1. Iran Tells World States to Stop Countering Nuke Drive
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Iran told world powers on Monday they must stop working against its atomic drive and instead adopt a policy of interaction with the Islamic republic to resolve the nuclear crisis.
"It is the right time for the other parties to review their policy. Rather than countering Iran, they should interact with Iran," foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told reporters.
World powers and Israel are at loggerheads with Iran over its nuclear programme which they suspect is aimed at making atomic weapons, a charge consistently denied by Tehran.
Ghashghavi also dismissed threats of additional sanctions on Iran if it fails to abide by international demands to halt uranium enrichment, a process which makes fuel for nuclear plants but can also be diverted to make the core of an atomic bomb.
"Past experience has shown that sanctions are futile. Sanctions will not prevent us from pursuing our legal rights," he said.
US President Barack Obama has given Iran until September to take up an offer by world powers of talks if it freezes uranium enrichment, or face harsher sanctions.
Iran has long insisted that it has a right to nuclear technology as it is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Ghashghavi's remarks come just days after reports that Iran has allowed inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to check on the nuclear reactor at Arak for the first time in a year.
Arak, with its nearly completed 40-megawatt heavy water reactor, is one of most sensitive nuclear sites in Iran, as it could produce plutonium, which Tehran says would be for medical research.
IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei has persistently called for his agency's inspectors to be allowed back into Iran to continue their checks.
ElBaradei will publish his latest report on Iran next week and it will go before the agency's governors in September.
Israel has accused the IAEA of holding back incriminating evidence of what it says is Iran's drive to obtain nuclear weapons, according to an Israeli newspaper.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5geRMpe_Yc65Q4blSLgbqIsmz69zg
Lifting a year-old ban, Iran has allowed U.N. inspectors to visit a nearly completed nuclear reactor and granted them greater monitoring rights at another atomic site, diplomats said yesterday. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors visited the nearly finished Arak heavy-water reactor last week, the diplomats said.
They said Iran also agreed last week to IAEA requests to expand its monitoring of the Natanz uranium-enrichment site, which produces material for nuclear fuel that can be further enriched to provide fissile material for warheads.
The diplomats demanded anonymity because their information was confidential.
The agency had been seeking to install more cameras at the Natanz site 300 miles south of Tehran and more inspections there to keep track of the rapidly expanding enrichment program, which, if modified, can produce the fissile core of warheads.
Iran has shrugged off three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions and rejected talks to entice it to mothball the activity.
A June IAEA report said 5,000 centrifuges were enriching at Natanz - 1,000 more than at the time of the last agency report, issued in February - with 2,000 more ready to start enriching.
A new report due in the next week is expected to confirm that operations continue to expand - along with Iran's potential capacity to produce weapons-grade uranium.
Experts estimate that the 2,200 pounds of low-enriched uranium Iran had accumulated by February already was enough, with further enrichment, to produce weapons-grade material for one nuclear weapon.
Tehran says it has a right to enrich and insists it is not interested in making weapons.
Before lifting the ban on visiting Arak, Tehran had repeatedly refused IAEA inspection requests, despite warnings by the agency that its stance contravened mutual agreements.
Western countries have called on Iran to stop construction of the reactor, fearing it could be used as a second track toward building a warhead. When finished, experts say, Arak could produce enough plutonium for a nuclear weapon each year.
Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, last month said it was working on proposals that may enable renewed talks on "political, security, and international issues."
Available at: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/world_us/20090821_Iranians_lift_veil_on_two_key_nuclear_sites.html
North Korea has announced it will scrap tough border restrictions it had imposed on South Korean travellers, the latest in a series of conciliatory moves after months of hostility.
Pyongyang's diplomats, meanwhile, held talks in the United States; the North also announced it is sending a high-level delegation to Seoul to mourn former South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung.
The North's military said on Thursday it will remove the cross-border limits as of Friday. They were imposed last December as relations with Seoul soured.
North Korea also promised to temporarily restore a telephone hotline manned by the Red Cross which the neighbours used before it was shut down last November.
And in a message late on Thursday to South Korean firms in the Kaesong joint industrial estate north of the border, the North said it would reopen a cross-border railway as of Friday, according to Yonhap news agency.
Official media in the North said Kim Ki-Nam, a secretary of its ruling Communist Party, would head a team that will visit Seoul to pay tribute to ex-president Kim Dae-Jung, who died on Tuesday aged 85.
In the US, meanwhile, diplomats from the North's United Nations mission held talks with New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, a veteran of negotiations with Pyongyang in the 1990s.
Richardson said on Wednesday they had "productive" discussions.
"The delegation indicated that North Korea is ready for a new dialogue with the United States regarding the nuclear issue," he said in a statement mid-way through two days of talks.
But Richardson said Pyongyang clearly wants bilateral discussions on nuclear disarmament and not six-party talks that also include South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
The US government has said bilateral talks are possible but only within the six-party framework. It says it is not involved in the New Mexico meeting.
The North quit the six-nation forum in April and vowed to resume its nuclear weapons program in April after the UN Security Council censured its long-range rocket launch.
It staged its second nuclear test on May 25, incurring fresh UN sanctions.
As Washington works to enforce the sanctions, Pyongyang this month has sought to mend fences with the US and the Americans' South Korean allies.
On Monday, the North announced its willingness to restart tourist trips and family reunions for South Koreans, while last week it freed a detained South Korean. Earlier in the month, leader Kim Jong-Il pardoned two US journalists after former president Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to mediate.
The apparent thaw comes after the North engaged in months of sabre-rattling. US and South Korean officials said they believed the ailing Kim, 67, was staging a show of strength as he sought to put a succession plan into place.
The reason for the sudden change of heart was unclear. The US State Department this week suggested the regime may be under economic or political pressure.
North Korea's Kim is sending a personal wreath with the six-member delegation due to arrive in Seoul on Friday afternoon to pay respects to Kim Dae-Jung. It leaves on Saturday and will not attend Sunday's state funeral.
Kim was a former democracy activist who held the first-ever inter-Korean summit in 2000 during his 1998-2003 presidency.
He pioneered a "Sunshine" aid and engagement policy with the North but this failed to curb Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
Seoul officials said the delegation would also include Kim Yang-Gon, a party official in charge of inter-Korean affairs. Both he and Kim Ki-Nam are close aides to the leader.
Available at: http://news.brisbanetimes.com.au/breaking-news-world/n-korea-diplomats-hold-talks-in-us-20090821-escl.html
2. U.S. Insists Bilateral Talks with DPRK in Six-Party Framework
Xinhua News Agency
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The United States wants to continue talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) only in the framework of six-party talks, U.S. State Department said on Thursday.
"We've made clear to North Korea for a long time, within the six-party framework, there's plenty of room for a bilateral dialogue," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters at the daily press briefing.
"North Korea knows what it has to do. It has to come back to a six-party process, be willing to take the kinds of steps that the international community has made clear that it needs to do," said the spokesman.
"The ball is still in North Korea's court," said Crowley.
Crowley's remarks came on day after New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson hosted two DPRK diplomats in his mansion for an informal meeting, which was described by Richardson as a hopeful sign for improving relations between Washington and Pyongyang.
After the meeting, Richardson told reporters that Pyongyang is prepared to have a dialogue with the United States, but that it is still resisting participating in the six-party talks.
The Obama administration claims that the bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang should be in the DPRK's denuclearization process guided by the six-party talks mechanism, which involved also China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Russia.
According to an agreement signed at the six-party talks in February 2007, the Bush administration agreed to begin discussion on normalization of relations with the DPRK, in exchange for Pyongyang's shutdown of its nuclear facilities.
The talks on normalizing the U.S.-DPRK relations were kicked off in March 2007, but few developments have been made because the denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula was often drawn in the stalemate.
Dismissing international opposition, the DPRK conducted an underground nuclear test on May 25 and since then has fired at least seven ballistic missiles. It also boycotted the six-party talks on its nuclear program.
Responding to Pyongyang's behavior, the Obama administration has decided to extend economic sanctions by prolonging the national emergency on the DPRK and has vowed to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang set in the UN Security Council Resolution 1874.
Available at: http://english.eastday.com/e/0821/u1a4597227.html
3. US Envoy Praises Singapore for Enforcing Sanctions on North Korea
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A U.S. envoy has praised Singapore's efforts to enforce United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea for pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance of the global community.
U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg was speaking in Singapore Thursday after discussing the city-state's implementation of sanctions with local officials.
Singapore's status as a major financial center and port gives it a key role in enforcing a U.N. crackdown on suspected North Korean financial fraud and illicit cargo shipments.
U.S. officials say the Obama administration's push for enforcement of U.N. sanctions adopted in June appears to be pressuring Pyongyang to seek a dialogue with Washington.
Two North Korean diplomats were due to hold a second day of talks with the governor of the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico in Santa Fe Thursday. Governor Bill Richardson is a veteran of U.S. negotiations with Pyongyang, but is not representing the White House.
After meeting the North Koreans Wednesday, Richardson said his visitors indicated North Korea is ready for a new dialogue with Washington on the nuclear issue. He said it was a "hopeful sign" for the two nations, who do not have diplomatic relations.
The North Korean diplomats are based at the U.N. mission in New York and must obtain U.S. government approval to travel outside the city. The Obama administration says it permitted them to go to New Mexico, but did not ask Richardson to convey any message to Pyongyang.
Washington has said bilateral talks with Pyongyang are possible, but only within the framework of six-party talks, which North Korea abandoned earlier this year.
The talks also involved China, Japan, South Korea and Russia and were aimed at persuading North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program in return for aid and other incentives.
Goldberg said Thursday there is a greater awareness in the international community about implementing the U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea. But he said it is still early in the process.
The sanctions adopted in June called for international inspections of sea and air cargo and bans on financial transactions suspected of links to North Korean weapons programs.
Goldberg is on a four-nation Asian tour that also will take him to Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
Available at: http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-08-20-voa35.cfm
1. Pakistan Feels Heat from Nuclear Powers over Talks Block
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Pakistan came under severe pressure from the major nuclear powers on Thursday to end its defiance of 64 other countries in blocking international disarmament talks.
Despite warnings that the blockage could discredit the world's principal disarmament forum, Pakistan's ambassador Zamir Akram held firm against an unusual joint offensive by Britain, China, Russia and the United States.
Citing unspecified national security concerns, Pakistan has been alone in stalling since the 65 states took a landmark decision in May to break more than a decade of deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) by agreeing on a work plan for 2009.
US representative Garold Larson on Thursday criticised the blockage as "procedural fault finding," underlining that there was room to deal with national security issues in the talks once they get under way.
"We therefore are left wondering as to the motivations of those who have blocked agreement since we reconvened in early August," he said.
"The international community is watching and will draw the correct conclusions as to whether the CD is to regain its relevance and stature as the world's multilateral negotiating forum, or revert to inertia and the failed patterns of the past," Larson added.
China's ambassador Wang Guangya called for work to start as soon as possible: "We must do it, we must start work."
Russian ambassador Valery Loschinin said: "In our view this is a compromise that is sufficiently balanced and should be acceptable to everyone."
"The CD is on a cliff," Japan's ambassador Akio Suda commented.
But Akram reiterated his country's objections to part of the structure of the talks that has been accepted by all the other countries in recent weeks, stating: "That remains our official and formal stance."
The talks are slated to include full "negotiations" on an international ban on the production of new nuclear bomb-making material, as well as discussions on full nuclear disarmament, the arms race in outer space, and security assurances for non-nuclear states.
Available at: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Pakistan_feels_heat_from_nuclear_powers_over_talks_block_999.html
Liberia has become the 149th nation to ratify a nuclear test ban.
The Vienna-based organization that administers the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty says the African country ratified the pact Monday after signing it in October 1996.
The treaty has been signed by 181 countries but will not enter into force until 44 states that participated in a 1996 disarmament conference, and had nuclear power or research reactors at the time, both sign and ratify it. To date, only 35 have done so.
The holdouts are China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
Available at: http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=1035884&lang=eng_news
3. Ratification of UN-Backed Nuclear Treaty Nears Milestone of 150 Countries
UN Service News
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The total number of countries that have ratified the United Nations-backed Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has inched closer to 150 after Liberia ratified the agreement this week.
Liberia’s ratification on Monday brings the total number of countries having ratified the CTBT to 149, according to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).
The West African nation’s move also means that the pact has 51 signatures and 37 ratifications out of the 53 countries on the continent, where the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, went into effect last month.
To date, 181 States worldwide have signed the pact, which was adopted by the General Assembly in September 1996 to ban any nuclear-test explosions anywhere.
It will enter into force 180 days after all 44 of the States mentioned in Annex 2 of the Treaty – those which possessed nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology at the time it opened for signature in 1996 – have ratified it. So far, 35 of these nations, including France, Russia and the United Kingdom, have ratified it, but China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United States and Iran, among other nations, have not.
In September, US President Barack Obama is scheduled to chair a meeting of the Security Council focusing on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the CTBT.
“A world without nuclear weapons may be distant, but it is no longer just a dream,” Mr. Ban said earlier this month in a message to the Seventh General Conference of Mayors for Peace, which has helped inform millions of people around the world about the catastrophic effects of the 1945 nuclear bombings in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/printnews.asp?nid=31809
Talks with India on a deal to allow Canadian companies to supply the Asian country's booming nuclear industry are bogging down, and formal negotiations have not yet begun.
The delay - one year after Canada officially changed its long-standing non-proliferation policy so it could help India join the international trade in nuclear supplies - is perhaps a symbol of Canada's still-meagre economic ties with the booming emerging power: its vast potential always seems a step away from being tapped.
The Conservative government hoped that Canada's nuclear-policy shift, which immediately improved political ties with India, would bring deals for Canadian uranium and nuclear-engineering companies. But the United States, France and Russia have moved faster to sign nuclear agreements to allow their companies to sell to India.
In May, Trade Minister Stockwell Day said Canada was "very close" to a civil nuclear co-operation agreement with India.
But several sources familiar with the discussions said that Canada and India are a substantial distance apart and have not yet cleared hurdles that would lead to the start of formal negotiations.
The Canadian government submitted a new draft - its third in a year - of what it believes the agreement should be and is waiting for New Delhi's response to start another round of discussions.
Mr. Day's office has had deep differences with negotiators from the Foreign Affairs department's non-proliferation branch, the sources said.
Mr. Day's team and some other Conservatives feel the bureaucrats who specialize in nuclear safeguards want to impose excessive restrictions while companies from other countries are signing deals.
"It's over and above what the international community may be content with. [The bureaucrats are saying] what if the International Atomic Energy Agency and their guidelines, what if all that fails, for whatever reason? We want to have our own system," said one source.
The obstacles include potential limits on Indian nuclear scientists moving between civil and military projects. Many work in both areas, but Canadian visa rules bar them from entering Canada on national security grounds. According to a government source, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has promised the Indian government he would issue special permits to the scientists.
Mélisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Mr. Day, said in an e-mail that Canadian and Indian officials had "encouraging" discussions in May and more talks "are expected to follow in the near future."
Non-proliferation activists have pushed for Canada to include tough restrictions. They are concerned the world let India join the civilian nuclear trade even though it did not sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and that it tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and 1998.
Those tests cast a long chill over relations between Canada and India because Canadian nuclear technology from the 1950s and 1960s was used to develop weapons.
Last year, hoping to spark trade with India, Canada reversed its non-proliferation policy, and its support at the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group helped India join the civilian nuclear trade.
"That was not only a huge historical step, but it also gave some shape to this idea that the Conservatives claim that India's a priority," said Ryan Touhey, a University of Waterloo and Canadian International Council researcher who yesterday released a paper on Indo-Canadian relations.
But Canada has yet to act boldly to make relations a real priority, he said. Ottawa puts paltry sums into bilateral initiatives, while countries like Australia spend far more on aggressive efforts to promote themselves in India. Australia now has 40,000 Indian students compared to 4,000 in Canada.
Mr. Touhey said the government should finance a Canada-India council to deepen ties. Others call for a bilateral trade organization.
India is an aggressive buyer of energy, metals and other resources, and is heading into an infrastructure boom - but Canada's trade with India was $4.6-billion in 2008, one-tenth the size of trade with China. Australia's India trade was $10.9-billion (U.S.).
Canada and India have floated the possibility of a limited free-trade deal, but it is unclear if there is enough political will to press ahead, Mr. Touhey said.
Yuen Pao Woo, president of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, noted that some Canadian companies are making promising deals in car parts, biotechnology, engineering and other areas, and he warned that Canada should not pin its trade hopes on the nuclear industry.
"The civil nuclear co-operation is just a symbol of Canadians and Indians paying more attention to each other, and finding opportunities in the nuclear industry, but well beyond that," he said.
Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/india-is-booming-trade-with-canada-isnt/article1261067/
The scene has been set for a race between several Middle Eastern countries to develop a nuclear program after Saudi Arabia yesterday revealed its intention to push ahead with a nuclear industry.
Saudi Arabian Minister for Water and Electricity Abdullah al-Hosain revealed that the country was developing its first nuclear power plant.
The comment was made to local newspaper Al-Watan. Because newspapers in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are under state control, the comment was seen as an official acknowledgement of what has been speculated about in the region for some time -- that Saudi Arabia was moving into the nuclear power industry.
The development came as Saudi Arabia's rival for supremacy in the region, Iran, surprised the international community by allowing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit one of its nuclear reactors.
According to the Associated Press, the inspectors were permitted to visit the almost completed Arak heavy water reactor and given greater access to the Natanz uranium enrichment site.
Saudi Arabia's move raises the nuclear stakes in the Middle East. Israel has been pressing the US to place a clear deadline by which Iran must agree to allow international inspectors into all of its nuclear facilities.
Israeli media reported this week that Israel was accusing the UN of hiding evidence that Iran was pursuing plans to develop nuclear weapons.
The reports said that UN officials were suppressing the report for fear of alienating Iran.
The outgoing director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, denied that any such information was being suppressed.
US President Barak Obama originally gave Iran until "the end of the year" to agree to allow inspectors into its nuclear facilities but on a recent visit to Israel, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said Iran had until next month.
Israel is pushing for current sanctions against Iran to be toughened should this deadline not be met and is keeping "all options on the table" for unilateral action. This is seen as code for Israeli air strikes on Iran.
Three months ago Mr Obama sent CIA chief Leon Panetta to Israel when the US became concerned that Israel was planning a surprise strike on Iran.
Two years ago Israel made a surprise strike on a nuclear facility in Syria. Damascus did not respond.
But analysts in the Middle East believe Iran would be much more likely to respond, possibly through its ally Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Hezbollah has a large stockpile of missiles in southern Lebanon on the border with Israel which Iran could seek to activate.
One Israeli official told The Australian that in talks between Israel and the US Washington insisted it did not want any air strike on Iran while there were any American troops remaining in Iraq.
The Israeli official said the US officials had said they feared a "murderous" response by Iran's supporters in Iraq.
Most US combat troops are already out of Iraq. US support and training soldiers are scheduled to leave within two years.
The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday that during the past two years Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt had all indicated an interest in developing nuclear programs.
Israeli officials have said off the record that if these countries did not want the programs now for their military capabilities, they wanted the technology in place to keep other options open if Iran were to develop a nuclear bomb.
The paper reported: "Israel has been careful not to take a public stand on civilian nuclear programs in neighbouring states, partly because, as one of the few countries in the world that has not signed the non-proliferation treaty, it is not keen on lobbying against nuclear know-how for peaceful needs going to countries that are willing to sign the treaty, since that would focus the limelight on Israel's own unique situation."
Available at: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25963207-15084,00.html
3. RI Supports Myanmar in its Development of Nuclear Technology
The Jakarta Post
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Indonesia will support Myanmar in its development of nuclear technology for civilian use, despite controversies over the junta's poor human rights records, a top official said.
Rezlan Ishar Jenie, the Foreign Ministry's director general for multilateral diplomacy, said Friday that the international community should not mistake Myanmar's desire to develop a nuclear program with peaceful intentions for an attempt to commit more violations of human rights.
"Myanmar is a signatory to the NPT (Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty)...Members of the NPT have the right to develop nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes'', he said.
However, Australian authorities have exhibited wariness toward Myanmar's nuclear ambitions, and claim that basic nuclear technology could be fleshed out into a comprehensive program to develop weapons of mass destruction with help from North Korea.
Available at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/08/21/ri-supports-myanmar-its-development-nuclear-technology.html
4. Russia, Ecuador Strike Deal on Nuclear Power Cooperation
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Russia and Ecuador have signed a memorandum on civilian nuclear power cooperation, a spokesman from Russia's state-controlled civilian nuclear power corporation Rosatom told RIA Novosti on Friday.
The memorandum between Rosatom and Ecuador's Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy includes cooperation in geological research and development of uranium fields, as well as projecting and building nuclear power plants and research reactors. Cooperation would also involve nuclear fuel production and developing the legal framework for Ecuador's nuclear sector.
"Yesterday the ministry of electricity and renewable energy signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom)... to carry out research in technologies and nuclear devices that may effectively be used in our country," an Ecuadorean government statement read.
Ecuador does not have nuclear power plants or the technology to produce nuclear energy.
Ecuador's leftist president Rafael Correa said last year that Quito plans on strengthening military ties with Moscow.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/world/20090821/155878837.html
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