India also involves supplying nuclear fuel for Indian reactors. Moscow agreed to provide New Delhi with a lifetime supply of fuel for the reactors that it is constructing, as well as to a five-year renewable contract to supply fuel for India's U.S.-origin nuclear reactors at Tarapur. Russia has intermittently provided fuel for the Tarapur reactors contrary to NSG rules and U.S. objections. (See ACT, March 2001.) Washington cut off U.S. fuel supplies for the reactors following India's 1974 nuclear test.
The United States reversed its objection to fueling the Tarapur reactors in a 2005 joint statement between Singh and President George W. Bush on nuclear cooperation between the two countries, which eventually led to the NSG exemption this year.
Russia's nuclear cooperation agreements do not include stipulations regarding conditions under which this fuel supply would be suspended, such as an Indian nuclear weapons test. A Russian diplomat told Arms Control Today Jan 14 that Moscow "would deal with nuclear cooperation with India in accordance with the NSG rules."
During the negotiations regarding the NSG waiver for India, several members argued that the group should stipulate that trade would be terminated in the event of an Indian test. (See ACT, October 2008.) At the U.S. insistence, however, this stipulation was not included in the text of the waiver. In a response to congressional questions regarding the U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement with India, the Department of State indicated in February, however, that "should India detonate a nuclear explosive device, the United States has the right to cease all nuclear cooperation with India immediately."
In addition to the Russian deal, the French nuclear conglomerate Areva concluded an agreement Dec. 18 to provide India with 300 tons of uranium for reactor fuel.
Neither the Russian nor the French fuel supply arrangements include provisions for the return of spent fuel to the country of origin. The lack of such a provision allows India to recover plutonium from the spent fuel by reprocessing it. Similarly, the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement provides India with advance consent to reprocess U.S.-origin spent fuel, an exception that has only been granted to Japan and the European Atomic Energy Community.
Generally, plutonium recovered from reprocessing may be used as part of the explosive core of nuclear weapons or as a component in the nuclear fuel for nuclear reactors such as "breeder reactors," which produce more plutonium than they consume. All foreign-origin fuel, including spent fuel reprocessed for plutonium, is subject to IAEA safeguards, thereby prohibiting it from being used for weapons.
New Delhi maintains three breeder reactors and has declared that it intends to develop a "three-stage fuel cycle" that will incorporate the use of such plants, thereby producing large amounts of plutonium. Although India has pledged to place its future civilian breeder reactors under IAEA safeguards, two such reactors are not included on its list of civilian nuclear facilities, and New Delhi has left open the possibility that additional breeder reactors may not be classified as civilian. (See ACT, April 2006.)
Available at: http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2009_01-02/russiaindiacoop
The Swedish government on Thursday agreed to scrap a ban on building new nuclear reactors, three decades after deciding to phase out atomic power.
Leaders for the center-right coalition government said new reactors were needed to help fight climate change and secure the nation's energy supply amid growing support for nuclear energy in the Scandinavian country.
Lawmakers decided after a 1980 referendum to phase out nuclear power, but only two of the Scandinavian nation's 12 reactors have been closed. The government's plan, which needs approval from Parliament, calls for new reactors to be built at existing plants to replace the 10 operational reactors when they are taken out of service.
If the plan is approved, Sweden would join a growing list of countries rethinking nuclear power as source of energy amid concerns over global warming and the reliability of energy suppliers such as Russia. Britain, France and Poland are planning new reactors and Finland is currently building Europe's first new atomic plant in over a decade.
Swedish public opinion polls have shown growing support for nuclear energy in recent years because of the lack of alternatives to replace the nuclear plants, which supply about 50 percent of Sweden's electricity.
The agreement was made possible after a compromise by the Center Party, a junior coalition member which has long held a skeptical stance toward nuclear power.
"I'm doing this for the sake of my children and grandchildren," Center Party leader Maud Olofsson said. "I can live with the fact that nuclear power will be part of our electricity supply system in the foreseeable future."
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gnoJZPYRZX_-FG1tRogYfdxBmwgAD965COE80
3. India Signs First Contract After Lifting of Embargo on Nuclear Trade
(for personal use only)
India has signed its first contract to build nuclear power plants after the international community lifted an embargo on civilian nuclear trade with the country. The deal marks the end of India's nuclear isolation. The state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. signed a preliminary accord with French company Areva in New Delhi, Wednesday, to provide up to six nuclear reactors.
The reactors will be located in Jaitapur, in the western Maharashtra state. The estimated value of the deal has not been disclosed, but the cost of one reactor is expected to be $5 billion to $8 billion.
This is the first agreement to provide nuclear reactors since countries which supply nuclear technology approved a controversial proposal by the United States to drop a 34-year ban on nuclear trade with India.
The ban was imposed because India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
An energy advisor to the Confederation of Indian Industry, V. Raghuraman, says Wednesday's deal with the French company marks a starting point for India to gain access to state-of-the-art civilian nuclear technology.
"Today, since there has been a technology denial and fuel denial for the last more than three decades, India has developed an in-house program and there have been some capabilities, but surely these are not world class or also of the capacities which are required for future development. Which would mean we really need to access technology. We would like to look at accessing technology from all around, because the kind of capacities which we need are phenomenal," said Raghuraman.
India has 17 nuclear reactors, which contribute about 2.5 percent of the country's electricity.
India is desperately short of power, wants to scale up the share of nuclear power, significantly, to meet the needs of its growing economy.
Energy advisor Raghuraman says India want to add 60,000 megawatts of nuclear energy, in the next 15 years.
"India does not have much of energy option. We are short of hydrocarbons. We are short of coal. We are short of everything. We need an energy mix. We need to make the ground today to prepare for the future," said Raghuraman.
India is expected to spend billions of dollars to build nuclear power plants. In addition to France, India is likely to access the technology from the United States and Russia.
Available at: http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-02-04-voa10.cfm
Kazakhstan's state-owned nuclear energy company could become the world's largest uranium producer by this year, the company said in a statement Wednesday.
Kazatomprom Chairman Mukhtar Dzhakishev announced that the country's uranium output is expected to reach 11,935 tons in 2009, a more than 40 percent increase over the 8,521 tons produced last year, the statement said.
The final figure could vary depending on the situation in global demand, Dzhakishev said.
Uranium prices fell by 40 percent last year amid the global economic downturn, prompting producers to cut output and expenditure on developing new mines.
A number of mines set to start operating later this year will be essential to hitting output targets, Dzhakishev said.
Canada and Australia are also leading producers of uranium, which is used for nuclear power plants.
According to the London-based World Nuclear Association, Canadian uranium production reached 9,477 tons in 2007, the latest full-year figure available, and has been declining recently.
In Australia, uranium output reached 8,603 tons in 2007, but could increase to more than 11,000 tons by 2012-13, according to industry estimates.
Planned production sites in Kazakhstan slated for opening in 2009 include the Khorasan-1 and Khorasan-2 mines, which will eventually have production capacities of 3,000 tons and 2,000 tons of uranium per year respectively, the company said.
"By the middle of 2010, we will be able to complete the creation of the technical foundations necessary for boosting Kazakhstan's uranium output to 27,000 tons per year," he said.
Available at: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2009/02/04/business/AS-Kazakhstan-Uranium-Output.php
French energy group GDF Suez and Spain's Iberdrola have announced the creation of a partnership to build nuclear power stations around Britain.
The firms will form a joint venture and will buy sites suitable for nuclear plants together with Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).
Last month, the Spanish group created a joint venture with SSE.
Iberdrola owns Scottish Power and part owns nuclear plants in Spain. GDF Suez is Europe's biggest utilities firm.
According to industry sources, Iberdrola and GDF Suez will have 40% shares and SSE will have a 20% stake in the new three-way partnership.
"Through the creation of a dedicated joint venture, GDF Suez and Iberdrola, together with Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), intend to participate in the sale of nuclear sites owned by The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and EDF Development Company Limited," the companies said in a statement.
Interested in Britain
Last month, the British government started the process of selecting sites suitable for new nuclear power stations.
Under the deadline, nuclear groups have until 31 March to nominate new sites.
Several existing sites, including Sellafield in Cumbria, have already been named as suitable by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
German companies RWE and E.ON also formed a joint venture in January to build UK nuclear power stations.
Most of Britain's existing nuclear plants are owned by British Energy, which is being bought by France's EDF.
Nearly all of the current UK nuclear power stations will cease operating within the next 20 years, prompting fears of an "energy gap" amid uncertainty about levels of future gas and oil supplies.
Besides, the British government says that building a new generation of nuclear plants is crucial in meeting targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7870112.stm
The country is poised to revise its energy development plans by nearly doubling its nuclear power capacity in the next decade, energy authorities have said.
The revision is still awaiting approval from the State Council, the Chinese-language 21st Century Business Herald yesterday cited sources close to the National Energy Administration (NEA) as saying.
There are currently 11 nuclear reactors in operation in the country with a combined capacity of about 9 gigawatts (GW), supplying more than 1 percent of the country's energy needs.
NEA head Zhang Guobao last year said the country would raise the share of nuclear power in the national energy mix for 2020 from 4 percent, as set in 2006, to 5 percent. The target capacity for nuclear power was set at 40 GW by 2020.
The latest energy revision aims for nuclear power to generate 70 GW for the country by 2020.
The country would have to produce at least 60 GW of nuclear power to meet its 5 percent goal, the China Electricity Council (CEC) has said.
"We have the ability to raise our nuclear power capacity to at least 60 GW 70 GW is not unthinkable," Fu Manchang, secretary-general of the Chinese Nuclear Society, told China Daily yesterday.
The authorities would also "start building eight more nuclear power plants in the next three years, with 16 reactors whose total installed capacity will surpass 10 GW", the NEA sources were quoted as saying.
Officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the specific locations of the new nuclear energy projects, but they may involve Sanmen of Zhejiang province, Yaogu in Guangdong province and Haiyang and Rongcheng in Shandong province, as indicated by Zhang.
The authorities will begin construction of nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 8.4 GW this year alone, State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) cited participants in a national energy conference held in Beijing yesterday as saying.
The country will also invest 580 billion yuan ($84.8 billion) in the power industry this year and will accelerate its development of nuclear power plants and wind farms, CCTV reported.
Similarly, China's four strategic oil reserve bases have reportedly begun operating and the country will start building eight more of such reserves this year, including those in Huangdao, Shandong province, and Jinzhou, Liaoning province.
China currently relies on coal power plants to supply about 80 percent of its total energy needs. However, transporting coal can often be problematic, as shown by the damage sustained by the nation's railway system in snowstorms last year, Fu said.
The authorities were then forced to shut many coal-fired power plants, leading to blackouts in many cities, he said.
"China is in dire need of more nuclear power plants, especially in its southern provinces that are more economically developed but have a more acute need for local energy reserves," Fu said.
The need to control carbon emissions also means the country has to increase its nuclear power generation, he said.
"Third-generation nuclear power technologies, such as the AP1000 developed by the United States-based Westinghouse Electric Co, will be the main feature of our future nuclear power plants," Fu said.
Available at: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-02/04/content_7443870.htm
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