1. Iran Nuclear Arms Worst Threat to Security: Gates
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Iran's nuclear ambitions are the greatest current threat to global security, according to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"Iran is the one that concerns me the most because there don't seem to be good options (or a scenario) where one can have any optimism that good options will be found," Gates told the Economic Club of Chicago.
The threat rests not only in Iran's apparent determination to seek a nuclear weapon, but in the "inability of the international community to affect their determination to do that," Gates said.
"All of the outcomes are negative," he said. "If they achieve one, the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is very, very real.
"If something is done to prevent them from getting one, the consequences of that are completely unpredictable and frankly, very bad."
Gates says he has struggled to convince other nations, particularly Russia, that the Iranian situation does not simply threaten the United States.
"Iran's going to have the capability to deliver nuclear weapons to the people in their region a lot sooner than they're going to have the capability to deliver them to us," he added.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hPAYsDgy1J8TiUOq7AAXnu1CPJDw
The long-serving head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, has resigned, Iranian media and officials have said. The nuclear chief had submitted a letter of resignation to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad nearly three weeks ago, the Isna news agency said.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the resignation. Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian power, denying Western claims that it wants a nuclear bomb. Aghazadeh also stepped down as the country’s vice-president, Isna reported. The agency said it had spoken to Aghazadeh, who gave no explanation for his move but told them that Ahmadinejad had accepted the resignation.
On Wednesday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran the U.S. will not extend its offer of engagement indefinitely. In a foreign policy speech, Mrs Clinton said Iran must respond to President Barack Obama’s overtures now. If not, Iran could face more isolation over its nuclear program, she added. She said the U.S. was appalled by the way Iran had quelled post-election protests.
In April Secretary Hillary Clinton had warned that Iran faces “very tough sanctions” if it rejects offers of engagement over its nuclear program. The U.S. was “laying the groundwork” for such measures if Iran rebuffed the offers or the process failed, she told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. At the same time, the U.S. was more than willing to reach out to Iran, she said.
On April 9th, Iran’s president opened the country’s first nuclear fuel production plant, making what correspondents say was a defiant speech. President Ahmadinejad said Iran was open to an offer of fresh talks with world powers, but only if they were based on “justice” and “respect”.
In a speech from Isfahan, Ahmadinejad said Iran had tested two new types of centrifuge with higher capacities at a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. Meanwhile, nuclear chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said Iran has increased the number of centrifuges it is running at the plant to 7,000. In February, Iran said it had 6,000 centrifuges running.
The newly-opened plant in Isfahan will produce pellets of uranium oxide to fuel a heavy-water reactor planned for completion by 2010, the Associated Press reports. This signals Iran has reached the final stage in the nuclear fuel cycle, analysts say.
On April 8th, the six powers co-ordinating policy with Iran over its nuclear ambitions moved to invite the Iranians for fresh talks on a diplomatic solution. The U.S., Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain announced they would ask EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to approach Iran with the offer. In a joint statement, they appealed to Iran to “engage seriously… in a spirit of mutual respect”.
In March President Barack Obama offered “a new beginning” of engagement with Tehran in an unprecedented direct video message to the Iranian people. “My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us,” Mr Obama said. Mr Obama’s message was released to coincide with the festival of Nowruz, when Iranians mark the arrival of spring. In it, President Obama said he wanted “to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran”. He said his administration was committed “to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community”.
An advisor to Iran’s president welcomed Mr Obama’s message but said Washington had to fundamentally change policy. Relations between Iran and the U.S. have been strained over Tehran’s controversial nuclear activities. Washington fears Iran’s uranium enrichment program is a cover to build atomic weapons, a charge Iranian officials deny.
In February Iranian and Russian nuclear officials began a test run of Iran’s first nuclear power plant. The test involves dummy rods that imitate the enriched uranium needed to run the Russian-built plant at Bushehr. The test further increased fears in the West about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. An Iranian official told journalists at Bushehr that Iran had increased the number of its centrifuges enriching uranium at another site to 6,000.
The reactor was first started by a German company under the Shah in 1975, but revolution and war stalled work there until the Russians took it on in 1995. Operations of the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor have been long delayed, though it is expected to start generating power later this year.
Iran is currently defying Security Council resolutions ordering it to suspend the enrichment of uranium. It says it is simply doing what it is allowed to do under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The country has pledged not to break its obligations under the NPT and will not use the technology to make nuclear weapons.
However, the Iranian authorities hid their uranium enrichment program for 18 years, and the Security Council says they should stop enrichment and certain other nuclear activities until their peaceful intentions can be fully established.
On July 8th, 2008 the U.S. imposed new financial sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies suspected of involvement in the country’s nuclear program. A senior defense ministry scientist and several companies thought to be linked to Iran’s arms industry were among those placed on the restricted list. The move will ban American companies from trading with those on the list, who will also have their U.S. assets frozen.
It came as G8 leaders called for Iran to halt uranium enrichment work. Western leaders have been attempting to convince Tehran to stop enriching uranium, which it has continued despite the imposition of sanctions by the UN and the European Union. Iran denies Western assertions that it is developing nuclear weapons and insists its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.
In April, the IAEA said it believed Iran is still withholding information on its nuclear program. In a report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Tehran’s alleged weapons development studies remain a matter of serious concern. It adds that Iran is operating 3,500 centrifuges, the machines used to enrich uranium, at its plant at Natanz. Enriched uranium can be used in nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
On March 3rd, 2008 the UN Security Council voted in favor of new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Fourteen of the council’s fifteen members voted in favor of measures including asset freezes and travel bans for Iranian officials. Indonesia abstained.
This third sanctions resolution adds to resolutions adopted in 2006 and 2007. It calls for the foreign assets of 13 Iranian companies to be frozen, and imposes travel bans on five Iranian officials. It imposes a ban on the sale to Iran of so-called dual-use items – which can have either a military or civilian purpose.
The five permanent, veto-wielding members of the council – the United States, France, Britain, China, and Russia – all supported the resolution. The non-permanent members – none of whom possesses the power of veto – all backed it, except Indonesia, which abstained, saying it remained to be convinced of the necessity of the sanctions.
In a statement before the vote, Iran’s envoy to the UN, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, described the resolution as politically motivated, illegal, and illegitimate. He insisted Iran’s nuclear program “has been, is, and will remain, absolutely peaceful”.
President Bush said in December 2007 that Iran should reveal the full extent of its nuclear program, or risk further international isolation. The National Intelligence Estimate released on Dec. 3rd said that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. But Mr Bush said Iran still had “more to explain” about its past actions, and that it must cease uranium enrichment.
He said Iran had yet to acknowledge that it had a covert nuclear weapons program which ran until 2003 – as stated by December’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The report said Iran was keeping its options open, continuing to enrich uranium, which could be used for nuclear weapons in the future. President Ahmadinejad described the NIE on Tehran’s nuclear program as a “great victory”. He said in a televised speech that the report had been a “fatal blow” to those who had filled the world for several years with threats, stress and anxiety.
President Ahmadinejad declared in September 2007 that Iran has met a key target for its nuclear program and now has 3,000 centrifuges enriching uranium and that his country would continue its drive in spite of UN sanctions. Enriched uranium can be used for power stations but also for nuclear bombs. Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear reactors but can also be made into nuclear weapons material. The West has accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies. The United States and Israel have not ruled out the possibility of using military force against Iran if it does not scrap its uranium-enrichment program. But the US favors diplomatic methods, with what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called “disincentives for Iran to continue its activities”.
Iran’s nuclear program
Iran is trying to develop the technology of enriching uranium. This process involves converting uranium ore into a gas. The gas is then spun through centrifuges to separate the richer parts that can be used as fuel in a nuclear power station.
Western countries are concerned because this technology can also be used to get an even higher level of enrichment, and this highly enriched uranium can be used in the development of a nuclear bomb.
Iran hid important parts of its nuclear program for many years. In December 2002 satellite photography confirmed the existence of sites at Natanz (uranium enrichment plant) and Arak (heavy water plant). The United States accuses Tehran of “across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.” Iran denies that, but it agreed to inspections by the IAEA.
The UN Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend its enrichment activities while talks take place about its long-term plans.
Is Iran trying to build a nuclear weapon?
Iran says it is not. It says it is simply exercising its right under an international treaty on nuclear weapons known as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT bans Iran from developing a nuclear bomb but does allow the country to develop civilian nuclear power. That includes developing nuclear fuel needed to power nuclear stations.
However, traces of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium were found at the Natanz enrichment facility in 2003 and the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Tehran has not “provided the necessary transparency to remove uncertainties associated with some of its activities.” The IAEA said Iran granted access to nuclear facilities but did not provide all the requested information. Inspectors were unable to “confirm the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Timeline of Nuclear Crisis since 2006
Jan 10, 2006: Iran removes UN seals at Natanz plant and resumes nuclear fuel research.
Feb 4, 2006: IAEA votes to report Iran to UN Security Council. Iran ends snap UN nuclear inspections the next day. Ten days later Iran restarts small-scale feeding of uranium gas into centrifuges at Natanz after a 2-1/2-year suspension.
Apr 28, 2006: IAEA report submitted to Security Council confirms Iran has disregarded UN demands to suspend enrichment.
Jul 31, 2006: Security Council demands Iran suspend its nuclear activities by Aug 31st. In a resolution, council makes legally binding demands on Iran and threatens sanctions.
Aug 26, 2006: Iran launches new phase in Arak heavy-water reactor project.
Aug 31, 2006: IAEA announces Iran has not met deadline to suspend its atomic fuel program and has resumed enriching small amounts of uranium.
Oct 6, 2006: Six world powers say they have agreed to discuss sanctions to punish Tehran for failing to halt uranium enrichment but are still open to negotiations.
Nov 14, 2006: A confidential IAEA report says that Iran is pushing ahead with uranium enrichment and still stonewalling agency investigations despite the risk of UN sanctions.
Dec 23, 2006: UN security council adopts sanctions against Iran, passed unanimously, which ban the supply of nuclear materials
Mar 24, 2007: UN security council widens sanctions against Iran, with new resolution.
Apr 9, 2007: Iran says it has “joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.”
May 23, 2007: IAEA report says Iran is continuing to defy UN demands to stop enriching uranium.
Dec 3, 2007: National Intelligence Estimate suggests that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003
Jan 22, 2008: Permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany agree new draft resolution of fresh sanctions against Iran
Mar 3, 2008: UN Security Council adopts a third round of sanctions against Iran
Bushehr – nuclear power station Iran’s nuclear program began in 1974 with plans to build a nuclear power station at Bushehr with German assistance. The project was abandoned because of the Islamic revolution five years later. It was revived in 1992 when Tehran signed an agreement with Russia to resume work at the site. There are two pressurized water reactors at the site – one reportedly near completion.
Isfahan – uranium conversion plant
Iran is building a plant here to convert uranium ore into three forms: • Hexafluoride gas – used in gas centrifuges • Uranium oxide – used to fuel reactors, but not the type Iran is constructing • Metal – often used in the core of nuclear bombs. The IAEA is concerned about the metal’s use, as Iran’s reactors do not require it as fuel.
Natanz – uranium enrichment plant Iran suspended work on an uranium enrichment plant at Natanz in 2003 – but has recently reopened the facility. In 2003, a leaked IAEA report said that weapons-grade uranium had been found in samples taken from the site, although Iran blamed contaminated imported equipment, and an independent report later confirmed this. According to some estimates, when complete, Natanz could house some 50,000 advanced gas centrifuges, which would produce enough weapons-grade uranium to produce more than 20 weapons per year. Other estimates suggest the plant will have a total of 5,000 centrifuges when initial stages of the project are completed. With that number, Iran would be able to produce sufficient enriched uranium to make a small number of nuclear weapons each year.
Arak – heavy water plant The apparent existence of a heavy water facility near the town of Arak first emerged with the publication of satellite images by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security in December 2002. Heavy water is used to moderate the nuclear fission chain reaction either in a certain type of reactor – albeit not the type that Iran is currently building – or to produce plutonium for use in a nuclear bomb.
Available at: http://www.theworld.org/2009/07/16/nuclear-standoff-with-iran/
3. U.S. Says Offer to Talk with Iran is Not Open-Ended
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that Iran's intentions were unclear following last month's election and that the U.S. offer of talks with Tehran over its nuclear program was not open-ended.
The top U.S. diplomat deplored Iran's "repressive" actions against protesters after the election and said neither she nor President Barack Obama were under any illusions that talks with Tehran would guarantee success.
"We have made it clear that there is a choice for the Iranian government to make and we will wait to see how they decide," she said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.
"The prospects have certainly shifted in the weeks following the election," said Clinton. "We have made it very clear this is not open-ended. This is not a door that stays open no matter what happens," she added.
Clinton's speech, on the eve of a trip to India and Thailand, was aimed at raising her public profile while outlining policy priorities that include talking to enemies such as Iran.
Recovering from elbow surgery after a fall last month, Clinton has been largely out of the limelight in recent weeks, cancelling planned travel to Europe and leaving much of the diplomacy to her deputies and special envoys.
The former Bush administration refused to engage Iran directly until it had met certain preconditions, including suspending uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear power plants or atomic weapons.
But Obama, who took over in January, says that approach failed and Clinton said it was a mistake.
"We know that refusing to deal with the Islamic Republic has not succeeded in altering the Iranian march towards a nuclear weapon, reducing Iranian support for terror, or improving Iran's treatment of its citizens," said Clinton.
NO RESPONSE YET
Despite the policy shift, Iran has not responded to Obama's overtures and those from other countries seeking to persuade Tehran to give up sensitive nuclear work the West believes is aimed at building a bomb and Iran says is to generate power.
Clinton said the United States watched last month's election in Iran with great admiration but was "appalled" by the way the government crushed demonstrations by people who disputed the result.
Obama said last week Iran had until September -- the time of the annual U.N. General Assembly -- to accept negotiations over its nuclear ambitions or face the consequences.
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy was more pointed, saying Iran risked tougher sanctions if it did not agree to talks. However, China and Russia -- permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- could resist more punitive steps.
Diplomats suspect Iran is buying time by stalling over getting into any substantive talks. Iran's foreign minister said last weekend that Tehran was preparing a new package of "political, security and international" issues to put to the West but offered no details.
Outlining other foreign policy priorities, Clinton said the international agenda was "unforgiving", with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and conflict in the Middle East, as well as the threat of violent extremism and nuclear proliferation.
Clinton said she planned to visit Pakistan in the autumn, saying the U.S. goal of defeating al Qaeda and its Taliban allies required working with Pakistan.
She reiterated the U.S. willingness to deal with members of the Taliban who renounced al Qaeda, laid down their arms and were willing to participate in a democratic Afghanistan.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE56E4S120090715?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=11595
The European Union said Wednesday that Iran has a few months, at best, to find a diplomatic resolution with the international community over its contested nuclear program.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU presidency, said the international community faces "difficult choices in the next ... weeks or months, but not very much longer than that" to force Iran to improve relations by backing off its nuclear program.
His comment to the European Parliament was the EU's first mention of a rough deadline for additional sanctions against Iran, putting the Europeans in synch with Washington.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said "the time for action (by Iran) is now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely."
Last week, President Barack Obama gave Tehran until September to show progress on scaling back its nuclear ambitions.
The nuclear negotiations with Tehran had stalled even before the Iranian government's crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators in the wake of the June 12 election there. Bildt said the repression and violence of recent weeks have greatly complicated relations with Tehran.
Iran is suspected of pursuing nuclear arms technology by enriching uranium. Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes.
The EU is weighing other sanctions — such as withdrawing EU envoys — against the risk of spoiling chances of making headway diplomatically on the disputed nuclear program.
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090715/ap_on_re_eu/eu_eu_iran_1
North Korea's second-in-command has said that his country will not resume six-party nuclear disarmament talks that have been stalled since April, because no one respects its sovereignty.
Speaking at the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Egypt on Wednesday, Kim Yong-nam criticised the US for its "hostile actions" and blamed it for pushing Washington and Pyongyang towards a "serious confrontation".
"For us there can be no dialogue, nor any negotiations where the principles of respect for sovereign rights and equality are denied," Kim said at the summit of 118 nations at the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.
North Korea quit talks aimed at disarming its nuclear weapons programme in April in anger over a UN rebuke of its launch of a long-range rocket.
Tensions in the region remain high as the North continues to defy international calls to dismantle its nuclear programme.
Kim's remarks came as the UN Security Council moved closer to finalising a list of North Korean firms and individuals for addition to a sanctions blacklist for involvement in the country's nuclear and missile programmes.
Following Pyongyang's nuclear test on May 25, the 15-member council imposed sanctions on the North, banning all weapons shipments except small arms, and authorising cargo inspections.
It has since been discussing a list of entities, goods and individuals to be subject to the sanctions.
"Unlike before, the list they are working on will include North Korean individuals this time," a Seoul government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "You may say sanctions are toughening."
Previous sanctions did not target individuals, but companies whose overseas assets were frozen.
The measure would prohibit companies and nations around the world from doing business with the listed firms and require them to freeze assets and impose travel bans on named individuals.
US officials meanwhile said they are succeeding in increasing international awareness on methods they say North Korea uses to disguise its trade in illicit weapons as legal business transactions.
A US team is travelling to key world capitals to warn governments and banks that North Korean practices make it "virtually impossible to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate business", an unnamed official said in Washington.
The official added that firms and governments in China, Hong Kong and other places with business ties with North Korea were taking seriously the US warnings about Pyongyang's use of front companies and unusually large cash transactions.
Arms sales are a vital source of foreign currency for the impoverished North which has a broken economy that produces few other items for export.
The US-based Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis estimates that the North earns some $1.5bn a year from missile sales alone, while other studies say the figure may be in the hundreds of millions which prior sanctions have cut into.
"We're confident of an outcome which will be commensurate with [North Korea] actions and will be effective and will significantly improve the [sanctions] regime," said a Western diplomat, requesting anonymity.
Available at: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2009/07/20097163424874329.html
2. UN Panel Issues New Sanctions Against North Korea
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A U.N. Security Council panel imposed new sanctions Thursday against North Korean officials and companies aimed at curbing the nation's nuclear defiance.
The panel named five people and five companies subject to travel bans and a freeze on financial assets. It also designated two types of materials used in ballistic missile parts — certain types of graphite and para-aramid fiber — that nations must refrain from supplying to North Korea.
The designations need no further approval and are effective immediately.
U.S. officials expressed satisfaction with the list, which required approval by the 15-nation council's sanctions panel. China, North Korea's biggest ally and trading partner, went along with most of the U.S. recommendations.
"It is of course significant that we have also put individuals on the list, as this is the first time. This shows that the sanctions are going on a higher level at this moment," said Fazli Corman, Turkey's deputy U.N. ambassador, who chairs the panel.
Sanctions were approved against the General Bureau of Atomic Energy in Pyongyang, the chief agency directing the North's nuclear program. That includes the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center and its plutonium production research reactor, as well as its fuel fabrication and reprocessing facilities.
Also named were three Pyongyang-based companies — Namchongang Trading Corp., Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp., and Korean Tangun Trading Corp. — and one Iranian-based company, Hong Kong Electronics.
The five people named were Yun Ho-Jin, director of Namchongang Trading Corp.; Ri Je-Son, director of the General Bureau of Atomic Energy; Hwang Sok-Hwa, chief of the bureau's scientific guidance; Ri Hong-Sop, former director of Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center; and Han Yu-Ro, director of Korea Ryongaksan General Trading Corp.
The panel banned nations from selling North Korea two types of goods used in ballistic missile parts: graphite designed or specified for use in electrical discharge machining; and para-aramid fiber, filament and tape, which is a Kevlar-like material.
British Ambassador John Sawers said the panel's unanimous decision, legally binding on all the U.N.'s 192 member nations, "represents a significant contribution to international action to disrupt and deter" the North's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
The U.S. said it has launched a major effort to ensure that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874 is implemented effectively.
That resolution, which authorized the panel's decisions, was approved June 12 in punishment for the North's underground nuclear test blast on May 25.
Security Council Resolution 1874 called for clamping down on alleged trading of banned arms and weapons-related material and stepped-up inspections of suspect shipments by sea and air.
Earlier this month, the council also condemned and expressed "grave concern" over North Korea's recent firing of seven ballistic missiles on U.S. Independence Day, the reclusive country's biggest display of firepower in three years.
The missile launches, which occurred off the nation's east coast, defied three previous council resolutions and aggravated tensions already high after North Korea's May 25 test blast.
Japan asked all Southeast Asian nations, except junta-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, to enforce the U.N.'s North Korea resolutions. A North Korean ship, the first to be monitored under the June 12 resolution, turned back before reaching port, possibly in Myanmar, with its suspected illicit cargo of weapons.
On Thursday, Japan's ambassador, Yukio Takasu, called the panel's work "a major achievement."
The sanctions panel took longer than the planned 30 days to designate new targets. It said its focus has been on three areas: sensitive dual-use goods, ballistic missile-related items and nuclear-related items.
North Korea has not indicated how it might react to the sanctions panel's latest decisions.
But on June 13, North Korea's Foreign Ministry threatened to take "countermeasures" including accelerating plutonium reprocessing and starting up uranium enrichment, which would give the regime a second way to make atomic bombs.
North Korea has warned that any attempted blockade of its ships would be considered "an act of war" that would draw "a decisive military response." It also has threatened a "thousand-fold" military retaliation against the U.S. and its allies if provoked.
The council panel also said it would continue working "on an expedited basis" to identify more items, materials, equipment, goods and technology subject to sanctions.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hEsgVnrzQLBWYoKAq7AILXj0R22QD99FMRV00
1. NNSA Administrator D’Agostino Testifies on Global Threat Reduction before House Armed Services Committee
National Nuclear Security Administration
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Administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today discussed the Obama Administration’s global nuclear threat reduction initiatives and outlined NNSA’s role in implementing the President’s landmark nuclear security agenda during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.
Following the Joint Statement on Nuclear Cooperation signed by President Obama and Russian President Medvedev last week in Moscow, Administrator D’Agostino outlined NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation strategy and NNSA’s plans for addressing critical nuclear security objectives. NNSA manages the largest nuclear nonproliferation program in the world.
To read Administrator D’Agostino’s opening statement before the House Armed Serviced Committee, click here. For the Administrator’s full written testimony submitted for the record, click here.
The following are excerpts of Administrator D’Agostino’s opening statement:
On President Obama’s Leadership on Nuclear Security: “The President made clear, in his April speech in Prague, in Joint Statements with our Russian partners, and elsewhere, that nuclear weapons remain a fundamental issue facing the international community in the 21st Century. He has stated that the most immediate and extreme threat to global security is the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists. To address this threat, the President has outlined an ambitious strategy to: deal with nuclear arsenals; halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states; and, prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons or the materials needed to build them.”
On the Scientific and Technical Leadership Across the Nuclear Security Enterprise: “While I am speaking today about a separate major component of the NNSA, the nonproliferation component of our national security mission relies upon similar scientific and technical expertise. It is that scientific and technical nuclear expertise, combined with our proven track record of implementing a number of successful programs, both domestic and international, that makes the NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Program a leader in nonproliferation activities, throughout the world. The NNSA nuclear security programs provide an important means to achieve a number of President Obama’s objectives.”
On NNSA’s Work Scope: “Our work scope includes a priority-based assessment of the activities required to address security concerns at specific sites worldwide. NNSA will undertake the following actions to: expand nuclear security cooperation with Russia and other key partners; secure nuclear material at the most vulnerable sites worldwide; remove and eliminate weapons-usable nuclear materials where possible; strengthen international nuclear security standards, practices, and international safeguards; improve international capabilities to detect and intercept smuggling of nuclear materials; and prevent terrorists and proliferators from poaching on the international market in dual-use and nuclear weapons related equipment and technologies.”
On International and Interagency Cooperation: “This NNSA plan of work alone will not accomplish all of the President’s nuclear security objectives. Under the leadership of the White House, we will work closely with the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, and others, in achieving these goals. The Joint Statement on Nuclear Cooperation issued by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in Russia just last week, as well as the March 2010 Global Nuclear Security Summit announced at the G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, likewise will provide a solid foundation for work with our international partners.”
Follow NNSA News on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Available at: http://nnsa.energy.gov/news/2443.htm
1. Clinton Headed to India for Talks on Boosting Strategic Partnership
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in India Friday for a four-day visit. India hopes the visit will demonstrate that the United States remains committed to building on a strategic partnership developed between the two countries under the previous Bush administration. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left Washington for India late Thursday on a trip aimed at advancing an emerging U.S.-Indian strategic partnership that began in 2005 with a nuclear cooperation accord.
Clinton arrives Friday in India's financial hub, Mumbai, where she will attend a memorial service for 166 people killed in last year's terrorist attack in the city. On Sunday, she heads to New Delhi for talks with senior Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton will visit India's financial hub Mumbai before heading to New Delhi on Sunday where she will hold talks with senior Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
She comes at a time when relations between the two countries have leaped forward. The foundations for the India-U.S. strategic partnership were laid during the previous Bush administration, which lifted a three-decade long ban on sale of civil nuclear technology to New Delhi, although India is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
Bharat Karnad, a security expert at New Delhi's Center for Policy Research says India is hoping that the Clinton visit will demonstrate that the Obama administration also intends to strengthen and deepen ties between the two countries.
"This is more of an exploratory trip for both sides," Karnad said. "Both sides are going to sound each other out, see where there is give, where can there be a bit more take, and serious talks and negotiations on a whole range of issues is then going to follow."
In recent months, policy makers and analysts in New Delhi have voiced concerns on several counts. Some worry that the Obama administration's focus on fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan could take some attention away from India.
There are also fears that the Obama administration intends to put more pressure on India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which New Delhi has long resisted.
Bharat Karnad says New Delhi will be seeking reassurance, rather than any new initiatives on such issues, during Clinton's visit.
"They are I think a bit apprehensive….in particular the Obama administration's emphasis on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and trying to get India generally into the non proliferation treaty net," Karnad said. "These are concerns that I think have led to a little bit of worry on the part of Indian policymakers, and [they will want] to find out if U.S. policy remains the same, or if it is not the same, how much it departs from what it was in the time of President George W. Bush."
During the visit, the two sides are expected to finalize two agreements. India is expected to announce that it has set aside two sites for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants, clearing the way for American businesses to get nearly $10 billion in business. The two countries are also scheduled to sign an agreement to ensure that U.S. arms technology sold to India is not leaked to third countries.
Available at: http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-07-16-voa8.cfm
The G-8 line to raise the bar on transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to countries that do not have it seems to be unravelling. In his talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, French president Nicholas Sarkozy has told the Indian side that it will have no bearing on his country’s nuclear trade with New Delhi.
Sources in the government said Mr Sarkozy conveyed to the prime minister that France will not allow G-8 stand on the matter to come in the way of nuclear negotiations with New Delhi. This assurance came during their luncheon meeting in Paris on Tuesday.
The agreement between India and France allows India to reprocess French-origin nuclear fuel on its own. France has exhibited flexibility on the reprocessing issue and has indicated that it is also willing to reprocess fuel on its own territory if India wants.
This development augurs well for India as it comes on the back of Russia's nod to reprocess fuel that it supplies to India. New Delhi is learnt to have already got a commitment from Moscow to this effect.
The support from the two countries is expected to strengthen India's case. India has been maintaining that the G-8 statement does apply to India as there is no ban yet on ENR technologies to India. This is the reason the government has not been overtly worried by the G-8 declaration that was made in Italy last week.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had clarified in Parliament that India has a clean waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and was not "deeply concerned" over the G-8 declaration. He further pointed out that as far as civilian nuclear co-operation is concerned, it is the NSG and International Atomic Energy Agency that were appropriate bodies and not G-8.
The attempt to put curbs on ENR technology for non-NPT members is not a new development. Since 2004, there have been attempts to put curbs on transfer of sensitive nuclear technology and items to non-NPT countries.
Last week was another step in this direction. G-8 countries, led by Obama administration, in a declaration stated they would curb the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) items to non-NPT countries. They vowed that the eight countries, which incidentally includes Russia and France, in the G-8 grouping would implement proposals to strengthen controls on ENR items and technology.
In an attempt to bolster the effort, they asked the NSG to reach a consensus this year on strengthening the mechanism on "transfers of enrichment and reprocessing facilities, equipment and technology." The G-8 statement also noted that the NSG had not reached any consensus on the matter.
The US has been a great mover on this issue and has been pushing the bid to curb ENR technology and items, which was discussed at length in the NSG consultative group meeting in November last year. However, India will soon start negotiations on a reprocessing agreement with the US, which is a requisite for getting the deal off the ground.
Even though the Obama administration is known for its non proliferation activism, all these crucial issues related to reprocessing are on the table for discussion. US secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also on her way to India and the civilian nuclear deal will definitely be on top of the agenda.
Available at: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/PoliticsNation/G-8-wont-stop-French-nuclear-trade-with-India/articleshow/4782356.cms
India has already received natural uranium in the form of pellets from Russia and as yellowcake from Areva of France for use in its safeguarded reactors, according to S.K. Jain, Chairman and Managing Director, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
This is consequent to the Nuclear Suppliers Group relaxing its Guidelines last year to allow its member-countries to have nuclear trade with India. Subsequently, India signed agreements with Russia and France for importing nuclear power reactors and fuel.
Mr. Jain said on Tuesday that India had also received clearance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the fabrication of this imported fuel into fuel rods. The process was now underway at the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC), Hyderabad.
“…I am happy to share with you that I flagged off on Saturday [July 11] the first consignment of fabricated fuel from the NFC for use in the second unit [already under safeguards] of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS),” Mr. Jain said.
The entire initial core of natural uranium fuel for RAPS-2 would be available in August. The reactor, which has a capacity of 200 MWe, would start generating full power in September/October.
If the current fuel fabrication plans of the NFC were achieved, enough fuel would be available for the two new units of RAPS-5 and 6 to be commissioned and they would start operating at full capacity by 2009-end, Mr. Jain said. RAPS-5 and 6 have a capacity of 220 MWe each. Since RAPS-5 and 6 would come under the IAEA safeguards as per India’s Separation Plan, the two reactors would become eligible to receive imported fuel. However, clearance from the IAEA should be obtained before the imported fuel was fed into the two reactors.
Mr. Jain said the NPCIL had “come out of the bad dream” of shortage of natural uranium fuel supply to power its indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs). “The turnaround is taking place and we want to march ahead,” he said.
The supply of indigenous natural uranium fuel had gone up with the mine and mill at Turamdih in Jharkhand adding to the supply from the mill at the nearby Jaduguda. This had led to the PHWRs operating between 60 per cent and 65 per cent capacity factor compared to less than 50 per cent earlier. “I plan to take them to 70 per cent,” Mr. Jain said.
The fourth reactor at Kaiga in Karnataka would reach criticality in six to eight months with the increased flow of indigenous natural uranium.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/2009/07/16/stories/2009071654461800.htm
The Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (Kaeri) has been awarded three contracts to develop technology related to tritium and waste handling at the international project to build a fusion reactor.
The three projects announced by Kaeri are worth in total about 409,000 ($578,000). The first involves research into technology to analyse tritium contained in waste from the fusion reactor. The second project covers the design of a tritium transport container, while the third involves researching methods for the remote handling of wastes.
Iter, a 500 MWt tokamak, is to be built at Cadarache in France as a cooperative project between China, the European Union (EU), India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the USA, with the EU and France contributing half of the 12.8 billion ($18.7 billion) total cost and the other partners putting in 10% each. Work to clear and level the 42 hectare site was completed in April and pre-excavation work for the tokamak building is scheduled for this year. The first concrete for the buildings will be poured in 2010.
Iter is to be built and commissioned by a phased process, with major components of the machine such as the magnets and the vacuum vessel being assembled and tested prior to their progressive installation. The work to produce components and materials for the project is also being carried out internationally: recent contracts have included one with Russia's Kurchatov Institute to supply vacuum vessel ports for the reactor, and another with South Korea's Kiswire Advanced Technology (KAT) for production of niobium-tin (Nb3Sn) wire for Iter's toroidal field magnets.
Iter is scheduled to begin operating with hydrogen in 2018, but operation using deuterium and tritium fuels is not due to begin until 2026.
Available at: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Three_Iter_projects_for_Korea-1607097.html
2. U.K. Calls for Nuclear Deal with Developing Nations
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U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for a “coherent global strategy” to manage the development of civil nuclear power and confront the spread of atomic weapons.
The government aims for its suggestions to feed into international discussions before a nuclear conference called by U.S. President Barack Obama early next year and a review of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in May. It’s calling for new mechanisms to enable developing countries to have civil nuclear programs while renouncing atomic weapons.
“The world needs a renewed global bargain for nuclear energy,” Brown said in an e-mailed statement to Parliament in London today. “We need this to make the world safer, more prosperous, and better able to combat climate change and to secure the energy supply we need.”
Britain and its allies are concerned that Iran and North Korea are developing nuclear weapons, threatening their neighbors and encouraging other countries to seek them too. Brown’s suggestion is aimed at making credible promises by Western powers to reduce the number of arms they own while allowing developing countries to build nuclear power plants.
Russia and the U.S., which hold 95 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, agreed to reduce their stockpiles by a third on July 6. Leaders of the Group of Eight nations discussed further steps at a summit in Italy last week.
“For nuclear weapon states, this bargain means we have a responsibility to show leadership on the question of disarmament and being at the forefront of developing global solutions to allow wider and safe access to civil nuclear power,” Brown wrote.
The U.K. will establish a Nuclear Centre of Excellence to develop techniques for power plants which will prevent civil nuclear material being used for weapons and has offered to share its expertise on nuclear security to help stop nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists, the government said.
The document also calls for increased powers for the International Atomic Energy Agency and for its resources and management to be improved. The U.K. will host a meeting of IAEA donors to discuss funding and staffing.
A uranium “bank” could be created in a non-nuclear state to control access to atomic fuel as part of procedures to widen the access to atomic power, Brown said in testimony to lawmakers today.
Iran has faced down three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions demanding that it bring a halt to uranium enrichment. The U.S. and its allies accuse the regime of seeking a nuclear weapon, while Iran says its program is for peaceful energy use.
“Iran is a test case,” Brown said. “We make the same offer to Iran as to other countries. We will help you gain access to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, but we will do everything we can to prevent weapons proliferation.”
The U.K. is willing to put its 160 warheads on the table as part of non-proliferation negotiations, Brown said, echoing a speech in March when he said the U.K. would as soon as it is “useful.”
“The long term aim of all countries is, on a multilateral basis, that nuclear weapons would no longer be necessary,’ Brown said. “We are not making a unilateral offer.”
Some lawmakers in Brown’s governing Labour Party want to stop replacement of the U.K.’s Trident nuclear-missile submarines, a 70 billion-pound ($114 billion) project for which London-based BAE Systems Plc is the lead contractor.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=akrXFPqn3QKw
A joint resolution to approve the civilian nuclear energy accord between the United States and the UAE has been introduced in both chambers of the US Congress, bringing the UAE closer to becoming the first Arab country to harness atomic energy.
Howard Berman, the chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, introduced the resolution in the House late on Monday, calling the so-called 123 agreement a “model” for civilian nuclear co-operation and touting provisions designed to prevent proliferation in the region.
A matching resolution was introduced in the Senate by John Kerry, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, and Richard Lugar, the committee’s top Republican.
“This proposed agreement contains, for the first time, a binding legal commitment by a foreign country not to enrich uranium or produce plutonium, which can be used either to fuel electricity-generating reactors or nuclear bombs,” Mr Berman said. “It demonstrates that there is another way to a truly peaceful nuclear energy programme.”
The action comes as Congress is reviewing the pact, which was negotiated by the Bush administration and approved by the Obama administration, and as some legislators have expressed concerns about the possibility of nuclear materials and technology ending up in Iran.
The Atomic Energy Act requires Congress to submit a resolution either approving or disapproving of any nuclear sharing agreement, though it does not require that the resolution come to a vote. If Congress takes no action by October 17, the agreement can be entered into force by the president.
The UAE Embassy in Washington said in a statement that it was “grateful” for the support of the House and Senate committees.
Mr Berman and Mr Kerry praised the accord’s strict non-proliferation conditions, which go beyond those required by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and even current US law. The bill includes a “take back” clause that would allow the US to demand the return of all equipment, material and facilities if the UAE violates any provisions.
“Senator Kerry thinks that this agreement with its strict ban on the UAE’s possession of enrichment and reprocessing technology, and its requirement for the UAE to submit to a tough level of international inspections, can provide a strong model for responsible nuclear co-operation with those law abiding countries in a region where nuclear power makes sense as part of the overall energy mix,” said Frederick Jones, the communications director for the Senate foreign relations committee.
But other legislators have raised concerns. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, questioned in a hearing last week whether recent UAE laws designed to strengthen export controls have been adequately implemented. Ms Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who has led opposition to the deal, said approving it was “one line some of us are not prepared to cross”.
“Even if all of the promised reforms were already in place, there simply is no track record to determine if they are in fact adequate to the task – particularly in light of the UAE’s long history of complicity or negligence regarding trade with Iran and other countries of concern,” she said.
Ms Ros-Lehtinen has introduced legislation calling on the White House to certify that the UAE is taking “effective actions” to prevent the transfer of sensitive material to Iran and fully implementing United Nations Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Mr Berman also cited “outstanding questions”, including concerns among some legislators about whether the UAE is doing “everything possible” to prevent Iran from advancing its “illicit nuclear activities”.
Mr Jones, the spokesman for Mr Kerry, likewise said that the Massachusetts senator believes “Congress will need to watch closely to ensure that the UAE continues to enhance its ability to control trade in proliferation-sensitive technologies”.
James McGovern, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts and chairman of the congressional Human Rights Commission, citing “significant human rights concerns”, sent a letter to the House foreign affairs committee last week reminding members of a videotape purporting to show a member of the royal family, Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, abusing a grain trader with whom he had a business dispute. The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department last week said its investigation of the incident continues and that justice would be served “according to the rule of law”.
The UAE’s civilian nuclear programme is not dependent on the US-UAE deal. It has signed similar agreements with other countries, including South Korea, France and the United Kingdom.
Danny Sebright, president of the US-UAE Business Council, which is affiliated with the US Chamber of Commence, praised the joint resolutions approving the US deal.
“Both houses have decided to be proactive and enter a resolution of approval, which is a very positive step,” said Mr Sebright, who estimates the deal will create tens of billions of dollars in commercial opportunities and more than 10,000 US jobs. “It means if this were ever to come to a vote, they will be looking for votes to approve as opposed to votes to disapprove.”
Available at: http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090715/FOREIGN/707149837/-1/OPINION
South Korea's state-run atomic energy research institute has secured contracts to develop technology for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a multinational experimental fusion reactor being built in France.
The three projects won by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) are worth about 410,000 euros (about $573,000), the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Tuesday.
KAERI will also be responsible for researching technology to analyze tritium contained in radioactive waste materials created by the fusion reactor, developing tools to move tritium, and also exploring methods to enable the remote processing of radioactive waste, the ministry said.
Tritium, also known as Hydrogen-3, is a naturally abundant isotope that plays a prominent role in the current technology for nuclear fusion because of the large amount of energy it can produce through carefully controlled reactions with deuterium.
Korea is one of the partners in the ITER project that aims to introduce a full-scale demonstration fusion power plant in the mid 2030s and a commercial version capable of generating at least 1,000 megawatts of electricity in the 2040s. The United States, European Union member states, Japan, Russia, China and India are the other countries involved in the ITER project.
The completion of the plant is expected around 2018, although experiments are to be conducted for the following 20 years or more to check the feasibility of the technology.
``KAERI winning the projects proves that our scientists have come a long way and are ready to contribute more in the advancements of nuclear fusion technology,'' said Moon Hae-ju, an official from the science ministry's science support bureau.
``Developing technologies for transporting tritium, thus creating carrying tools that offer protection from contamination, has a particularly significant meaning. This means that Korea will be deeply involved in the designing, testing and manufacturing of the tools.''
Scientists have been researching ways to create and control the process of nuclear fusion for constructive use.
Nuclear fusion is the process of producing energy from nuclear reactions similar to those that fuel the sun. In a fusion reaction, light atomic nuclei ― the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium ― are squeezed together and heated to an extreme degree, which cause them to fuse to form larger nuclei and release a burst of energy.
Conventional nuclear power plants depend on materials such as uranium or plutonium to create fission to generate energy, but the radioactivity of the resulting fragments is considered a crucial drawback. In a nuclear fusion reaction, however, problems about waste disposal are greatly minimized.
Korea took a significant step last summer when the country's next-generation reactor, the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Reactor (KSTAR), generated plasma inside its inner chamber for the first time.
Available at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/tech/2009/07/133_48462.html
1. Bin Laden Deputy Warns Pakistan the US Wants to Seize its Nuclear Arsenal
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Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has attempted to halt al-Qaida's plunging popularity in Pakistan by exploiting widely held fears that the US is plotting to seize the country's nuclear bombs.
In an audio message released today Zawahiri warned Pakistanis that the US was striving to "break up this nuclear-capable country and transform it into tiny fragments, loyal to and dependent on the neo-crusaders".
"The only hope to save Pakistan from this disastrous fate is jihad," said Zawahiri who, along with Bin Laden, is believed to be sheltering in the tribal belt along the Afghan border. He called on Pakistanis to band together and form a "citadel of Islam" on the subcontinent.
The message echoes a widely believed conspiracy theory in Pakistan that Washington is orchestrating violent chaos so US troops can storm in and disable the country's nuclear arsenal, estimated to number between 60 and 100 warheads.
"Zawahiri has cleverly read the situation and hit a very sensitive point," said Amir Rana, a militancy analyst.
The message comes amid crumbling public support for al-Qaida. A poll conducted in May found that 82% of Pakistanis considered the group posed a "critical threat" to their country, up from 41% in late 2007.
Although the survey was commissioned by a US organisation, WorldPublicOpinion.org, most analysts agree that support for al-Qaida's brand of extremism is sliding in Pakistan.
Many Pakistanis once lauded Bin Laden as a Robin Hood-style figure who defied America. But growing numbers are repulsed by al-Qaida claims of responsibility for suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of people, such as attacks on the Marriott hotel and the Danish embassy in Islamabad last year.
Al-Qaida has also been hit by a swing in public opinion against their local allies and protectors, the Taliban, after a video was broadcast showing a young woman being flogged by a turbaned fighter, and an army operation in the Swat valley and surrounding districts that displaced more than 2 million people, some of whom have started to return home this week. Al-Qaida's room for manoeuvre in Pakistan has also been pinched by US drone attacks that have killed 10 senior militants, according to US officials. That success, however, has been mitigated by hundreds of civilian deaths and a Pakistani backlash.
Analysts agreed that Zawahiri had hit a sensitive spot by mentioning US designs on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
"It's a very subtle move," said Talat Masood, a retired army general and defence analyst. "They are saying, 'The Americans are coming after your nuclear weapons and we can protect them.'"
Such theories were "very pervasive and deep rooted" in Pakistani society and were often fuelled by rightwing commentators in the Urdu-language press and sections of the powerful security establishment, Masood said.
"I've heard senior people saying this, including retired diplomats and generals. It's a cause for concern, because it shows the low levels of trust [between Pakistan and America]," he said.
Rana said the statement would have a limited impact on public opinion, but would "raise the morale of militant groups fighting with the Taliban".
Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/15/al-qaida-pakistan-us-nuclear
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