The UN atomic agency began voting on Thursday to choose its new chief, who faces the daunting task of tackling Iran and Syria over alleged covert nuclear plans, with Japan's Yukiya Amano leading the race.
But Amano, 61, failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority in three rounds of voting by the International Atomic Energy Agency's board to elect a successor to Egyptian-born Mohamed ElBaradei, who steps down in November after 12 years at the helm.
In order to win, a candidate would have to secure at least 24 votes from a total 35 on the board, or one for each country on the board of governors.
In Thursday's first three rounds Amano won 21, 20 and 20 votes respectively, while Abdul Samad Minty, 69, from South Africa was given 14, 15 and 15. There were no abstentions,
Both Amano and Minty have long experience in the fields of non-proliferation and disarmament. But critics say that Amano is a reserved techocrat lacking charisma, while Minty is perceived by some Western nations as too outspoken.
Prior to the vote on Thursday, Amano, favoured by Western nations, had been perceived as being only one or two votes short of the two-thirds majority.
But Minty, seen as the favourite candidate of developing nations, "did better than expected," one diplomat said.
The board will proceed to the second stage of the process Friday to determine the so-called "leading candidate" on the basis of a simple majority, the board chairwoman, Algerian ambassador Taous Feroukhi, told reporters.
"We were not able at this stage to arrive at the nomination of the new DG (Director General)," she said.
Since abstentions do not count at this second stage, a candidate can win with fewer than 24 votes as long as they represent two-thirds of those cast.
If there is still no required majority, then the race could be opened up again for new nominations.
Amano has argued he is qualified for the job because Japan is the only country in the world to have experienced an atomic bomb.
Minty sees the strength of his candidacy in the fact that South Africa has experience of "first-world nuclear technology", but is "also a country of the south" that has a tradition of consensus.
The IAEA's current director general has never shied from controversy and has locked horns in the past with Western capitals, and Washington in particular, over the role of the UN watchdog.
The United States has accused him of being too "soft" on Iran and overstepping his mandate.
But new US President Barack Obama has offered an olive branch to Tehran in a reversal of his predecessor George W. Bush's hardline approach, amid confusion on whether Iran is enriching uranium for military ends.
Uranium enrichment, a process that the IAEA monitors, is used to make fuel for a nuclear reactor, but at highly refined levels it can serve to produce the core of an atomic weapon.
To build a nuclear arsenal, Iran would need a stockpile of highly enriched uranium, would need to be able to build a warhead -- a process it froze in mid-2003 and likely has not resumed -- and would need long-range missiles, experts say.
Iran denies the nuclear allegations, saying it needs atomic power to generate electricity for civilian use.
The change of guard in the IAEA comes at a time when the agency is seeking a "significant" increase in funding from member states over the next two years in order to carry out its duties effectively.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hCUhl0CWJvxXf31SXtES6V0O_SlQ
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Director Mohamed ElBaradei on Wednesday continues his visit to Ecuador, where he pledged support for Ecuadoran authorities´ plans to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
After meeting on Tuesday Vice President Lenin Moreno, ElBaradei said IAEA has approved seven projects for 2009-2011 with the agency's technical cooperation worth $1.1 million aimed at increasing the use of nuclear technology in medicine, agriculture and other fields.
This concern four new projects to promote the creation of a nuclear instrumentation center, improve the use of irrigation water from Chota River, and a national tissue bank, as well as the improvement of a nuclear medicine department in a university hospital in Guayaquil, he said.
The UN official and 2005 Peace Nobel Prize winner also expressed his agency´s willingness to cooperate with Ecuador in the exploration and exploitation of uranium.
This is an alternative to change its oil-based energy matrix, stated ElBaradei by stressing that the use of nuclear energy to produce electricity is a solution to the exhaustion of other fuels.
ElBaradei is visiting Ecuador as part of Latin America tour that already took him to Venezuela. He is scheduled to visit Bolivia on Thursday.
Ecuador, as a member of the IAEA Board of Governors from 2007-2009 supports the Vienna-based UN agency´s efforts to achieve disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of massive destruction.
Available at: http://www.plenglish.com/article.asp?ID=%7B1AF95D93-8959-4533-AB00-63DCB21588CF%7D)&language=EN
1. Analysis: Iranian Nuclear Threat, Hamas and Hizbullah Rockets Pose Greatest Challenges in '09
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As a reminder of the myriad security challenges Israel faces in 2009, OC Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during a briefing on Wednesday that Iran has "crossed the technological threshold" in its quest for nuclear weapons, but added that Iran was playing a sophisticated game of cat and mouse with the international community, which required it to stop one step short of actually producing an atomic bomb.
"They are enriching fissile material in a low percentage of 4.5," Yadlin said, "but whoever knows how to enrich [fissile material] to 4.5% also knows how to enrich it to 20%, 60% or 93%. With 4,000 centrifuges spinning, to change from 4.5% to 93% takes only a few months to a year," Yadlin said.
The numbers Yadlin mentioned are a reference to two forms of enriched uranium: low-enriched uranium (LEU) and high-enriched uranium (HEU). Nuclear experts say Iran already has enough LEU for a bomb, but the LEU must undergo further enrichment to become HEU before a nuclear weapon could be produced.
"Assuming it takes about 1500 centrifuges operating 24/ 7 to produce enough nuclear fuel for one bomb in a year, my take is that Teheran could have enough fuel to have a bomb during 2009," Professor Raymond Tanter, President of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The committee is comprised of former officials from the White House, State Department, Pentagon and intelligence services, as well as academic experts who believe that Iranian opposition movements should be given a central role in pushing for democratic change in Iran.
"My sources indicate that the regime is using the negotiation track to buy time to enrich from LEU to HEU," Tanter warned, although he stressed that the Iran had not yet begun enriching from LEU to HEU.
"Because weaponization is easier than producing enriched uranium, the regime could have a few bombs within two years with its approximately 6,000 centrifuges operating at full capacity," he said.
Nuclear weapons require delivery vehicles, and Iran has been busy acquiring long-range ballistic missiles, all of which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads, according to sources in the Defense Ministry.
The BM25 missiles Iran purchased from North Korea approximately a year and a half ago, which have a range of 2,500 kilometers, are one example. A Defense Ministry source said he expected the missiles to be operational soon.
The BM25 was originally developed by Russia for the Soviet fleet of submarines, before North Korea converted it into a surface-to-surface missile. Its long range and high speed means Iran has upgraded its ability to deliver a nuclear weapon.
Other ballistic delivery vehicles include the Shihab-3 missile, which is capable of striking Israel. At the start of 2008, Iran possessed 30 Shihab-3 missiles, but currently, the country claims to have over 100 of them, though that claim is unverified.
Closer to home, in southern Lebanon, Hizbullah has tripled its rocket arsenal since 2006, to around 40,000, according to defense sources. The rockets can strike most of Israel, and Hizbullah hopes its rocket stocks will serve as a deterrent to Israel against a potential military strike on Iran's nuclear sites.
In the meantime, Hizbullah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, continues to threaten Israel with retaliation for the violent death of its field commander, Imad Mughniyeh.
In Gaza, Hamas is replenishing its rocket stocks. Some of the rockets continue to be smuggled in through subterranean tunnels linking Sinai to Gaza, while inside Gaza, Hamas engineers create increasingly powerful versions of the Kassam. The newer versions are capable of carrying larger amounts of explosives. The Ashkelon school struck by one such rocket in late February bears witness to the new power of the upgraded Kassam, which tore through empty classrooms, spraying pieces of shrapnel in all directions.
Israel's intelligence agencies have already warned the police in the South to be prepared to face continued rocket threats.
A glimpse at the extent of rocket attacks which struck southern Israel during Operation Cast Lead reveals startling figures: Police were called to 300 rocket impact zones during the conflict. In total between 800 and 900 projectiles were fired at Israel from Gaza.
According to Southern Police District head Cmdr. Yochanan Danino, the intelligence also predicts "non-stop" attempts by Palestinian terror organizations in the West Bank to infiltrate Israel and carry out an attack on Israeli civilians.
That threat was underlined on Saturday night when terrorists parked a car bomb carrying 100 kilograms of explosives outside a busy mall.
Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen may have summed it up best when he said on Tuesday, "The coming year of 2009 will bring with it complex security challenges. I say this every year, and every year it is true."
Available at: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1237727545408&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, has rejected claims that the Islamic republic is secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Speaking in Melbourne yesterday, Dr Khatami said neighbouring countries with atomic arsenal pose a far greater threat to Middle East stability.
"If there is a real concern about proliferation, we have to tackle the problem of these countries right now having nuclear arms in the region, not putting pressure on a country that doesn't have such intention and there is no strategy of having nuclear weapons," he said.
Dr Khatami did not name countries, however Israel is the only Middle Eastern country said to posses nuclear weapons — a program Tel Aviv has never officially acknowledged.
Iran's South Asian neighbour, Pakistan, has also developed a nuclear program.
In an interview with The Age, Dr Khatami also dismissed as "baseless" claims that Iran is a supporter of terrorism.
He also challenged Australia to play a welcome role in resolving conflicts in the Middle East. "Australia enjoys a very unique advantage, a Western country living in the East," he said.
Dr Khatami said Australia carried no colonial baggage with the countries of the Middle Eastern region, while those shepherding negotiations were seen to be taking one side against the other.
He will give a public lecture at La Trobe University this evening on the need for greater dialogue between Western and Islamic countries as the path to peace.
Dr Khatami dismissed claims he is not genuine in calls for greater dialogue and that he regards Israel and the Jewish people with hostility.
"Dialogue among cultures and civilisations is a real aim and goal for us.
"We would like to change the paradigm that was dominant so far, (that) resulted in wars and conflicts and discrimination."
Victorian Premier John Brumby declined to meet with Dr Khatami.
Former premier Steve Bracks will meet him this morning in his new role as head of the board of advisers to the La Trobe University's Centre for Dialogue.
Dr Khatami has withdrawn as a candidate ahead of the upcoming presidential elections in June.
Available at: http://www.theage.com.au/national/khatami-israeli-nukes-the-problem-20090325-9aj0.html
Iran has accepted an invitation to a conference on Afghanistan next week that also will be attended by the U.S., the conference's Dutch host said Wednesday.
The invitation to Iran, which was first announced by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was seen as part of Washington's policy toward greater engagement with the Islamic republic.
Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, who confirmed Iran's acceptance, said the identity of the Iranian representative was not yet known. Verhagen said the invitation fit Europe's two-track approach of offering inducements to Iran to cooperate with the international community while maintaining sanctions for pursuing its nuclear program.
"It is of utmost importance that Iran is participating," Verhagen said.
President Barack Obama is preparing a sweeping U.S. policy review toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Taliban insurgents have taken refuge.
Verhagen said the U.S. review must "take into account that there is not a single solution for Afghanistan." The policy must be "a comprehensive approach of development, good governance and security."
Although the Hague conference was scheduled to last just seven hours, officials said key diplomats, led by top U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide, were working on a joint declaration that would commit participants to supporting Afghanistan's stability and development. The meeting will be opened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Last year, a similar conference in Paris raised pledges of $20 billion for Kabul, but the Hague meeting was not intended to raise funds or discuss military aid to the government.
Those issues were more likely to come up at other multinational meetings scheduled in the next week on Afghanistan. They include a NATO summit, Obama's conference in the Czech Republic with European leaders and a meeting in Moscow hosted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia, China and several central Asian states.
The Hague meeting includes all the countries that have contributed to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, which has about 55,000 troops from 26 NATO countries and 15 non-NATO countries. Russia, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and humanitarian groups were also invited were among the meeting of nearly 80 countries and 20 international organizations.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gOXo7WvE7S3U5zC88Rc6DGBSr9bwD9757GK01
The Iranian mission to the United Nations reacted angrily to an editorial in The Boston Globe questioning the intent of the Iranian nuclear program.
A March 11 editorial in the Globe by William Tobey, a proliferations expert at Harvard University, alleged Iran has deliberately underreported its quantity of low-enrichment uranium.
"Iran's track record with respect to full and accurate disclosure of its nuclear activities has been less than pristine," he noted, adding that the accounting irregularity is "a serious concern."
Tobey wrote that the regulatory International Atomic Energy Agency uncovered 460 pounds of uranium material that was not reported on the Iranian inventory in November.
An Iranian spokesperson responded in a letter published by the Globe, saying Tobey's position was biased.
"This is nonsense, a throwback to the Iran-phobia of the previous U.S. administration, and omits the pertinent empirical facts about Iran's peaceful nuclear program," press counselor M.A. Mohammadi wrote in the letter.
A February report by the IAEA said Iran's enrichment activity had decreased recently, but the intent of the program remained ambiguous despite years of monitoring.
Meanwhile, Russian officials have said repeatedly that nuclear activity at the Bushehr facility does not violate the provisions of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian energy despite holding some of the world's largest oil and gas reserves.
Available at: http://www.upi.com/Emerging_Threats/2009/03/25/Iran_lashes_out_at_nuclear_critics/UPI-78511238010578/
5. Russia Shares IAEA Concerns on Iran's Nuclear Program - Top MP
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Russia cannot consider Iran's nuclear program "transparent" while the UN nuclear watchdog still has concerns on this account, a senior Russian member of parliament said Wednesday.
The United States and other Western countries suspect Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the accusations saying its nuclear program is purely civilian.
"We in no way close our eyes to what is happening in Iran, and cannot consider this program transparent while the International Atomic Energy Agency has related questions," the chairman of the Russian lower house international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachyov, told a RIA Novosti press conference.
"Unlike the U.S., we consider the IAEA the only source of any generalizations, conclusions and recommendations," he said, adding that he expected talks on the issue to bear fruit in the future.
"I believe the Russian-American and Russian-European dialogue, as well as the dialogue between Russia and China and other Asian region states on the Iranian issue, will be more productive in the future, and that ultimately Iran will be included in it," he said.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/world/20090325/120729175.html
1. China Urges Restraint from Parties Involved in Korean Peninsula Nuclear Issue
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China on Thursday called on parties involved in the Korean Peninsular nuclear issue to show restraint and do more to promote the six-party nuclear talks.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang made the remarks in response to a question concerning the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s planned satellite launch.
"We hope all parties involved to show restraint and keep cool-headed at the current stage, and do more to facilitate the six-party talks process and contribute to peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the northeast Asia," Qin said.
The DPRK declared on Feb. 24 that it was going to launch a communications satellite as part of a peaceful space program. But the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea worry that the DPRK is going to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile.
The DPRK's Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that any intervention in the country's space program could lead to a collapse of the already-stalled six-party talks, and declared that the launch would take place between April 4 and 8.
Qin urged all parties involved to properly settle relevant issues and make joint efforts to revitalize the six-party talks.
"China has clear and persistent stance on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, and is ready to play a constructive role to maintain regional peace and stability," he added.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-03/26/content_11078430.htm
2. N. Korea May Conduct Second Nuclear Test After Missile Launch: U.S. Expert
Yonhap News Agency
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North Korea is likely to push for its second nuclear test if it does not get a satisfactory response from the U.S. on its upcoming rocket launch, a visiting U.S. expert said Thursday, following reports that the reclusive nation has already mounted a rocket on a launch pad in its northeast coastal base.
Art Brown, head of the Washington-based consulting firm Midsight, also said the North's rocket launch due in early April will provide South Korea with a chance to take the driver's seat in dealing with the communist neighbor.
"If they don't like the response, they may do a second nuclear test just to shake up the United States," the former CIA official said in an interview. He served as chief of the CIA's local branch from 1996-1999.
"The only two things they can do right now is a missile test and a nuclear test," he said. North Korea conducted its first-ever nuclear test in 2006, triggering a strong U.N. Security Council resolution against it.
He said that unless South Korea takes the initiative in dealing with the North's upcoming missile launch, the U.S. will pursue direct negotiations with the North.
"Up until now, North Korean missiles could not touch the United States. If the Taepodong-2 is successful, it means that theoretically North Koreans have the ability to touch the United States. That will make the U.S. want to do bilateral negotiations," he said.
Brown advised South Korea to be more aggressive in handling the aftermath of the launch, saying South Korea knows the North better than any other country, and it can have the most serious impact both economically and politically.
"I think it is an opportunity now for South Korea to take a more commanding role, a more responsible role, a lead role in the negotiations with North Korea," he said.
He pointed out that the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama is preoccupied with the financial crisis and the troubled campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said that as North Korea is seeking to use the missile launch to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak could tell Obama to "let us drive this negotiation."
Brown downplayed the possibility that the U.S. or Japan will shoot down the North's rocket, citing technical setbacks.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2009/03/26/62/0401000000AEN20090326007400315F.HTML
3. North Korea Says Will Restart Nuclear Plant if U.N. Acts
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North Korea said on Thursday it would restart its nuclear plant that makes arms-grade plutonium if the United Nations punishes it for what Pyongyang plans as a satellite launch next month.
"The moment the September 19 joint statement is ignored due to such act the six-party talks will come to an end, all the processes for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula ... will be brought back to what used to be before their start and necessary strong measures will be taken," the North's foreign ministry spokesman said in comments carried by the official KCNA news agency.
The North's rocket launch, planned for April 4-8, is seen by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a disguised test of a long-range missile and a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
North Korea has frozen its aging nuclear reactor and started to take apart its Yongbyon atomic plant under a deal signed by North and South Korea, Russia, Japan, the United States and China in 2005 that called for economic aid and better diplomatic standing for the isolated North in return.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE52P3AR20090326
4. ROK Top Negotiator to Six-Party Talks Leaves Beijing
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Wie Sung-rak, head of the Republic of Korea (ROK) delegation to the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, left Beijing Wednesday noon after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) reasserted its right to launch a satellite.
Wie arrived in Beijing Tuesday and met with Chinese vice Foreign Minister and chief negotiator to the talks Wu Dawei.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday that Wu and Wie exchanged views on the Korean peninsula, but no detail was released by any side after the meeting.
Wie left for the airport early Wednesday. Sources from the ROK embassy said Wie met with Wu only and had no other arrangements in Beijing.
Qin said China was very concerned about the situation on the Korean Peninsula and hoped that all parties would remain calm and show restraint and avoid actions that may make the situation more complicated.
Qin also appealed for an early resumption of the six-party talks, which were still widely regarded as the best way to ease tensions on the peninsula.
Besides reasserting its right to launch a satellite, the DPRK's Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that any intervention in the country's space program could lead to a collapse of the already stalled six-party talks, and declared that the launch would take place between April 4 and 8.
Wie visited Japan last week and met with Japanese officials, saying that ROK and Japan would continue diplomatic efforts to dissuade the DPRK from its planned satellite launch.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-03/25/content_11069763.htm
5. S. Korea Confident of Nuclear Talks Despite N. Korea's Missile Launch
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea's chief nuclear envoy dismissed worries Wednesday that North Korea's rocket launch in early April could put an end the already-troubled six-way talks on its atomic weapons program.
Pyongyang threatened Tuesday to abandon the talks also involving the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan, if sanctioned for what it says is a launch of a space vehicle carrying a communication satellite. The communist nation declared its intention to go ahead with the launch between April 4-8, snubbing repeated warnings by South Korea and its allies that it would lead to sanctions under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 that prohibits Pyongyang from all activities linked to its ballistic missile program. Wi Sung-lac played down the North's latest threat as "tactical" rhetoric.
"The (six-way) talks are expected to resume after a period of some time, and there is no big concern or apprehension about the resumption," Wi told reporters after returning from his two-day trip to Beijing where he met Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei. Wu chairs the six-way negotiations, of which the latest round last December ruptured over disputes on how to inspect the North's nuclear facilities.
"If North Korea fires a long-range missile, a certain countermeasure will be inevitable," Wi said, adding consultations with Wu were very useful. He did not elaborate.
When asked about reported differences between Seoul and Beijing over how to respond to the North's planned move, Wi said the two sides are in "the course of expanding common understanding."
South Korea says the North will be subject to sanctions whether it shoots a space rocket or a missile, while China maintains that it is still too early to talk about punitive measures before the actual launch.
Wi reaffirmed his plan to visit the U.S. later this week to meet Stephen Bosworth, Washington's point man on Pyongyang, and his assistant Sung Kim.
He said more consultations are needed on the proposed three-way meeting in Washington between the top nuclear negotiators from South Korea, the U.S., and Japan.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2009/03/25/23/0401000000AEN20090325007100315F.HTML
6. Why Does North Korea Dither in Nuclear Diplomacy?
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North Korea has threatened to boycott international talks on ending the secretive state's nuclear weapons program if it is punished by the United Nations for launching a rocket.
The sputtering six-party nuclear talks are the only formal forum that regularly bring North Korea together with the United States, its main adversary.
North Korea said it planned to send a satellite into space on April 4-8. The United States, South Korea and Japan consider the launch a test of its longest-range missile, the Taepodong-2, that would violate U.N. sanctions.
Here are some questions and answers about the fate of the talks, also including China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, that would give the impoverished North massive aid and better diplomatic standing in return for scrapping nuclear arms.
WOULD NORTH KOREA ACTUALLY QUIT THE TALKS?
North Korea has quit the talks before and has threatened to do so many times. Its diplomacy thrives on brinkmanship and the hermit state has a history of staying away until it feels its demands have been met.
The often-delayed talks, started in August 2003, have essentially been on hold since December 2008 due to Pyongyang's complaints that is not being delivered aid as promised and its refusal to agree to a nuclear inspection system.
WHAT WOULD THIS MEAN FOR THE NORTH'S NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT?
Another boycott means even more delays for the nuclear deal. At this point, there is little momentum for resuming the talks while North Korea and the government of new U.S. President Barack Obama size each other up. Washington and Pyongyang also have to wrangle over the rocket launch and the matter of two U.S. journalists detained by North Korean authorities before they can move on to the nuclear talks.
WOULD THIS MAKE IT MORE LIKELY THE NORTH COULD TEST ANOTHER NUCLEAR DEVICE?
North Korea, which conducted its first and only nuclear test in October 2006, knows another test would bring it further isolation and deplete its already meager stock of weapons-grade plutonium. At this point, another test would not bring the North enough political gain.
Also, the North's leaders could find their hand strengthened at home by a successful rocket launch, which would serve as a symbol of their pledge to build "a powerful nation" and would not need to conduct a second nuclear test.
But proliferation experts said a second test would eventually come because the first test appeared to be only partially successful and the North needs another one to see if it has improved its bomb design.
WHAT PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE IN THE TALKS SO FAR?
Despite all of the setbacks, the nuclear talks have led to North Korea freezing operations at its Soviet-era Yongbyon plant that makes arms-grade plutonium and taking the first steps to dismantle the facility.
Experts doubt if the North will ever abandon nuclear weapons, which give it a way to deter attack and a seat at the table with regional powers at international disarmament talks.
WHY HAVE THE TALKS DRAGGED ON SO LONG?
North Korea sees time as its friend and feels that the more it delays the process of winning concessions in exchange for disarmament, the better its position in negotiations. It has played the same game for decades and feels that patience and obstruction work better than speed and compromise.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsMaps/idUSTRE52O18X20090325?sp=true
The nuclear deal in place, India is now turning into a strong and vocal member of the global non-proliferation and disarmament brigade, which is intended to blunt a "non-pro" Obama administration's instinctive criticisms against India.
Shyam Saran, PM's special envoy on the nuclear deal, on Tuesday outlined a series of steps on everything from CTBT to fuel banks, peaceful utilization of outer space and FMCT, in a speech at Brookings Institution, an Obama-friendly think tank in Washington. The Indian initiative comes as a pre-emptive move to a US administration that is seen to be a lot more unbending in nuclear matters than the Bush administration. Besides, Democrats have traditionally emphasized the non-proliferation aspect of nuclear cooperation in comparison to the energy and economical aspects which the Bushies focused on.
But it's clear India is willing to play both tunes - business and security - simultaneously. Saran said, "(The) security-related agenda is substantive and no less important than the follow-up on the civil nuclear cooperation agreement in terms of expanded nuclear and high tech commerce." Saran said India was waiting to see a US elaboration of its non-proliferation objections, apart from CTBT "including the proposed summit on nuclear terrorism, the high level dialogue among declared nuclear weapons states to kick start the process of nuclear disarmament, the pursuit of an anti-satellite weapon agreement and the elimination of clandestine nuclear proliferation networks."
India is also much closer to signing the proliferation security initiative (PSI) that was such a bugbear during the Bush years. If India can sign this, it would be a big brownie point for the Obamas, since the Bushies couldn't get India on the table. Of course, CTBT is the big prize, but India will take its time over that one. "While reserving our position on a question of principle, we would be prepared to work together with the US and other friendly countries on practical steps to discourage proliferation," Saran said.
Saran's remarks come soon after Obama appointed California congresswoman, Ellen Tauscher, as the new undersecretary for arms control and international security. A known hardliner on proliferation, Tauscher was a virulent opponent to the nuclear deal, even writing a letter to Bush before he signed the deal to lobby against it. But she will be the one India will have to deal with and this country will need several things from the US to take the nuclear deal forward.
Saran indicated clearly that India was ready to sign the international liability convention. "I understand that the inter-agency process within government has been concluded. India plans to increase substantially its nuclear power production capacity. International cooperation in civil nuclear energy will be an important means to achieve this goal. Therefore, we see joining the international nuclear liability convention as being in our interest and hope to do this soon."
India asked US for "early commencement of our dialogue on arrangements to give effect to our right to reprocess US origin spent fuel." This would make it easier for India to source US fuel and US reactors. Saran's comments also come after NPCIL signed an MoU with GE-Hitachi for advanced boiling water reactors, soon after signing a similar deal with Westinghouse for the AP-1000 reactors.
Although he left it unsaid, Saran implied that opening up nuclear business in the time of a slowdown made sound economic sense. With a delicately worded swipe at Obama's "protectionist" tendencies, Saran said, "India has already conveyed a letter of intent for up to 10,000 megawatts of US nuclear power reactors... 10,000 megawatts of nuclear energy may translate into US $150 billion worth of projects, with significant business opportunities and potential collaboration for both Indian and US companies. This would also result in significant and high quality job creation in both our countries."
He said India had proposed an ad-hoc working group in the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. "India has proposed appointing a special coordinator at the CD to carry out consultations on measures which could lead to consensus and form a basis for the mandate for an ad-hoc working group on nuclear disarmament."
But India would retain its opposition to the CTBT unless it was specifically linked to disarmament, Saran said. This is significant, given that Barack Obama has promised to seek Senate ratification of the treaty that India has not yet signed.
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India-gets-vocal-on-N-arms-policy/articleshow/4311038.cms
Locked into a security pact with the U.S., it's not often that Japan questions American foreign policy. But in a security review published Thursday Japan's Defense Ministry criticized the U.S. for jeopardizing efforts to halt the spread of atomic weapons by agreeing to help India build nuclear power plants.
"The United States could undermine the basic principle of the NPT [non-proliferation treaty], which is to reward non-nuclear states with cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy," Japan states in its annual East Asian Strategic Review. "By providing India with the same level of cooperation, the international community is placing India on an equal footing," it adds. India, which tested its first atom bomb in 1974, has refused to sign the NPT.
Japan's concern over President George Bush's change in U.S. policy toward India taps into a wider fear that Asia will slide into a nuclear arms race. Apart from India, Pakistan and China have admitted to possessing nuclear arms. Suspicion over secret North Korean atomic-weapons labs persists. Helping to nudge nations in the world's most populous region to arm themselves with nuclear bombs may be a renaissance in nuclear energy, the report says.
Countries interested in building reactors include Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Thailand, notes Japan. That heightened demand for nuclear power "increases the possibility that technologies for uranium enrichment and the reprocessing of spent fuel will proliferate," the document argues. Japan, which is reported to hold a stockpile of plutonium large enough to build hundreds of atom bombs, insists it has no intention of building any.
While a nuclear arms race in Asia is still an unrealized fear, Japan's more immediate concern is the threat posed by its Stalinist neighbor, North Korea. A U.S. decision to remove the hermit state from its list of state sponsors of terrorism failed to persuade Kim Jong Il's regime to let inspectors in. At the same time North Korea has hardened its stance against Japan, the report notes.
Tensions in East Asia will ratchet up in April should North Korea go through with a threat to launch a missile during what it says will be the launch of a satellite. It threatens to repeat a 1998 episode when the communist country lobbed a missile over Japan that splashed into the Pacific Ocean. The latest firing could give Japan an excuse to test a U.S.-sea-based anti-ballistic missile shield that it has deployed since.
Despite the rhetoric, don't expect Japan to badger America over its closer nuclear ties with India--at least as long as North Korea is around.
Available at: http://www.forbes.com/2009/03/25/nuclear-weapons-japan-india-north-korea-business-washington-nukes.html
3. Russia ‘Concerned’ About Security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal
Lyubov Pronina and Ellen Pinchuk
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Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia is “very much concerned” about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and the country must be stabilized before peace can be achieved in neighboring Afghanistan.
“It’s obvious to anybody that the Pakistani-Afghan border is a safe haven for terrorists, for the Taliban,” Ivanov said in a Bloomberg Television interview in his Moscow office yesterday. “They hit and run back to Pakistan. So you have to deal with both. Both are very unstable.”
Ivanov said Russia seeks to toughen ineffective nuclear controls in cooperation with the U.S. “We obviously see that the present system of missile nonproliferation doesn’t work,” he said. “More and more countries are laying their hands on very dangerous missile technologies.”
President Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia and the U.S. have a common agenda that includes nuclear nonproliferation and terrorism. These issues are likely to be on the table when Medvedev meets his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, in London on April 1. The two countries are also pushing ahead on a new agreement to replace the 1991 U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in December.
Russia is prepared to use “all possible means” to help reach a “real settlement” in Afghanistan short of contributing troops to the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force led by the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, Ivanov said.
The Soviet army fought a nine-year Afghan war that ended in 1989, and the present coalition has partly “followed the Soviet experience,” he said, adding that no military solution is possible in Afghanistan.
Last month U.S. President Barack Obama ordered an additional 17,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, adding to 38,000 personnel already in the country, saying the war against the Taliban is “still winnable.” Military force alone won’t be able to deal with the threat posed by a “resurgent” Taliban, he said.
Russian-U.S. relations have begun to thaw since Obama’s election after sinking to a post-Cold War low under his predecessor, George W. Bush. Rapprochement has been most evident on the issue of supplying U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Medvedev said last month that Russia and three allies in Central Asia were ready for “full-fledged and comprehensive cooperation” with NATO forces in Afghanistan. Russia has allowed the U.S. to ship non-lethal cargoes across its territory to supply soldiers.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is seeking Russian support to stay in power because the U.S. wants him replaced, Kommersant reported yesterday, without citing anyone.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Kabul last week and spoke against foreign interference in the presidential election that is scheduled for August, the Moscow-based newspaper reported.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to visit Moscow this week to attend a conference on Afghanistan as the UN seeks to ensure a safe presidential election. Ban and Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta should arrive in the Russian capital on March 27, according to the Kremlin press service.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=alAi4AZaKmno&refer=home
German power utility E.ON (EONGn.DE) and smaller domestic rival RWE (RWEG.DE) have placed joint bids for three British nuclear sites, German daily Handelsblatt reported on Thursday, citing company sources.
Britain's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) last week launched an auction of 999-year leases on land near three of its nuclear power stations in the UK, at Wylfa in north Wales, Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Bradwell in Essex.
RWE has bought options on farmland near the Wylfa site, while E.ON has sites near Oldbury.
The two German companies announced earlier this month that they had teamed up to build British nuclear power stations.
The NDA declined to confirm the Handelsblatt report, but said the auction had attracted a high level of interest.
"It's been pretty successful," an NDA spokesman said.
The NDA potentially might be able to make an announcement next week about the winning bidders, the spokesman said.
The NDA is nominating its three plots of land to the UK government, which is expected to make a preliminary announcement in the autumn about sites it believes are suitable for new nuclear development.
Ministers are expected to make their final decision known in the spring of 2010, paving the way for successful bidders to apply for planning permission and to start building the plants, which would be likely to generate their first power in 2018.
France's GDF Suez (GSZ.PA) and Spain's Iberdrola (IBE.MC), which have also formed a partnership to build nuclear power stations in Britain, will take part in the auction, Handelsblatt said, citing industry sources.
E.ON and RWE were not immediately available for comment.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssIndustryMaterialsUtilitiesNews/idUSLQ20212320090326
2. India’s Nuclear Power Plans to Borrow 3 Billion Euros
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Nuclear Power Corp. of India plans to raise 3 billion euros ($4 billion) in overseas debt to fund a project to be built in partnership with Areva SA, the world’s biggest maker of atomic reactors.
Mumbai-based Nuclear Power, the state-run monopoly atomic energy producer, received bids from 15 international banks, including 10 French institutions, for the loan, Chairman Shreyans Kumar Jain said in a telephone interview.
“Our expression was for 3 billion euros but we have got commitments for 8 billion euros,” he said.
The project with Areva, to be built at Jaitapur in western India, will be India’s first large-capacity plant using overseas equipment after a three-decade global nuclear-trade ban was lifted last year. India plans to add 60,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity by 2032 from the current 4,120 megawatts as it seeks to end shortages of as much as 18 percent of demand.
Nuclear Power last month signed a preliminary agreement to buy two Areva reactors of 1,650-megawatt capacity each to be set up at Jaitapur in the state of Maharashtra. The company may increase the number of reactors to six to form its first “nuclear park.”
Debt will fund 70 percent of the project, Jain said yesterday. The Indian company will pay toward 30 percent equity in the Jaitapur project from cash reserves of 110 billion rupees ($2.2 billion), he said.
Nuclear Power expects to complete raising the funds after signing the final contract with Areva by the end of this year, he said.
The French company will supply uranium to run the plants for 60 years, Anne Lauvergeon, Areva’s chief executive officer, said last month.
Nuclear Power’s agreements to buy reactors from Areva, U.S.-based GE Hitachi Nuclear and Russia’s Rosatom Corp. include assured uranium supplies, Jain said. The Indian company may need 750 metric tons of uranium each year to fire the 25,000 megawatts that it plans to set up with overseas assistance, Jain said.
The company plans to invest as much as $1.2 billion buying equity in overseas uranium mines and is looking for long-term supply contracts with countries including Kazakhstan and Canada, he said.
“We want to insulate all future programs from any possibility of starvation on account of fuel,” Jain said. “We want to maintain a big inventory so that any disruption won’t result in wastage of the huge investments we plan to make building nuclear capacity.”
Nuclear Power has received “in-principle clearance” from the Indian government to look for uranium assets abroad and buy stakes in them. The company doesn’t plan to develop expertise in uranium mining, he said.
“We simply want to buy stakes to enable us to have a life- long commitment in proportion to our equity,” Jain said. “A couple of concrete proposals are with us and we are reviewing them.”
The Indian government may soon sign a nuclear-trade agreement with Kazakhstan, Jain said. The company signed an accord for uranium supplies, mining and fuel fabrication technologies with Kazakhstan’s KazAtomProm in January, he said.
Nuclear Power plans to buy 2,000 tons of uranium from Kazakhstan, the world’s third-biggest uranium producer, Jain said. The company will in return build a 220 megawatt or a 540 megawatt power project in Kazakhstan, he said.
Nuclear Power plans to appoint lead and co-arrangers for the overseas loan in the next one month, Jain said, without giving details.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aAz2da6SiMOY
Many countries in North Africa and the Middle East have said they want to develop civilian nuclear programs to meet rising power demand.
South Africa is the only country in either region with an operational nuclear power plant, but Iran plans to open one this year and other countries in the region could follow.
A slump in fossil fuel prices since summer 2008 has made nuclear power less attractive than it was when oil was at over $147 a barrel in July 2008.
But nuclear is seen by many as a long-term solution to high fuel costs and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector.
Below are the nuclear aspirations of countries across Africa and the Middle East.
Algeria aims to build its first commercial nuclear power station by around 2020 and to build another every five years after that, energy minister Chakib Khelil said in February.
He said Algeria had atomic energy agreements with Argentina, China, France and the United States and was also in talks with Russia and South Africa.
"Toward 2020 we will probably have our first reactor and we'll probably have a reactor every five years after that," he said.
The OPEC member has plentiful oil and gas reserves but wants to develop other energy sources to free up more hydrocarbons for export.
Algeria has big uranium deposits and two nuclear research reactors but no uranium enrichment capacity.
Algeria and China agreed a year ago to cooperate on developing civilian nuclear power.
Egypt announced plans to build several nuclear reactors to meet rising power demand in 2007. China, Russia, France and Kazakhstan have all offered to cooperate in building them.
Industry observers have suggested the United States could be willing to help Egypt develop its nuclear program if Egypt gave up the right to enrich uranium and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, processes that can be used to make weapons-grade nuclear materials.
Iran plans to start up its first atomic power plant in the middle of 2009, its foreign minister said in March.
"The Bushehr nuclear power plant will be inaugurated in the summer," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told parliament in comments carried by state broadcaster IRIB in March 2009.
Tehran says the 915-megawatt Russian-built Bushehr plant will be used only for generating electricity in the world's fourth largest oil producer.
But the West accuses Iran of covertly seeking to make nuclear weapons.
Iran has announced dates for starting the power plant in the past that have been missed.
Jordan had talks with French nuclear energy producer Areva in 2008 to construct a nuclear power reactor, Jordanian officials said.
They said Areva was a frontrunner among several international firms in talks with the kingdom to develop a nuclear reactor to meet rising demand for power.
Jordan has signed agreements with France, China and Canada to co-operate on the development of civilian nuclear power and the transfer of technology.
Kenya's energy minister said in September 2008 the country was seeking investors to build a small nuclear plant to meet growing electricity needs.
East Africa's biggest economy currently has 1,100 megawatts of electricity generation capacity, compared with peak time demand of 1,050 MW.
Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi said the government was considering building a 1,000 MW plant and estimated it would cost about $1 billion.
Nuclear power plants in Europe are expected to cost about four times as much to build.
Kuwait is considering developing nuclear power to meet demand for electricity and water desalination, the country's ruler said in February 2009.
"A French firm is studying the issue," daily al-Watan quoted Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah as saying.
Nuclear power would save fuel that could be exported but which is currently used to generate electricity and operate water desalination plants, he said.
The comments came a week after a visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Kuwait and a month after the United States signed a nuclear cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates.
Moscow and Libya said in November 2008 they were negotiating a deal for Russia to build nuclear research reactors for the North African state and supply fuel.
Officials said a document on civilian nuclear cooperation was under discussion at talks between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Under the deal, Russia would help Libya design, develop and operate civilian nuclear research reactors and provide fuel for them.
Namibia, one of three countries in Africa besides Niger and South Africa producing uranium, plans to build a nuclear plant to supply the domestic market and the region.
"We are determined to build a nuclear plant both for Namibia and to trade power via the Southern African Power Pool," Namibia's deputy energy minister, Bernhardt Esau, said in February.
The south-west African country faces a shortfall of power and imports electricity from neighbouring South Africa, which has its own electricity supply problems.
The Namibian government is setting up a regulatory system with the International Atomic Energy Agency to provide the legal framework to build a nuclear plant.
Esau said the country had general talks with France's Areva but would launch a tender process to select a company to build the plant.
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, an advisor to the minister of energy said in February.
"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," Adolphe Gbaguidi Waly said.
He said the country would ask South Africa, the only country on the continent with a nuclear plant so far, to help.
Initial Qatari interest in nuclear power plants has waned with the fall in international oil and gas prices, a Qatari official said in November 2008.
"It is less economically viable now, and less attractive. The potential costs are changing with the turmoil in financial markets, the economic slowdown and development of alternative fuels," Yousuf Janahi, manager of business development at Qatar's state-owned power company Kahramaa, said.
If Qatar decided to go ahead with building a nuclear plant, feasibility studies showed it would be unlikely to bring a reactor into operation before 2018.
French power giant EDF signed a memorandum with Qatar in early 2008 for cooperation on development of a peaceful civilian nuclear power program.
Qatar is studying nuclear power generation as a way to meet domestic demand while maximizing gas and oil exports.
The South African government expects the country's next nuclear power plant to be built by 2019, two years later than planned by Eskom until the utility dropped plans in early 2009 to build one due to financial woes.
Eskom operates Africa's only nuclear power plant, Koeberg, with a total capacity of 1,800 megawatts.
Nuclear is a major part of South Africa's energy diversification plan to reduce its heavy reliance on coal, which now supplies most of its electricity.
The Bush administration signed a nuclear deal with the United Arab Emirates in January, despite concerns in the U.S. Congress that the UAE was not doing enough to curb Iran's atomic plans.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed the nuclear energy cooperation deal, which she signed at the State Department with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
"We applaud the UAE's commitment to the highest standards of safety and security on nonproliferation in its pursuit of nuclear power," said Rice.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE52P32720090326?sp=true
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