1. Stuxnet Virus Set Back Iran’s Nuclear Program by 2 Years
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The Stuxnet virus, which has attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities and which Israel is suspected of creating, has set back the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program by two years, a top German computer consultant who was one of the first experts to analyze the program’s code told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“It will take two years for Iran to get back on track,” Langer said in a telephone interview from his office in Hamburg, Germany. “This was nearly as effective as a military strike, but even better since there are no fatalities and no full-blown war. From a military perspective, this was a huge success.”
Langer spoke to the Post amid news reports that the virus was still infecting Iran’s computer systems at its main uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and its reactor at Bushehr.
Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, said that Iran had suspended work at its nuclear-field production facilities, likely a result of the Stuxnet virus.
According to Langer, Iran’s best move would be to throw out all of the computers that have been infected by the worm, which he said was the most “advanced and aggressive malware in history.” But, he said, even once all of the computers were thrown out, Iran would have to ensure that computers used by outside contractors were also clean of Stuxnet.
“It is extremely difficult to clean up installations from Stuxnet, and we know that Iran is no good in IT [information technology] security, and they are just beginning to learn what this all means,” he said. “Just to get their systems running again they have to get rid of the virus, and this will take time, and then they need to replace the equipment, and they have to rebuild the centrifuges at Natanz and possibly buy a new turbine for Bushehr.”
Widespread speculation has named Israel’s Military Intelligence Unit 8200, known for its advanced Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities, as the possible creator of the software, as well as the United States.
Langer said that in his opinion at least two countries – possibly Israel and the United States – were behind Stuxnet.
Israel has traditionally declined comment on its suspected involvement in the Stuxnet virus, but senior IDF officers recently confirmed that Iran had encountered significant technological difficulties with its centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility.
“We can say that it must have taken several years to develop, and we arrived at this conclusion through code analysis, since the code on the control systems is 15,000 lines of code, and this is a huge amount,” Langer said.
“This piece of evidence led us to conclude that this is not by a hacker,” he continued. “It had to be a country, and we can also conclude that even one nation-state would not have been able to do this on its own.”
Eric Byres, a computer security expert who runs a website called Tofino Security, which provides solutions for industrial companies with Stuxnet-related problems, told the Post on Tuesday that the number of Iranians visiting his site had jumped tremendously in recent weeks – a likely indication that the virus is still causing great disarray at Iranian nuclear facilities.
“What caught our attention was that last year we maybe had one or two people from Iran trying to access the secure areas on our site,” Byres said. “Iran was never on the map for us, and all of a sudden we are now getting massive numbers of people going to our website, and people who we can identify as being from Iran.”
Byres said that some people openly identified themselves as Iranian when asking for permission to log onto his website, while others were impersonating employees of industries with which he frequently works.
“There are a large number of people trying to access the secure areas directly from Iran and other people who are putting together fake identities,” he said. “We are talking about hundreds. It could be people who are curious about what is going on, but we are such a specialized site that it would only make sense that these are people who are involved in control systems.”
Available at: http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=199475
The US government has called on the British banking regulators to take more steps against the Iranian banks on the pretext that they were financing nuclear program, WikiLeaks has revealed.
At a meeting in May 2008, details of which were made public a month later, the US instigated Britain to impede the activities of Iranian banks in London, the daily Guardian reported.
Two US senior officials, Reuben Jeffrey -- Under Secretary of State -- and Patrick O'Brien -- the US Treasury Assistant -- met with the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA) officials two years ago in London to discuss schemes to tighten the grip on Iranian financial institutions abroad.
O'Brien claimed that Iran was using state-owned institutions -- Bank Sepah, Bank Melli and Bank Saderate -- to facilitate its “proliferation efforts and support for terrorism.”
"With four Iranian banks continuing to operate in London, O'Brien said that the Middle East and Asian countries are not going to take any action against their Iranian banks unless London moves first," the report said. "He added that the US would take the UK message to the Middle East and Asia, provoking them to press for a similar action in other jurisdictions."
The US government has failed to sabotage Iran's independency despite its efforts on putting pressure on the country in different ways in the past three decades. The US has not only been the perpetrator of almost all sanction resolutions approved against Iran but also threatened some puppet countries with financial problems to impose unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iranians, on the other hand, have succeeded to take sanctions and threats as an opportunity to become self-sufficient in a wide range of fields including science, technology, military hardware, space and social well-being.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/155562.html
Iran said Tuesday its nuclear and foreign policies will not change after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad abruptly fired Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and replaced him with the atomic chief.
No official reasons were given for the surprise move, but several Iranian newspapers on Tuesday linked it to disagreements between Ahmadinejad and Mottaki over foreign policy.
"Iran's major international policies are defined in higher levels and the foreign ministry executes these policies. We will not see any changes in our basic policies," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly briefing.
"I don't think there will be any changes in the nuclear policy and the talks" with world powers over Iran's nuclear programme, he said.
Ahmadinejad on Monday named Ali Akbar Salehi, a vice-president and head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, as interim foreign minister.
The president came under fire from some MPs and Iran's leading hardline daily Kayhan Tuesday for announcing the dismissal while Mottaki was in Senegal on an official visit.
"Such moves cheapen the status of the foreign ministry. It means the president does not respect the person who is delivering his own message to another country," senior conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli told Mehr news agency.
Kayhan said Ahmadinejad should have waited for the return of the chief diplomat before announcing the sacking. Mottaki is due back in Tehran on Tuesday night.
His sacking came just days after Iran held crunch talks in Geneva on December 6 and 7 with world powers over its controversial nuclear dossier.
Further talks are scheduled for next month in Iran's neighbour Turkey despite clear differences at the end of Geneva meeting between Iran and the group of P5+1 -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represented the major powers, said it had been agreed at the Geneva talks to hold further talks to "discuss practical ideas and ways of cooperating towards the resolution of our core concerns about the nuclear issue."
However, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said both sides agreed only to further "talks based on cooperation."
Mehmanparast repeated on Tuesday that "it has been agreed that talks be pursued for cooperation in common points."
"If the atmosphere of talks is free of pressure and irrational behaviour, talks have their own framework and will follow their own course," he added.
Salehi, 61, who was appointed atomic energy chief on July 17, 2009, has been a driving force behind Iran's atomic programme, and during his tenure the country's first nuclear power plant has come on line.
Several conservative papers linked the sacking to a dispute between Mottaki and Ahmadinejad over "parallel diplomacy," which flared up in summer after the president named his close aides as special envoys in the region.
Ahmadinejad backed down only after Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei intervened.
Some media said Ahmadinejad was trying to tighten his grip on diplomacy in the face of a reticent foreign ministry.
"The government has been known for its active and aggressive diplomacy but it was mainly in the president's moves and initiatives and the foreign ministry did not have an acceptable record in this regard," pro-Ahmadinejad hardline website Rajanews said.
"Sometimes diplomats in unofficial meetings even denied the government's official policies," it added.
Khabar newspaper, which is close to Ahmadinejad's rival, parliament speaker Ali Larijani, predicted that Salehi will be "one of the managers to form a new circle in the government although he is not ideologically linked with the president."
"Ahmadinejad knows well that Salehi appeals to the West for his moderate views," it added.
Salehi is a PhD graduate of the prestigious MIT in the United States and served as Tehran's representative in the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency during the presidency of the reformist Mohammad Khatami.
Mottaki, 57, a career diplomat, was appointed foreign minister in August 2005.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5geoTBOc1y9CZiZjiNXDp9o7UbBbA?docId=CNG.db7f9d59942e2df7705acee7c86768b2.771
As the first reshuffle in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's second term cabinet takes place, a lawmaker defends the move as a presidential privilege and part of an ordinary political process.
Member of the Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Mahmoud Ahmadi Biqash said the removal of former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was on the president's agenda since last summer and is not an issue that suddenly took place, IRNA reported on Tuesday.
Biqash also noted that the issue was even brought up in the committee “several months ago.''
On Monday, the Iranian president appointed the country's top nuclear official Ali Akbar Salehi to replace Mottaki as acting foreign minister while retaining his position.
“Considering your commitment, knowledge, and valued expertise, and in accordance with Article 135 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and based on this directive you are appointed as acting foreign minister,” a copy of the presidential directive read.
In a separate letter issued on Monday, Ahmadinejad expressed gratitude to Mottaki for his services during his tenure.
According to the constitution, Iran's chief executive is entitled to remove or appoint ministers and no one should disregard this legal right, Biqash said.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has said that the change would not affect Iran's foreign policies.
"Iran's major policies in the international scene are adopted at higher levels and the foreign policy system executes these policies," Mehmanparast told a weekly press conference on Tuesday.
He reiterated that the removal of Mottaki would not modify Iran's principled policies, IRNA reported.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/155436.html
1. North Korea Digging Tunnel for Spring Nuclear Test - Report
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North Korea appears to be readying for a possible third nuclear test as early as next March, a newspaper reported on Wednesday, as a U.S. politician travelled to Pyongyang with a message for the North to "calm down."
U.S. and South Korean intelligence have been watching the North's nuclear sites for any activity. Analysts say the North could use a test to try to gain leverage in international talks it is seeking and secure aid to prop up its destitute economy.
South Korea's Chosun Ilbo daily on Wednesday cited an intelligence official from Seoul as saying a tunnel was being dug at the country's nuclear test site that could be completed in March next year, possibly heralding a new nuclear test.
South Korea's foreign ministry said it was closely monitoring the site and said there was no concrete evidence to show the North Koreans were preparing for a third test.
The amount of earth removed from the site in Punggye township, in a northeastern region of North Korea, indicated the tunnel was about 500 metres (550 yards) deep, half the depth needed for a nuclear test, the Chosun Ilbo report said.
"North Korea is digging the ground pretty hard ... at its
two major nuclear facilities," a South Korean intelligence official was quoted as saying.
"At this rate, (the Punggye tunnel) will reach (the) 1 km that is needed for a nuclear test by March to May," a separate intelligence source told the newspaper.
North Korea is also speeding up work on new construction at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, where it revealed a previously unknown uranium enrichment facility last month, the newspaper quoted intelligence sources as saying.
South Korea's foreign ministry declined to confirm the details of the report, but said: "Nothing has been confirmed that would prove the North is preparing to conduct a nuclear test."
The South's nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-lac, was in Moscow meeting with his Russian counterpart, in the same week that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and chided him over the North's nuclear programme.
CIVIL DEFENCE DRILL
The report coincided on Wednesday with South Korea's largest civil defence drill in recent years after North Korea shelled an island near their disputed maritime border, killing four people, last month.
The exercise on a busy week day brought traffic to a standstill nationwide and saw mass evacuations to bomb shelters.
Prime Minister Kim Hwang-shik said the aim was to heighten readiness for a possible North Korean air raid and he also warned the North to expect reprisals if there was another attack.
"The government is ready to demonstrate that there will be due price to pay for any future aggression," he said.
Analysts say North Korea's unveiling of a modern uranium enrichment facility and preparations for another nuclear test were likely to be ploys to pull regional powers back to the negotiating table, where Pyongyang hopes to secure aid.
The impoverished state has in the past won economic assistance and diplomatic attention at six-country talks aimed at persuading it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Deputy U.S. Secretary of State James Steinberg was in Beijing to consult with the Chinese on North Korea and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a frequent visitor to Pyongyang as an unofficial envoy, was on his way to the North.
"My objective is to try to get North Korea to calm down a bit, see if we can reduce tension in the Korean peninsula," he was quoted as saying on the BBC's website before departing from the United States.
North Korea showed a uranium enrichment facility, which could give it a second route to make nuclear bombs, at the Yongbyon site to a U.S. expert in November and later announced it was operating such a programme under a "peaceful" energy project.
South Korea's foreign minister said on Tuesday he suspected there were more facilities in addition to Yongbyon where the North was enriching uranium. A media report said Pyongyang had three to four such plants.
North Korea conducted nuclear tests at the Punggye site in 2006 and 2009, when detonations in tunnels were detected by U.S. and South Korean monitoring.
The U.N. Security Council condemned last year's test and imposed tough sanctions aimed at banning North Korea's arms trade and cutting off funding for such programmes.
Analysts say ailing leader Kim Jong-il's plan to transfer power to his son Jong-un is also creating domestic political pressure, as the regime resorts to military grandstanding to try to build legitimacy for the untested and previously unknown successor.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE6BE0E520101215
2. South Korean FM Calls for Greater Cooperation with China on North Korea Issues
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea and China should build on progress in their relations and seek greater cooperation in economic and security issues, including tensions over North Korea's nuclear programs and provocations, Seoul's foreign minister said Wednesday.
Minister Kim Sung-hwan made the remark at a ceremony on the opening of a China research center at the ministry-affiliated Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security think tank. The center's launch is part of South Korea's efforts to enhance its capabilities to deal with the increasingly important neighbor.
"For our country, relations with China have been taking an increasingly important place in security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and our prosperity," he said. "Close cooperation between the two countries is essential on issues related to North Korea and nuclear and other North Korea issues."
South Korea and China established diplomatic relations in 1992. Since then, the two countries have made strides in their economic and trade relations, with China overtaking the United States as South Korea's No. 1 trade partner.
But their political and security relations have not moved forward enough to match the economic ties, with China still seen as trying to protect North Korea even when the regime makes provocations, such as last month's deadly artillery attack on a South Korean island.
Such attitudes deepened frustrations in South Korea about ties with the neighboring nation.
"It is essential that the two countries take an attitude of actively communicating about differences and cooperating while cherishing the achievement made in their relations so far," Kim said. "It is absolutely necessary and indispensable that South Korea and China constantly exchange views and cooperate closely."
Xing Haiming, charge d'affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, said Beijing "pursues peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and will make every effort for denuclearization" on the divided peninsula.
"China will make efforts for resolving problems through dialogue and cooperation and will try consistently to achieve the objective while joining hands with South Korea," he said at the ceremony.
The research center will focus on studying Seoul's policies on China while providing China-related education programs and serving as a hub connecting other local research institutes. The foreign ministry also plans to add an office to its bureau handling China affairs to better deal with issues related to the neighboring nation.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2010/12/15/79/0301000000AEN20101215008300315F.HTML
3. U.S. Says North Korea Has More Eranium Enrichment Sites
The Korea Herald
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The U.S. State Department said North Korea was likely to have more uranium enrichment facilities other than the one in Yongbyon unveiled to U.S. scientists last month.
“We’re very conscious of the fact that in the recent revelations to American delegations, what they saw did not come out of thin air,” U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a daily press briefing Tuesday.
“It certainly reflects work being done at least on one other site, so this remains a significant area of concern.”
Crowley made the remarks in response to a question on South Korean media reports on intelligence that North Korea has up to four uranium processing sites.
“Without getting into intelligence, it has obviously been a longstanding concern about this kind of activity,” he said.
After North Korea disclosed its nuclear complex in Yongbyon last month, U.S. and South Korean experts have raised the possibility of the North secretly operating uranium enrichment facilities in other sites as well.
U.S. scientist Siegfried Hecker, who was invited to see the uranium enrichment facility in Yongbyon last month, said the plant was “astonishingly modern” with 2,000 advanced, fully operational centrifuges.
The co-director of Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation wrote in an article published in the Foreign Affairs magazine early this month that it is highly likely that a parallel covert facility capable of producing highly enriched uranium exists elsewhere in North Korea.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said he believes Hecker’s assumption is a fair point, although he cannot speak conclusively about it.
Quoting a South Korean intelligence source, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said Seoul and Washington suspect there may be three or four other locations where the North is conducting uranium enrichment.
Probable sites include a research institute in downtown Pyongyang, a missile base in Yanggang Province and a cave at Geumchang-ri, 160 kilometers north of the capital.
Glyn Davies, U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said early this month that it was likely North Korea had been pursuing enrichment capability long before April 2009, the date it most recently claimed.
“If so, there is a clear likelihood that (the North) has built other uranium enrichment-related facilities in its territory,” Davies told an IAEA meeting in Vienna.
Lately, North Korea has been making suspicious moves around the site of its previous atomic tests, stoking speculation that it may conduct a third nuclear test as early as next March.
North Korea has dug a new tunnel more than 500 meters deep in Punggye-ri, the main site of its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, the Chosun Ilbo said Wednesday, citing a South Korean intelligence official.
An atomic test would be possible if the tunnel is dug 1 kilometer deep, the official said.
U.S. broadcaster Voice of America said early this month, citing a U.S. Congressional Research Service report, that the North could conduct a nuclear test in Punggye-ri as a proxy for nations developing nuclear weapons such as Iran.
Large-scale excavation work and construction of a new building is also under way in Yongbyon and the Seoul government suspects the North could be building a highly-enriched uranium facility to produce nuclear weapons, according to the Chosun Ilbo.
Seoul and Washington are concerned that Pyongyang, having fired artillery shells on a South Korean island last month, could further raise tension by reinforcing its nuclear capability to draw international attention to resume negotiations.
A U.S. delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg arrived in Beijing Tuesday to discuss with Chinese officials pending issues of the Korean Peninsula including the North’s recent attack and disclosure of its nuclear facility as well as bilateral relations.
Steinberg is expected to press China to exercise its influence on North Korea to stop its provocations during his visit through Friday.
“High-level talks between the U.S. and China will be an important opportunity for the Korean Peninsula,” a Seoul official said.
The U.S. has said that issues concerning the Korean Peninsula will be among the top priority agenda at the U.S.-China summit talks next month in Washington.
Available at: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20101215000828
1. Russia, Mongolia Agree to Form Uranium Joint Venture
Xinhua News Agency
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Russia and Mongolia have agreed the conditions on building a joint uranium mining company, said a communique inked on Tuesday by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his visiting Mongolian counterpart Sukhbaatar Batbold.
The agreement for creating the Dornod Uranium company was signed following the talks between the two leaders.
"The issue of uranium cooperation was not an easy one, but we have reached a discretionary decision and intend to sign the document to form the joint company," the Mongolian prime minister was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
The company would start mining uranium as early as in 2011, Seigei Kiriyenko, chief of the Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, told reporters.
He said the initial investment for the joint project would reach some 300 million U.S. dollars, and the annual output of the venture is estimated at 2,000 tons.
Russian geologists explored the Dornod uranium field in Mongolia in the 1970s. The field was mined actively then and the ore was processed by Russia's Priargun Mining Chemicals Association. In 2009, the idea of creating a joint venture to exploit the Dornod uranium deposit was agreed by the two countries during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Ulan Bator.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-12/15/c_13649022.htm
2. Russia Ready to Join in Europe Missile Defense Program
Xinhua News Agency
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Russia is ready to share responsibility in creating a joint missile defense shield in Europe and to become a full member of this system, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Monday.
"We have proposed to share responsibility, and Russia is ready to act in some part and take anti-missile defense responsibility," Serdyukov told Vesti 24 news television channel.
However, "we think we must define the target of this missile defense system first," he added.
Meanwhile, Serdyukov reiterated Russia needs to know its role in the European system.
"The president has confirmed that we must be a full member. Full membership will lift our concerns about the actual target of this system," he said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in his Nov. 30 address to the Federal Assembly voiced the readiness to cooperate with other countries in seeking ways to jointly counter missile threats.
The president also warned that if talks on the missile defense failed within a decade, "a new round of arms race will start" and Russia would "have to adopt decisions on the deployment of new strategic weapons."
Serdyukov echoed Medvedev, saying Russia would have to take countermeasures if the talks on building the joint shield in Europe failed.
"Anyway, we must work out a system that can overcome the European missile defense shield and naturally not decrease the potential of Russia's nuclear forces," Serdyukov said.
Serdyukov also said the joint anti-missile defense shield would "minimize" both financial and military expenses and "relieve" all Russia's concerns.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-12/13/c_13647424.htm
1. Full Operation of Prototype Reactor to be Delayed to 2014 or Later
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The launch of full operation of Japan’s prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju will be delayed by about a year to 2014 or later, due to work to collect a device which accidentally fell into the reactor in August, sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the 280,000-kilowatt Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is expected to remove the device from the reactor next summer or later and then conduct checkups, delaying the test operation initially scheduled to start next spring and subsequent full-fledged run.
Removing the 3.3-ton device which was used for fuel exchange before it fell into the reactor vessel in the Aug 26 accident requires special equipment, approval from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and a follow-up inspection.
Yoshiaki Takaki, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, is expected to notify Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa of the decision at a meeting in Tokyo on Thursday, the sources said.
The delay will be a heavy blow to the nation’s nuclear policy since Monju has been considered a key nuclear fuel cycle system, observers said. The ministry and the atomic energy agency had said the accident would not have a big effect on the plan to launch full-fledged operation.
Monju resumed operation with limited power output in May after 14 years and five months of suspension due to a sodium coolant leak and a resultant fire.
Available at: http://www.japantoday.com/category/technology/view/full-operation-of-prototype-reactor-to-be-delayed-to-2014-or-later
2. Iraq Gets UN Green Light for Civil Nuclear Program
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The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday gave Iraq the green light to develop a civilian nuclear program, ending 19-year-old restrictions aimed at preventing the country from developing atomic weapons.
In two other resolutions, the 15-nation council also wound up the controversial oil-for-food program for Iraq and set June 30, 2011, to end all immunities protecting Baghdad from claims related to the period when former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was in power.
"The adoption of these important resolutions marks the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime and restriction on Iraq's sovereignty, independence and recovery," Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told the council.
"Our people will rejoice for having turned a chapter on the aggressive, belligerent and defiant behavior of the previous regime towards international law and legitimacy," he said.
After its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq was hit with a series of U.N. measures that banned imports of chemicals and nuclear technology that could be used in its covert atomic, chemical and biological weapons programs. Those restrictions were in place for two decades.
Baghdad will keep paying 5 percent of its oil revenues as war reparations, most of it to Kuwait, despite Iraq's calls for a renegotiation of those payments so it can use more of its oil money for needed development projects.
Iraq still owes Kuwait nearly $22 billion in reparations, Western diplomats said. Zebari told reporters that there are "hundreds of claims" against Iraq that have been made by governments and private individuals.
It was not immediately clear what the total value of those claims were.
In a statement read out by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, the council welcomed improvements in Iraq's relations with its neighbor Kuwait and encouraged it to "quickly fulfill its remaining obligations under ... resolutions pertaining to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait."
The council agreed to the statement unanimously.
'COMMITMENT TO NON-PROLIFERATION'
Diplomats said this included Iraq's recognition of the borders of Kuwait, a country that Saddam's government had called the "19th province" of Iraq. There are also unresolved issues related to Kuwaiti archives and missing people.
Biden, who chaired the meeting in the U.S. capacity as Security Council president this month, said the moves were "in recognition of Iraq's commitment to non-proliferation."
The United States plans to withdraw its remaining troops from Iraq next year and wants to portray the country as returning to normalcy despite continuing violence.
"Of course, there are good political reasons for the U.S. to show progress in Iraq," said one senior council diplomat from another country.
The only resolution that was not adopted unanimously was the one on oil-for-food. France abstained, which a diplomat told Reuters was because it felt the text lacked sufficient assurances that the Paris-based bank BNP Paribas will not take any financial hits over its involvement in the program.
French Ambassador Gerard Araud told the council that the resolution did not have "all the guarantees we consider necessary to wrapping up the program." He did not elaborate.
The U.N. oil-for-food program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, was created to help Iraqis cope with U.N. sanctions after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. The program allowed Baghdad to sell oil in order to buy humanitarian goods, but became the focus of fraud investigations after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In February the council said it would lift civil nuclear curbs on Iraq after it ratified a number of international agreements, including the so-called Additional Protocol on intrusive U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency inspections.
The council lifted the restrictions even though Iraq's parliament has yet to ratify the IAEA protocol.
The resolution urges Iraq to ratify that protocol "as soon as possible" and calls for a 12-month review of progress. Iraq has promised to implement the protocol before ratification.
The IAEA protocol's intrusive inspection regime, aimed at smoking out secret nuclear activities, stemmed from the IAEA's discovery in 1991 of Iraq's clandestine atomic bomb program.
Before they invaded Iraq in March 2003, the United States and Britain had accused Baghdad of reviving its covert nuclear, chemical and biological arms programs. The allegations turned out to be incorrect.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1514955720101215
Jordan has asked companies to revise their bids to build the country's first nuclear plant after the site for the planned facility was changed to a new location.
A spokesman for the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, Mureed Hammad, said Wednesday the three companies short-listed for the project should submit updated bids in January to reflect the site shift from Aqaba to Majdal in central Jordan.
He added that the bid was for one 1,000-megawatt Generation III reactor plant but included an option for a second.
Amman has shortlisted a French-Japanese consortium, a Canadian and a Russian company to build the facility.
Jordan's peaceful nuclear program aims to build a nuclear plant by 2019 to meet growing energy needs and reduce its energy bill.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-15/jordan-asks-for-revised-bids-for-nuclear-plant.html
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