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Nuclear News - 5/18/2009
PGS Nuclear News, May 18, 2009
Compiled By: Luke Wagoner

A.  Pakistan
    1. France, Pakistan Agree on Civilian Nuclear Co-Op, Xinhua News Agency (5/15/2009)
    2. France Backs India-Style Nuclear Deal for Pakistan, Reuters India, Francois Murphy, Reuters (5/15/2009)
    3. U.S. Has Plan to Secure Pakistan Nukes if Country Falls to Taliban, Rowan Scarbourough, Fox News (5/14/2009)
B.  Iran
    1. ElBaradei Urges Iran to Engage with U.S., Paul Carrel, Reuters (5/16/2009)
    2. Envoy: Russia Striving to Launch Bushehr N. Plant by Year End, Fars News Agency (5/16/2009)
C.  Israel
    1. Arab League: Israel's Nuclear Program More Worrying than Iran, Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz (5/17/2009)
    2. IAEA Chief Says Israeli Strike on Iran Would Be 'Insane', AFP (5/17/2009)
D.  India
    1. Some More Steps from India Needed to Implement N-deal: Blake, The Economic Times (5/15/2009)
E.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Korean Labs Win Deal to Treat Fusion Reactor Waste, The Korea Herald (5/18/2009)
    2. France Offers Pakistan Nuclear Energy, AFP (5/15/2009)
F.  Non-Proliferation
    1. Nuke Conference Fallout, International Security Network (5/18/2009)
    2. IAEA Chief Warns Of Possible New Wave Of Nuclear Proliferation, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty (5/15/2009)
G.  Links of Interest
    1. Could Taliban Get Keys to Pakistan's A-bomb?, Ben Arnoldy, Christian Science Monitor (5/15/2009)
    2. How Real is the Pakistan Nuclear Risk?, Andrew Marshall, Reuters (5/15/2009)
    3. Seven Reasons Why Obama's Nuke-Free Utopia Won't Work, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Esquire (5/14/2009)

A.  Pakistan

France Backs India-Style Nuclear Deal for Pakistan, Reuters India
Francois Murphy
(for personal use only)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his Pakistani counterpart he wanted the Muslim country to have a wide-ranging deal to buy nuclear equipment like the one obtained by its rival India, Pakistan said on Friday.

Such a suggestion would cause uproar in the international community because a Pakistani scientist was at the centre of the world's biggest nuclear proliferation scandal, raising fears that sensitive technology could leak out once again.

"France has agreed to transfer civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan ... They have agreed that Pakistan should be treated like India," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters after his country's president met Sarkozy.

"President Sarkozy said, and I quote him, 'What can be done for India can be done for Pakistan as well.' This is a major development," Qureshi said after the meeting in Paris between Sarkozy and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

An official in Sarkozy's office said France wanted Pakistan to improve its nuclear security but did not comment on the idea of an India-style deal.

"The president confirmed that we are prepared ... to cooperate with Pakistan in the area of nuclear safety," he said.

The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which was created after India tested its first nuclear weapon in 1974 and seeks to prevent nuclear technology from falling into the wrong hands, agreed in September to lift a ban on nuclear trade with India.

The waiver, which was won after years of lobbying by the United States, paved the way for a U.S.-India nuclear deal under which India can receive sensitive nuclear technology even though it has not signed up to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Supporters of the deal say that it will help meet India's booming electricity needs, but its critics say it gives India all the benefits of NPT membership but hardly any of the obligations, and rewards it for developing the atom bomb.

Qureshi dismissed concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and its proliferation history. Like India, Pakistan has also not signed up to the NPT.

"We will assure the world that we are an important and a responsible nuclear power and we can handle these matters without threatening or endangering anyone," he said.

Scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, revered by many Pakistanis as the father of the country's nuclear bomb, confessed to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya in 2004.

He was pardoned at the time by the government, and put under house arrest, but Pakistan's High Court declared Kahn free in February, ending his five-year confinement.

Pakistan has never given the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, direct access to Khan.

"Pakistan has no issues with the IAEA. We are willing to give international guarantees. We want the world to feel secure, and Pakistan will give all necessary guarantees," Qureshi said when asked about the feasibility of a Pakistani nuclear deal.

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France, Pakistan Agree on Civilian Nuclear Co-Op
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

France has agreed to offer Pakistan its civilian nuclear technology, French media quoted Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as saying on Friday.

"France has agreed to transfer civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan," Qureshi said after a meeting between Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and French President Nicolas Sarkozy inParis.

“What can be done for India can be done for Pakistan as well," the minister quoted Sarkozy as saying.

According to Qureshi, negotiations regarding the transfer of nuclear technology will be held in July and deals on such cooperation are likely to be signed during Sarkozy's visit to Pakistan in September.

Noting France is a very important partner to Pakistan, Qureshi expressed hopes for advancing cooperation with the country in various sectors.

Zardari said France had pledged 12 million euros (16 million U.S. dollars) in humanitarian aid to help internally displaced people in Pakistan. He said Sarkozy had been very generous during their meeting at the Elysee Palace.

This has been Zardari's first official trip to France since he became president in 2008.

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U.S. Has Plan to Secure Pakistan Nukes if Country Falls to Taliban
Rowan Scarbourough
Fox News
(for personal use only)

The United States has a detailed plan for infiltrating Pakistan and securing its mobile arsenal of nuclear warheads if it appears the country is about to fall under the control of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or other Islamic extremists.

American intelligence sources say the operation would be conducted by Joint Special Operations Command, the super-secret commando unit headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.

JSOC is the military's chief terrorists hunting squad and has units now operating in Afghanistan on Pakistan's western border. But a secondary mission is to secure foreign nuclear arsenals -- a role for which JSOC operatives have trained in Nevada.

The mission has taken on added importance in recent months, as Islamic extremists have taken territory close to the capital of Islamabad and could destabilize Pakistan's shaky democracy.

"We have plans to secure them ourselves if things get out of hand," said a U.S. intelligence source who has deployed to Afghanistan. "That is a big secondary mission for JSOC in Afghanistan."

The source said JSOC has been updating its mission plan for the day President Obama gives the order to infiltrate Pakistan.

"Small units could seize them, disable them and then centralize them in a secure location," the source said.

A secret Defense Intelligence Agency document first disclosed in 2004 said Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal of 35 weapons. The document said it plans to more than double the arsenal by 2020.

A Pakistani official said the U.S. and his country have had an understanding that if either Usama bin Laden, or his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, is located, American troops and air strikes may be used inside borders to capture or kill them.

What makes the Pakistan mission especially difficult is that the military has its missiles on Soviet-style mobile launchers and rail lines. U.S. intelligence agencies, using satellite photos and communication intercepts, is constantly monitoring their whereabouts. Other warheads are kept in storage. U.S. technical experts have visited Pakistan to advise the government on how to maintain and protect its arsenal.

Also, there are rogue elements inside Pakistan's military and intelligence service who could quickly side with the extremists and make JSOC's mission all the more difficult.

"It's relatively easy to track rail-mounted ones with satellites," said the intelligence source. "Truck- mounted are more difficult. However, they are all relatively close to the capital in areas that the government firmly controls so we don't have to look too far."

JSOC is made up of three main elements: Army Delta Force, Navy SEALs and a high-tech special intelligence unit known as Task Force Orange. JSOC was instrumental in Iraq in finding and killing Abu Musab Zarqawi, the deadly and most prominent Al Qaeda leader in the Middle East.

There is speculation in the intelligence community that a secondary reason for Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal being named the next commander in Afghanistan is that he headed JSOC in 2006-08 and is read-in on its contingency missions in Pakistan.

Adm. Michael Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, this month said that based on the information he has seen Pakistan's nuclear warheads are safe.

"I remain comfortable that the nuclear weapons in Pakistan are secure, that the Pakistani leadership and in particular the military is very focused on this," he said. "We the United States have invested fairly significantly over the last three years, to work with them, to improve that security. And we're satisfied, very satisfied with that progress. We will continue to do that. And we all recognize obviously the worst downside of -- with respect to Pakistan is that those nuclear weapons come under the control of terrorists. "

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B.  Iran

ElBaradei Urges Iran to Engage with U.S.
Paul Carrel
(for personal use only)

Iran should engage with the United States and negotiate over its nuclear programme, Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a magazine interview released on Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama is actively seeking to engage Iran on a series of issues, from its nuclear programme to Afghanistan.

"I advise my Iranian negotiating partners: grasp the hand that Obama is extending to you," ElBaradei told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.

Asked what he meant exactly, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog added: "I think Freeze for Freeze is the next realistic step. The Iranians would install no more centrifuges, the West would forego further sanction measures. During this time, there would be intensive negotiations."

He was referring to the thousands of centrifuges Iran has installed, and is adding to, in order to enrich uranium.

Enriched uranium can be used in nuclear reactors or, if purified to a much higher degree, in an atomic bomb, although Iran denies it has any such intention.

The United Nations Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt enrichment. Obama's administration has made clear that any overtures to Iran will be accompanied by ramped up sanctions if there is no cooperation.

It would be crazy for Israel to bomb Iran, ElBaradei added.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said earlier this month other options remained open if U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran failed to halt its nuclear programme. Peres did not say what the other options might be but they are generally understood to include military action.

"It would be completely insane to attack Iran," ElBaradei said. "That would turn the region into one big fireball, and the Iranians would immediately start building the bomb -- and they could count on the support of the entire Islamic world."

Separately, Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in a speech that Israel would not, in his opinion, take action against Iran without coordinating with the United States.

"But we expect coordination on the part of the Americans with us," Ayalon added. "Iran, which has yet to cross the point of no return, can be stopped through diplomatic effort."

"Iran is a very weak country," he said. "They would not withstand real sanctions. Their banks and shipping companies are vulnerable. If the world would just handle them in a tough manner, imposing sanctions, then maybe we would not need military action."

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Envoy: Russia Striving to Launch Bushehr N. Plant by Year End
Fars News Agency
(for personal use only)

"Russia has dispatched two times more forces than it has undertaken in a bid to accomplish construction of the plant, and they are making their utmost efforts to do this by the end of this year," Sajjadi told FNA.

He reminded that during the visit by Head of Russia's state nuclear corporation (Rosatom) Sergei Kiriyenko to Iran, the two sides had specified the end of 2009, and not the end of this summer, as the date for finishing the project.

Bushehr power plant started its pre-commissioning stage in the presence of Iranian and Russian nuclear experts in February and Kiriyenko, after touring Iran's first nuclear power plant then, said that it is time to put the plant into operation.

The Iranian ambassador further pointed to two points as the main issues regarding the plant's operation, and added, "The first was Russian determination to finish the power plant under any circumstances, and bringing the fuel into Iran was the second issue."

"Right now both issues have been materialized and, as experts believe, the project will be complete with a one or two-month margin of error," Sajjadi noted.

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C.  Israel

Arab League: Israel's Nuclear Program More Worrying than Iran
Avi Issacharoff
(for personal use only)

Arab League Chief Amr Moussa on Sunday urged U.S. President Barack Obama to raise Israel's ambiguous nuclear program onto the agenda for discussion, rather than focusing on Iran's contentious uranium enrichment.

According to Moussa, Israel's ambiguous nuclear policy posed more concern for Arab leaders than the program now underway in Iran.

The Arab League announced during a summit in March that member states would walk away from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty if Israel ever officially acknowledges it has nuclear weapons.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller earlier this month called on Israel to join the NPT, a global pact meant to limit the spread of atomic weapons. Gottemoeller urged India, Pakistan and North Korea to sign the pact as well.

Gottemoeller declined to say whether Washington would take any new steps to press Israel to join the treaty and give up any nuclear weapons it has. Israel neither confirms nor denies whether it has what arms control experts assume to be a sizable atomic arsenal.

The remarks surprised Jerusalem officials, one of whom brushed off the NPT as having "failed to prevent any country that wanted to from obtaining nuclear weapons."

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IAEA Chief Says Israeli Strike on Iran Would Be 'Insane'
(for personal use only)

The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei called any possible Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities an "insane" move, in an interview with a German magazine.

"Attacking Iran would be insane," ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told Der Spiegel in an interview to appear Monday.

"This would trigger an explosion across the whole region and the Iranians would immediately start to construct a (nuclear) bomb and would be assured the support of the entire Muslim world," he said.

The comments from ElBaradei, who is due to step down as IAEA chief in November, come amid public radio reports that leaders of the new Israeli government had given undertakings to that effect to Central Intelligence Agency chief Leon Panetta during a secret visit two weeks ago.

Hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took a strong line on Iran's nuclear programme during the campaign for February's parliamentary election and has described the Islamic republic as an "existential threat" to the Jewish state.

But Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Saturday that Israel would not launch an attack without advance approval from the United States.

"We need the Americans as much from a logistic point of view as for our own defence on the international level after any such strike," the Y-Net news website quoted him as saying.

Israel, widely considered to be the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear programme is purely to produce energy for a rapidly growing population once fossil fuels run out.

Israel considers the Islamic Republic to be its main enemy due to numerous statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Jewish state should be "wiped off the map."

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D.  India

Some More Steps from India Needed to Implement N-deal: Blake
The Economic Times
(for personal use only)

India needs to take a "couple of steps" to fully implement the landmark Indo-US civil nuclear deal which has changed the architecture of the global non-proliferation regime, a top American diplomat has said.

"It (nuclear deal) is going very well ... There is still a couple of steps that the Indians have to take to fully implement that agreement," Ambassador Robert Blake, President Barack Obama's nominee for the post of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said.

His remarks came in response to a question at his confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Blake, who was till recently US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, said that first of all India has to bring the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement into force.

Then they also have to file with the IAEA a declaration of their nuclear facilities, he informed the Senators, who wanted to know the latest status of the historic nuclear deal, which consumed much of the time of the Congress in the last couple of years.

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E.  Nuclear Energy

Korean Labs Win Deal to Treat Fusion Reactor Waste
The Korea Herald
(for personal use only)

South Korean laboratories have secured a deal to draw up plans for optimal radioactive treatment and waste storage for an experimental fusion reactor being built in France, the government said Monday.

The 274,500 euro ($368,800) technical consultation contract calls for detailed studies to be conducted on how best to collect and assort waste and determine the safest way to move such waste from the reactor to special holding areas, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said.

Korea Power Engineering Co. and Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute won the deal from the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) authorities and will be tasked with determining the cost of disposal, including packaging of contaminated materials, and the best way to treat both solid and liquid waste. Such materials must be stored for up to 20 years in so-called hot cell buildings.

ITER uses naturally abundant tritium and deuterium to release helium and neutron particles that effectively allow the creation of an artificial sun on Earth. Such a system could possible provide a limitless supply of energy, according to Yonhap News.

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France Offers Pakistan Nuclear Energy
(for personal use only)

France and Pakistan have agreed to cooperate in the nuclear field, officials said Friday, with Islamabad claiming an important breakthrough in its bid to be seen as a responsible nuclear power.

Following talks between France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, the French leader's office said he had offered to help Pakistan improve its "nuclear safety" capability.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi went further, saying France had agreed to a transfer of civilian nuclear energy technology, despite international concerns over the stability of Pakistan's government.

Sarkozy's office would not comment on Qureshi's statements, and any such deal -- while a diplomatic coup for Zardari -- would need the agreement of other nuclear powers and the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

France is a major exporter of nuclear technology, and in February agreed to supply Pakistan's rival India with between two and six modern reactors.

"France has agreed to transfer civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan," Qureshi told reporters, explaining that Pakistan was suffering an "energy crisis" and needed nuclear power to guarantee its electricity supply.

In addition to maintaining a small arsenal of nuclear armed missiles, Pakistan has a civilian nuclear energy programme developed with Chinese aid, with one working power station and another under construction.

A spokesman for the French presidency said Sarkozy had "confirmed France was ready, within the framework of its international agreements, to cooperate with Pakistan in the field of nuclear safety."

"This is so the Pakistani programme can develop in the best conditions of safety and security," he added.

Among Western powers, Islamabad has been treated as a nuclear pariah since 2004, when Pakistani weapons scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan admitted that he had illegally shared technology with Libya, Iran and North Korea.

And with Taliban rebels fighting increasingly fierce battles with security forces barely 100 kilometres (62 miles) outside the Pakistani capital, fears have been raised that nuclear arms could fall into Islamist hands.

Qureshi hailed the French offer as an important sign of his government's credibility.

"That is a significant development, and we have agreed that Pakistan should be treated like India. President Sarkozy said, and I quote him, 'What can be done for India, can be done for Pakistan as well.'," he said.

Neither India nor Pakistan, which both maintain nuclear missile arsenals, have signed the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and foreign powers were therefore forbidden from sharing technology with them.

India, however, negotiated bilateral nuclear agreements with the United States, Russia and France, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has now allowed Delhi in from the nuclear cold.

Now Pakistan wants to follow suit.

"Pakistan has no issues with the IAEA ... Pakistan will give all necessary international guarantees," Qureshi insisted.

"The world recognises the steps Pakistan has taken to assure and protect its nuclear assets. Everyone who matters is confident about our arrangements, the three-layer security system that we have put in place."

Asked when French shipments might begin, he said: "Today, in principle, the two countries agreed that there is a necessity that has to be fulfilled. In principle they've agreed, and now the modalities will be worked out."

Earlier, Zardari came away from the talks with a promise of 12 million euros (16.2 million dollars) in French aid for civilian refugees fleeing fighting between the army and Taliban rebels.

"There may be concern always everywhere, but there is support and there is confidence in the world that democracy has always delivered," said Zardari, who was elected last year after the military ceded power.

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F.  Non-Proliferation

Nuke Conference Fallout
International Security Network
(for personal use only)

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) member states ended the last preparatory meeting (PrepCom) for the 2010 treaty review conference (RevCon) last week with few signs of significant progress.

Perhaps the most important development was an apparent shift in the US position on the atomic programs of allied non-NPT states with nuclear weapons capacities.

US Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, speaking at the meeting, said that, "Universal adherence to the NPT itself […] remains a fundamental objective of the United States."

Israel's signing on to the NPT would require the declaration and destruction of the thinly veiled Israeli nuclear arsenal, thought to number up to 200 warheads.

The US has always sought to shield the Israeli program from scrutiny, and the apparent change in Washington's stance was met with considerable consternation in Israel.

There appears a danger here of a complete misreading of the strategic implications of an Israeli revelation of its nuclear weapons capacity.

US regional allies have long called for Israeli WMD disarmament, but understand that this is implausible in light of the perceived Iranian nuclear threat, to which they themselves are seeking to respond. Indeed, in an unofficial joint statement in March 2008, Arab League foreign ministers reportedly warned Israel not to end ambiguity, threatening a walkout from the NPT.

ISN Security Watch has not been able to confirm the veracity of the latter statement; but, if true, it constitutes a shot across the bows of the Israelis that the Obama administration either missed or chose to ignore.

Efforts to promote Israeli, Indian, North Korean and Pakistani nuclear weapons disarmament are best conducted as an integral part of wider talks on issues of war and peace and bilateral and multilateral relations and incorporated within a broader discourse on graduated WMD disarmament.

The US, EU and Russia will be hard-pressed in 2010 to secure gains on their concerns regarding the control and security of nuclear fuel supplies and technology transfers - especially with the Non-Aligned Movement states bracing for a conflict on these issues as they look to secure their treaty rights to untrammeled civil nuclear development.

The IAEA announced at PrepCom that it had reached its funding target for a low enriched uranium fuel bank intended for use by prospective nuclear states. The bank would be a significant step in efforts to prevent new nuclear states from pursuing fuel cycle activities of potential relevance to covert weapons development.

Embarrassingly for Egypt, which is pursuing an energy reactor program, its opposition at PrepCom to extending NPT security measures came amid revelations that both high and low enriched uranium traces had been found at its Inshas research reactor facility - indicating small-scale, unreported fuel cycle work.

The NPT is supposed to, but fails to, provide a safety net guaranteeing that civil nuclear programs will not be used as the jumping-off point for weaponization, relying too much on the goodwill of member states and a limited IAEA inspections regime.

The bolstering of the NPT's non-proliferation mechanisms and eventual universality is crucial to easing the profound threat of nuclear war and accidents to regional and global security and the environment.

However, under the cloud of the Iranian crisis and non-signatory weapons development, the prospects for genuine progress towards an effective non-proliferation regime appear slim to nil.

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IAEA Chief Warns Of Possible New Wave Of Nuclear Proliferation
(for personal use only)

The outgoing head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog has warned that 10-20 countries could soon develop the capacity to build nuclear weapons.

In an interview with Britain's "The Guardian" newspaper, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Muhammad el-Baradei suggested that the current international regime for limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), is in danger of falling apart.

El-Baradei said the number of potential nuclear weapons states could more than double in a few years unless major powers take radical steps toward disarmament.

The IAEA chief described an emerging scenario of "virtual nuclear" countries that could develop the means and know-how to build a nuclear weapon, but still comply with the NPT by holding back on actually building weapons. He said that would create a situation where the world has many states that would be able to build nuclear weapons in just a few months time if they eventually chose to do so.

El-Baradei also told "The Guardian" that the threat of nuclear proliferation is particularly serious in the Middle East -- a region he described as a "ticking bomb."

The interview comes as the NPT Preparatory Committee completes two weeks of meetings at UN headquarters on how to revise the global nonproliferation treaty.

It also comes as El-Baradei, who has headed the IAEA for more than 11 years, prepares to step down from the post in November.

IAEA member states are now locked in a political battle over who will be el-Baradei's successor. Ultimately, that successor will inherit the role of overseeing the global nuclear-arms-control system.

Revising The NPT

Meanwhile, el-Baradei has called recently for revisions to the NPT. "It is, in my view, an opportune time to review the whole nonproliferation regime, which we brought into force in 1970 with the aim that we have to establish a world free from nuclear weapons," he said in March.

The NPT was created at the height of the Cold War with the goal of preventing countries other than the then five nuclear powers from obtaining the ability to build nuclear weapons. Other pillars of the treaty are nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

But the international accord has been under strain for years with India, Pakistan, and North Korea developing nuclear weapons outside of the NPT -- and with Israel widely believed to be an undeclared nuclear state for the last 40 years.

"There are four clusters, in my view, that we need to work on 37 years after the regime entered into force to ensure that at all times nuclear energy is used exclusively for peaceful purposes and that we ensure that the gaps that might exist for misuse of that technology is plugged," el-Baradei has said.

"The four clusters, in my view, and where we need to work simultaneously [are] nuclear disarmament, verification, physical protection of nuclear materials, and multinational assurance of supply."

Progress Toward Disarmament

As recently as last month, El-Baradei said he was confident that the administrations of U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev were taking positive steps toward reducing their own nuclear-weapons stockpiles.

"On nuclear disarmament, I am quite hopeful that we are entering a new phase with the commitment of President Obama and President Medvedev to slash drastically the existing stockpile, with a commitment to move toward a comprehensive test-ban treaty, a treaty that prohibits the production of nuclear material for military purposes, for redeployment of existing nuclear weapons, and move away from the Cold War deployment status," he said.

"All these steps are absolutely urgently needed to create a new environment where we cease to continue to rely on nuclear weapons for our security and create an environment -- a security system -- that does not rely on nuclear weapons," he stressed. "That is not something that is going to happen overnight. But we need to start. And we need to start now."

The head of the U.S. delegation to the NPT Preparatory Committee, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, told reporters at the start of the meetings that the Obama administration is strongly committed to the reduction of nuclear weapons stockpiles.

But Gottemoeller said that phasing out the production of nuclear weapons altogether cannot be done overnight, and needs to be done "in a very balanced way that ensure the effective, safe, secure, and reliable U.S. stockpile as long as nuclear weapons exist."

Political observers have criticized the previous U.S. administration of George W. Bush for causing NPT meetings to degenerate into a forum of accusations against Iran and North Korea. Some of those same critics now say the Obama administration appears to be genuinely working toward disarmament.

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G.  Links of Interest

Could Taliban Get Keys to Pakistan's A-bomb?
Ben Arnoldy
Christian Science Monitor
(for personal use only)

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How Real is the Pakistan Nuclear Risk?
Andrew Marshall
(for personal use only)

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Seven Reasons Why Obama's Nuke-Free Utopia Won't Work
Thomas P.M. Barnett
(for personal use only)

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