1. Brazil, Japan, Turkey, Kish Island Are Potential Sites for Nuclear Fuel Swap
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Brazil, Japan, Turkey, and the Iranian island of Kish in the Persian Gulf are among the potential sites for exchanging nuclear fuel if the West agrees with Iran’s proposal for a fuel swap in stages, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Monday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Saturday the West should decide whether it wants to sell nuclear fuel to Iran or swap 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel for Iran’s low-enriched uranium.
“The international community has only one more month to make a decision. Otherwise, Tehran will enrich uranium to the higher purity needed for the fuel,” Mottaki added.
In an interview with the ILNA news agency, Mehmanparast said that when Iran asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to help it obtain fuel for the Tehran research reactor, a committee was going to be established to follow up the issue.
However, he said the West politicized the issue and created ambiguity over the matter.
After the West failed to win Iran’s trust on the issue of providing fuel for the reactor, Tehran presented three new proposals, but unfortunately none of them have borne results so far, he added.
He said the first proposal called for Iran to buy the fuel, the second called for an exchange of nuclear fuel, and the third said Iran itself should enrich the nuclear fuel to the 20 percent purity level needed to operate the Tehran reactor.
On the request of certain impartial countries who asked Iran not to enrich uranium for two months in order to give the West some time to respond, he said, “To show our goodwill to the international community, we agreed with this request, and one month has passed since that time and one month is left.
“If the other side responds to Iran’s request in the remaining time, we will start the work. Otherwise, we will make the necessary decision.”
On the talks between Iran and the 5+1 group (China, the United States, Russia, France, Britain, and Germany), he said that the two sides were supposed to meet again after the Geneva talks, when Iran presented its package of proposals, but unfortunately, the West has not yet responded.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=211352
2. Majlis Backs Administration’s Ultimatum to the West: MP
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Majlis Deputy Speaker Mohammad Hassan Abu Torabi has said that the Majlis supports the administration’s in setting a deadline for the West to provide Iran with the 20 percent enriched uranium.
“The message of the Iranian Majlis to the West and the International Atomic Energy Agency is that they should be serious in providing the nuclear fuel for the Tehran medical reactor,” he told the Mehr News Agency on Monday.
Abu Torabi added that the nation is determined to get the 20 percent enriched uranium.
He also pointed out that if the West refrain from providing the 20 percent enriched uranium, Iran will begin to enrich uranium to the required level.
Iran has said that it will produce 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel for the Tehran research reactor if the West refuses to provide the fuel by February.
The West should decide whether it wants to sell nuclear fuel to Iran or swap 20 percent nuclear fuel for Iran’s low-enriched uranium, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said.
“This is an ultimatum,” Mottaki asserted.
“The international community has only one more month to make a decision. Otherwise, Tehran will enrich uranium to the higher purity needed for the fuel,” he added.
Iran has no hope in the West
Mahmoud Ahmadi of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has said that there is no hope that the West will provide Iran with the nuclear fuel for the Tehran reactor.
“We should continue our activities based on the International Atomic Energy Agency regulations and should not have any hope in the West’s cooperation,” he told the MNA on Monday.
Commenting on Iran’s ultimatum to the West, the MP stated, “Neither the agency nor any country can prevent Iran from achieving nuclear technology because; this is what the nation wants and we cannot step back from the people’s demand.”
IAEA should take the ultimatum as an opportunity
MP Esmaeil Kosari stated that the IAEA should take advantage of Iran’s ultimatum.
“If the agency misses Iran’s deadline, Iran will attempt to produce the 20 percent enriched uranium,” he told the MNA on Monday.
The member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee added that if the West does not provide Iran with the fuel, the legitimacy of the IAEA will come under question.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Kosari pointed out that Tehran should try to store enriched uranium for the future.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/Index_view.asp?code=211368
U.S. President Barack Obama must speak out and declare that some of the behavior of the clerical regime in Iran is unacceptable, former Obama administration official Ray Takeyh said Monday.
Takeyh, who served as an adviser in the State Department last year and is now at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour the U.S. must also be open to negotiating some sort of deal to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"You can have negotiations with Iran, as the United States has had negotiations with many adversarial countries while also at the same time disapproving on the internal practices of those regimes," he said.
Takeyh's comments came just over a week after the bloodiest clashes between pro-democracy protesters and government security forces in months, clashes that left at least eight people dead. Days after those clashes, hundreds of thousands of pro-government demonstrators held rallies in Tehran and other cities.
Those protests coincided with new tensions over Iran's nuclear program, a program the United States says is intended to build a nuclear weapon. Tehran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes alone and says it's up to the West to decide whether to accept Iran's proposals on further enriching its uranium.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday the United States remains open to the possibility of further negotiations with Tehran, despite Iran's refusal to make significant progress towards a deal before January 1 this year, as Obama has demanded.
Clinton told reporters the U.S. is holding discussions with its partners and like-minded nations about possible new sanctions and other forms of pressure.
Takeyh said he expects the United States and its allies will try to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran, targeting in particular the Revolutionary Guard and its business interests.
"So you will begin to see intensification of economic pressure on Iran in the hope that external pressure, combined with internal pressure, will cause Iran to adjust its behavior," he said.
Takeyh added that he believes the Iranian government internally is rather weak and vulnerable and may seek some sort of agreement abroad at least to mitigate international pressure.
But he said the opposition movement in Iran is also somewhat incoherent. "It doesn't have a central nervous system. It doesn't even have an identifiable set of leaders or even a coherent ideology. It is a protest movement."
He said the longer the movement sustains itself, though, the more it will develop an ideology and a leadership.
A leading critic of the pro-democracy protesters, Professor Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University, told Amanpour that opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi's position has been severely weakened by the December 27 protests in Iran.
"The opposition that protested on (the Shiite Muslim holy day of) Ashura made a very major tactical mistake by being very brutal towards the police and also by carrying out these protests on a day of public mourning," Marandi said.
But one of the most fearless critics of Iran's regime, former Iranian Member of Parliament Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, rejected Marandi's assessment. She said everyone still supports Moussavi.
"The government is not able to arrest all the population in Iran", she said. "The people of Iran need fundamental change in the country and I am so optimistic that they will see this change in the country in the future."
Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/01/04/takeyh.afghanistan/index.html
4. 'We Seek Sanctions on Iran Gov't to Avoid Harming Civilians'
Hilary Leila Krieger
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US is seeking sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and other government elements to avoid hurting ordinary civilians, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday.
The Obama administration has been tight-lipped about what punitive measures it would seek against Teheran should diplomacy prove ineffective at preventing Iran from enriching uranium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, as Iran rejected international deals for a compromise.
Clinton's statement Monday highlighted what she called the goal of such sanctions as the US looks at ratcheting up pressure on Teheran while trying not to hurt reformists demonstrating against the current regime, which she accused of carrying out "ruthless repression."
Clinton also acknowledged that diplomatic efforts had not yielded the results the administration was looking for, saying that "the results of our efforts to engage Iran directly have not been encouraging."
She added that the US was "disappointed" by the Iranian rejection of the international deal whereby Iran would have shipped much of its low-enriched uranium abroad for processing for use in medical treatments.
"We have already begun discussions with our partners and with like-minded nations about pressure and sanctions," Clinton said. "Our goal is to pressure the Iranian government, particularly the Revolutionary Guard elements, without contributing to the suffering of ordinary [Iranians], who deserve better than what they currently are receiving."
While Israel is pleased to see the US engaging international allies on enhanced sanctions, and see the IRGC as a crucial target given their role in the military actions at home and abroad, more focused measures fall short of the "crippling sanctions" Israel has said it would like to see.
In addition, Clinton stressed that the opportunity to choose diplomacy was still there and that the US doesn't use the term deadline when speaking of its Iran posture.
Though White House spokesman Robert Gibbs did recently use the term deadline, he was speaking in the context of the low-enriched uranium deal brokered by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency which gave Iran until December 31 to accept. The US has generally referred to a policy of "reviewing" how engagement has done at the end of the year.
"We have avoided using the term deadline," Clinton said, "because we want to keep the door to dialogue open. But we've also made it clear we can't continue to wait."
Clinton was speaking at a joint press conference with Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jasim Bin Jabir Al-Thani, which kicks off a round of US talks with Arab leaders this month that is also focused on efforts to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Clinton is meeting with top Egyptian officials on Friday as the pace of efforts to restart talks picks up.
Clinton stressed America's interest that talks start immediately, adding that, "We're going to be even more committed this year" to the process.
Monday's meeting with Al-Thani came amidst reports that the US is looking to Arab states to help press the Palestinians to come to the table, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israel without a full settlement freeze.
At the press conference, Al-Thani said that the Arab world was ready to assist.
"All of us, we are ready to help," he said, adding later that Qatar would continue to give aid to the PA.
But Al-Thani also raised the issue of forging a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas as a necessary condition for peace talks to make progress.
"The most important thing is how we can form a unity government between the Palestinians so they can concentrate on how to deal with the peace process," he said.
Clinton was not asked about the issue during the press conference.
Though the Obama administration has been more open to a Palestinian unity arrangement, but has not emphasized the issue in the recent efforts to relaunch talks, Qatar ran afoul of the previous administration for trying to mediate talks that would see Hamas return to the Palestinian Authority.
Qatar has faced criticism from some quarters for playing for all sides, which have included closer ties to Israel and Iran than many other Arab countries.
But that also helps Qatar play an important role in brokering disputes, and Al-Thani also expressed willingness to help with the conflict in Yemen, which has elevated into what some in the US and Sunni Arab world see as a proxy war with Iran, which faces accusations of aiding the rebels fighting the Yemeni government.
Clinton sharpened US rhetoric on the issue Monday when she called the conflict there one with "global implications," warning of "the ongoing efforts by al Qaida in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region."
Yemen was the site of training received by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before he attempted to blow up a plane heading to Detroit. The US has charged that Al-Qaida was connected to the attack, and Clinton said the US Embassy in Yemen would be closed until "security conditions permit" based on threats posed by of Al-Qaida.
Available at: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1262339394484&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that the Iranian nation would not give up on its rights as it is more than "tenfold stronger" than it was a year ago.
Addressing Iranians residing in Tajikistan, where he is on an official visit, Ahmadinejad said Iran is now so powerful that it even plans to demand compensation for its rights that were violated in the past.
In December 2009, he promised to seek compensation for the damages Iran sustained during World War II.
The Iranian president's remarks came after an Israeli official claimed that the United Nations Security Council plans to adopt new sanctions against the country over its nuclear program due to the unrest in Iran.
Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and member of the UN nuclear watchdog, is accused by the West and Israel of pursuing military objective in its nuclear pursuit. The country, however, says its work is directed at the civilian applications of the technology, to which it is entitled under international law.
On Monday, President Ahmadinejad said foreign military presence in a number of regional countries had only fueled insecurity in the region. The Iranian president has long warned the world powers that their military adventurism in the oil-rich Middle East would spell the end of their empires.
"God willing, the dark ages of humanity are coming to an end and the Iranian nation can fill the vacuum created by the collapse of imperialistic powers," the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted him as saying.
He expressed hope that plots to destabilize the region would soon end. The Iranian president also pronounced the county's stance on the turmoil in Afghanistan.
He said Tehran wants its neighboring country to experience security and peace. Afghanistan has been occupied by the military forces of the United States and a number of NATO members who for eight years have sought to secure the country by uprooting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
However, not only they failed to capture al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the foreign forces also failed in resting stability in Afghanistan, which experienced its most-violent year in 2009.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=115352§ionid=351020101
6. France Rejects Iran's Ultimatum in Nuclear Dispute
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French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Monday said Iran's latest ultimatum in the nuclear dispute at the weekend was a "pirouette" from Tehran that could not be taken seriously. Iran did not want to engage with the West on the nuclear energy issue, he said. "That is regrettably not possible," Kouchner told the radio broadcaster RTL.
"It was not acceptable that Iran now puts an ultimatum to those who wanted to help it with uranium enrichment," he said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Saturday that the West had one month to accept Iran's conditions for a uranium-exchange deal, otherwise Tehran would go ahead with the enrichment programme by itself.
According to a plan brokered in October by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran's low-enriched uranium was to be exported to Russia and France for further enrichment of up to 20 per cent and processing into fuel for a Tehran medical reactor.
The West has been urging Iran to accept the deal by December 31, but Tehran rejected the offer, insisting that the uranium swap has to take place in Iran.
The international community fears Iran is secretly building nuclear weapons, a claim Tehran has dismissed.
Low enriched uranium is used for nuclear fuel while uranium enriched to a higher degree of more than 90 per cent is used to make nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/301986,france-rejects-irans-ultimatum-in-nuclear-dispute.html
7. Iran Holds Major Military Defense Drill Next Month
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Iran plans to launch a large-scale military exercise next month to prepare its military forces to be able to repel any possible offensive by the country's enemies, a top commander says.
The joint drill, conducted by Iran's ground forces and cooperation of some of the units of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), will "improve the force's defensive capabilities" Commander of Iran's Ground Forces Brig. Gen. Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan said on Saturday.
It will also "boost the region's security," the commander told a meeting of servicemen in Tehran.
Both the United States and its close ally Israel have refused to rule out the possibility of a military attack against the country of more than 70 million people, should Tehran not halt its enrichment activities.
Tel Aviv claims Tehran's nuclear program poses a threat to its security. This is while Iran's nuclear activities have been inspected more than any other nuclear country by the UN watchdog and there has been no evidence to justify Israeli concerns.
Iran has not initiated a war with any country for more than a century.
Unlike Tehran, Tel Aviv is the sole possessor of a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East and has so far refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Moreover, Israel has been involved in many of the military conflicts in the region in its 60 years of occupation history.
Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons and has called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction from across the globe.
Many believe that Tel Aviv's enmity is rooted in a military doctrine that says Israel must maintain absolute military superiority in the region.
"The maintenance of Israel's 'qualitative military edge' over any combination of its potential adversaries has been a cornerstone of US Middle East policy for more than a decade," Shawn L. Twing, editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs says.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=115231§ionid=351020101
8. Iran Issues 'Ultimatum' to West Over Nuclear Swap
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Iran, already at risk of fresh UN sanctions over its atomic drive, gave the West an "ultimatum" on Saturday to accept a uranium swap deal or else it will produce its own nuclear fuel for a Tehran reactor.
"The international community has just one month left to decide" whether or not it will accept Iran's conditions, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted as saying on state television.
"This is an ultimatum."
Iran, which rejected a December 31 deadline to accept a UN-brokered deal, said on Tuesday it was ready to swap abroad its low-enriched uranium for nuclear fuel, while insisting the exchange happen in stages.
Tehran had already rejected a proposal by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to ship most of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing into fuel for the research reactor.
It proposed in December to exchange 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of uranium on its Gulf island of Kish, but this was bluntly dismissed by the United States, with the IAEA already having ruled out an exchange on Iranian soil.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told AFP in December that Iran was ready to strike a uranium enrichment deal if the West respects the Islamic republic and stops making threats.
And Mottaki said in the same month that the country was open to exchanging uranium in Turkey.
World powers have been pushing Iran to accept the UN-brokered deal and are also mulling plans to impose fresh UN sanctions against it for dismissing the year-end deadline.
Iran is already under three sets of UN sanctions for refusing to abandon its sensitive programme of uranium enrichment, the process which produces nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
The United States, Israel, and other world powers suspect Tehran is making an atomic bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme.
Iran denies the charge and says its purpose is entirely peaceful.
On Wednesday, US State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said the West would still focus on "dual-track policy" regarding the Islamic republic.
"Even as we leave the door open to engagement," world powers agree that Iran will pay the consequences if it does not meet its international nuclear obligations, Darby told AFP.
The UN Security Council's five permanent members -- the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain -- plus Germany are "in the process of considering next steps consistent with our dual-track policy," he said.
A UN diplomatic source in New York has said preliminary work on drafting a sanctions resolution was likely to begin in mid-January.
Iran's defiant "ultimatum" comes as the country faces its worst domestic crisis whereby protesters against Ahmadinejad's June re-election have been harshly confronted by the authorities.
The Washington Post said on Wednesday the United States was weighing targeted sanctions against members of Tehran's government as it hardens its line towards Iran after bloody crackdowns on protests.
But Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday that Europe must not isolate Iran over human rights, stressing Tehran's role in negotiating world conflicts.
"We must not burn every bridge (with Iran) because Iran is a key figure for the Afghan crisis, for the crisis in the Middle East and over the very sensitive nuclear question", Frattini said.
"We must act so that Iran has a positive influence (on all these issues), so that it is a strength, it is respected, and not a concern", Frattini said. "Iran has the right to be a civil nuclear power, not a military one".
Available at: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.f67495c24e35e0b6f1fb119c3ec073c0.681&show_article=1
1. Washington Calls on Pyongyang to Return to Six-Party Talks
Xinhua News Agency
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The United States on Monday called on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks, as an important follow-up action of bilateral direct talks.
"I don't have a specific reaction to that statement. But we hope that North Korea will agree to resuming the six-party talks," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, referring to Pyongyang's proposal on improving relationship with Washington.
The Asian country, through its KCNA news agency, said Friday that "the fundamental task for ensuring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of Asia is to put an end to the hostile relationship between the DPRK and the USA."
"It is the consistent stand of the DPRK to establish a lasting peace system on the Korean Peninsula and make it nuclear-free through dialogue and negotiations," said a KCNA New Year editorial.
The call came as Washington was trying to get the state to return to the stalled six-party talks.
"We are hopeful that we'll get some actions toward that end and not just words. We are hopeful we can all sit down and reach our desired goal, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a verifiable manner," said Kelly.
The DPRK shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities in 2007 under a six-nation nuclear disarmament deal. However, Pyongyang quit the multilateral talks in April 2009 in anger over international criticism of its long-range rocket test.
It conducted an underground nuclear test in May and declared it was in the final phase of an experimental, highly enriched uranium program -- another way to make an atomic bomb.
However, tensions began to be eased recently, and the DPRK has expressed willingness to return to the six-party talks involving itself, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, if it had satisfactory talks with Washington.
In early December, the two countries agreed on the need to resume the negotiations during President Barack Obama's envoy's trip to Pyongyang.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2010-01/05/content_12756114.htm
Expectations are running high over a third inter-Korean summit this year as the leaders of the two Cold War rivals vowed to seek a breakthrough in strained relations in their New Year's messages. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who has taken a tough stance against his nuclear-armed communist neighbor since taking office in early 2008, called on Monday for a "turning point" in tumultuous relations between the two Koreas in 2010.
"This year, South Korea and North Korea should create a turning point in their relations," Lee said in his nationally televised New Year's address. South Korea "will endeavor to improve relations with North Korea," he said.
As a way to improve ties and prevent accidental clashes, Lee proposed that the two Koreas establish a standing dialogue channel through which they can talk at any time.
"There is a need to establish a body that will allow inter-Korean dialogue to take place at all times. I hope that North Korea will also open its heart and move forward on a path of dialogue and cooperation," Lee said.
Lee's proposal came days after North Korea said in its New Year's message that it was committed to improving ties with the South and called for Seoul to refrain from actions that might aggravate tensions.
"Unshakable is our stand that we will improve North-South relations," said the New Year's message, issued in the form of a joint editorial in the newspapers of the North's ruling party, army and youth league. It stressed that this year marks the 10th anniversary of the first inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang.
The Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper run by pro-Pyongyang ethnic Koreans in Japan which serves as a propaganda mouthpiece for the North, described the joint editorial as a precursor to "radical changes" this year, suggesting the possibility of an inter-Korean summit.
In its New Year's message last year, the North called Lee a "fascist" who leads the "sycophantic and treacherous" regime, calling for South Korean people to struggle to oust him. But this year's message dropped its customary accusation of South Korea.
"The comment about North-South relations in this year's editorial is different from those of previous years, and it not only mentioned the issue in detail but also provided specific directions (for inter-Korean ties)," Choson Sinbo said. "This tells us that the issue is one of the important pillars in DPRK (North Korea)'s strategy," it said.
South Korean officials welcomed the softened stance by the North. Seoul's pointman on North Korea, Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, said in his own New Year's message on Monday that he would bring in "a new paradigm" in inter-Korean ties in 2010.
"We should try our best to achieve improvement of the South-North relationship with principles and productive humanitarianism, strengthening the potential for preparing for unification," Hyun said.
Last week Hyun said he would prepare for a possible inter-Korean summit this year. "We are ready to hold talks with the North at any level, including the highest," he said.
"There is a possibility that an inter-Korean summit is held this year, most likely after the South's local elections slated for June," said Hong Hyon-ik, a research fellow at Seoul's private Sejong Institute.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il needs a summit with the South to win much-needed aid, as he is striving to rebuild his country’s tattered economy by 2012, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
For the South's Lee, who is in the midpoint of his five-year term, 2010 could be the last chance for an inter-Korean summit as he could become a lame duck beginning next year, Yang and other analysts say.
The Korea Institute for Defense Analysis, a government-run think tank in Seoul, has called for the government to push for an inter-Korean summit within this year to produce substantial progress on cross-border reconciliation and nuclear disarmament.
The two Koreas held their first summit in 2000 when South Korean President Kim Dae-jung ventured into the North. At that time, Kim Jong-Il promised to make a return visit to Seoul. But as he refused to travel to the South, apparently out of fear for his security, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun visited Pyongyang for a second Korean summit in 2007.
Lee has said he is ready to meet the North Korean leader "anytime and anywhere" if it will help resolve the protracted nuclear standoff. Analysts say the two leaders could meet at the border village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the peninsula.
Available at: http://www.upiasia.com/Politics/2010/01/04/koreas_to_seek_summit_this_year/9913/
3. South Korea Says Dialogue with North Korea in 2010 Should Help Denuclearize Pyongyang
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea's point man on North Korea said Monday that dialogue between the divided countries should bring about a "turning point" this year in the solution of the North Korean nuclear problem.
"Among others, a turning point in resolving the North Korean nuclear problem should be created through productive inter-Korean dialogue," Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said in a speech to his ministry officials in a ceremony to mark the formal start of the year.
He also called for greater regional cooperation to help end hostility on the peninsula. "People's hope for reunification should be brought together, while we must expand at full speed cooperation with neighboring countries to form consensus on it," he said.
The comments by Hyun came amid speculation that the two Koreas may push for a third summit between their leaders this year to mend ties and boost reconciliation.
On News Year's Day, North Korea issued a statement in the form of joint editorial of three organs of the Worker's Party, the military and a youth organization, expressing its willingness to improve ties with South Korea, with which it remains technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce.
A pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan followed up the joint editorial by envisioning a "dramatic event" in inter-Korean relations. On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak proposed the two countries set up liaison offices in both capitals.
North Korea has in recent months signaled it is willing to rejoin international talks designed to compensate it for its nuclear dismantlement. The talks, abandoned last year by North Korea after it launched a long-range rocket and drew U.N. condemnation, also involve South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2010/01/04/66/0401000000AEN20100104008200315F.HTML
1. India Planning Major Expansion of Its Nuclear-Power Capacity
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Reports indicate that India is planning a major expansion of its nuclear-power capacity.
According to a report in Nature News, Srikumar Banerjee, head of the India's Atomic Energy Commission, said that the country is planning to increase nuclear power generation to 60 gigawatts by about 2035, from the current 4.7 gigawatts produced from 18 reactors.
By increasing the nuclear capacity to 60 gigawatts, it would be roughly 10 percent of expected total installed capacity.
"India's established reserve of uranium will allow us to raise our installed capacity only to 10 gigawatts," he said.
We are intensifying our efforts to search for uranium in the country, but that takes time. But now that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (the international group that oversees nuclear exports) has relaxed its guidelines, we can access international markets," he added.
Agreements with the United States, France and Russia on civilian nuclear cooperation have been signed.
"Negotiations between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and companies in France and Russia are under way for finalizing the import of nuclear reactors, and we have already placed a purchase order for uranium with Kazakhstan," said Banerjee.
According to Banerjee, "We will add eight to ten 700-megawatt pressurized heavy-water reactors, several fast-breeder reactors and an advanced heavy-water reactor, all of indigenous design."
"Concurrently, we will set up light-water reactors in technical cooperation with foreign vendors. These imported reactors, each with a capacity of 1,000-1,650 megawatts, will be set up on energy parks at coastal sites including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal," he said.
"We are also in the process of identifying stable underground geological sites for long-term storage of nuclear waste," he added.
India has said it will reprocess imported nuclear fuel to extract plutonium, which can be used to build weapons.
If this has made it difficult to strike deals with international partners, Banerjee said, "India has committed to adopting the closed fuel cycle option, in which the plutonium recovered from spent fuel is utilized for energy production using fast-breeder reactors."
"We have always emphasized that we should have the right to reprocess imported nuclear fuel to separate plutonium, under the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, of course," he added.
As to the question whether India's civilian nuclear programme is completely separate from its weapons programme, Banerjee said, "Indian strategic programme is 100 percent indigenous and has no relation whatsoever to the proposed international civilian nuclear cooperation."
Available at: http://in.news.yahoo.com/139/20100105/981/tsc-india-planning-major-expansion-of-it.html
2. Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project May Go On Stream by Middle of the Year
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The Koodankulam nuclear power project is likely to go on stream by the middle of the year, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Srikumar Banerjee said on Monday.
Addressing presspersons on the sidelines of the 20th annual conference of the Indian Nuclear Society (INS), Dr. Banerjee, expressing satisfaction at the “good progress” of the project, said the first (of the two 1,000 MWe) reactor of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project could achieve criticality by mid-2010. “We could initiate talks at the highest level to ensure that the small gaps in delivery of components and installation are handled quickly,” Dr. Banerjee said.
The AEC chairman said the nuclear programme aimed at raising the contribution of nuclear power to 10 per cent of overall energy production by 2030-35, when requirement would be on a scale of 6,00,000 MW.
Earlier in his special address at the conference, B. Prasada Rao, CMD, BHEL, said India would need to invest around $65 billion between 2010 and 2020 in new power plants.
Terming nuclear energy as a “logical choice” in meeting future energy requirements, Mr. Rao said one of the major challenges would be in the development of indigenous sub-critical components. “If we can source indigenously then the cost would come down by 10-15 per cent and it can also reduce cycle time of the projects,” he said.
Anil Kakodkar, former chairman, AEC, said it was clear from the present growth scenario of nuclear energy that while there had been an accumulation of significant experience, there was now a critical need to “look for an additional parameter that will support rapid growth” in the sector. Advocating a material science approach to bridge the need for newer materials, Dr. Kakodkar also called for a relook at product development cycles to attain global cost competitiveness.
He stressed the need to build synergetic partnerships between the Department of Atomic Energy labs and industrial organisations to augment power production and align it to the country’s future requirements. “Without manufacturing support from Indian industry, we cannot think of a viable nuclear programme,” he said.
Baldev Raj, Chairman, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Energy; P. Rama Rao, INS president; Prabhat Kumar, project director, Bhavini, Kalpakkam, and B. Venkatraman, conference secretary, spoke.
M.R. Srinivasan, former AEC chairman, was felicitated on the occasion.
Available at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/05/stories/2010010554930700.htm
1. Obama's Nuclear Weapons Plan Runs Into Resistance
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US President Barack Obama's plan to begin phasing out nuclear weapons has run up against powerful resistance from officials in the Pentagon and other American agencies, The Los Angeles Times reported late Sunday.
Obama laid out his vision of a nuclear-free world in a speech in Prague last April.
But citing unnamed officials, the newspaper said the Obama administration is now locked in internal debate over a top-secret policy blueprint for shrinking the US nuclear arsenal and reducing the role of such weapons in country's military strategy.
Officials in the Pentagon and elsewhere have pushed back against proposals to cut the number of weapons and narrow their mission, the report said.
In turn, White House officials, unhappy with early Pentagon-led drafts of the blueprint known as the Nuclear Posture Review, have stepped up their involvement in the deliberations and ordered that the document reflect Obama's preference for sweeping change, The Times noted.
The Pentagon has stressed the importance of continued US deterrence, an objective Obama has said he agrees with, the report said.
But a senior defense official, who described the debate as "spirited," acknowledged that some officials are concerned that the administration may be going too far, the paper pointed out.
Available at: http://www.worthynews.com/top/ynetnews-com-Ext-Comp-ArticleLayout-CdaArticlePrintPreview-1,2506,L-3829665,00-html/
1. Pakistan, India Exchange Nuclear Site Lists: Ministry
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Pakistan and India on Friday exchanged lists of their nuclear sites under an annual accord, after a year of strained relations between the arch-rivals, Pakistan's foreign ministry said.
The New Year's Day exchange is aimed at protecting the sites in case of war and was established under a 1988 agreement on the prohibition of attacks on each other's nuclear installations.
"The governments of Pakistan and India today exchanged lists of their respective nuclear installations and facilities," a ministry statement said.
It added that the lists were handed over to officers of the Pakistani and Indian high commissions in New Delhi and Islamabad.
Relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals worsened dramatically after attacks in India's financial capital Mumbai in November 2008, which New Delhi blamed on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Under the 1988 agreement, both nations are to refrain from attacking nuclear facilities in the event of war. The neighbours have also set up a telephone hotline to prevent accidental nuclear conflict.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between them but claimed by both.
The two countries came close to another war in 2002 after an attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi also blamed on LeT.
But after deploying hundreds of thousands of troops to the border, Islamabad and New Delhi retreated following intense international mediation.
In 2004 they launched a peace process, but that is now on hold following the Mumbai attacks, with New Delhi pressuring Islamabad to do more to punish those responsible for the carnage and to crack down on anti-India groups.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hMdQyq4lvqtJCeUfcqF7ZfxW-A_g
Lithuania has been left without it's primary source of power as the Chernobyl-style nuclear power plant at Ignalina has been shut down at the request of the EU.
The European Union considered the plant unsafe and made it a key point in the accession agreement that the country would shut the plant down by 2010. Lithuania appealed numerous times but was eventually forced to go ahead with the closure as of the first of the year.
The power plant was complosed of two units -- a scheduled third was never completed -- the first of which was shut down upon the country's joining the EU in 2004.
Lithuania now has as much as 40 percent less generating capacity. Plans to replace the plant will not come to fruition until 2018 at the earliest.
"Lithuania's economy and energy industry are not prepared to live without a nuclear power plant," plant chief Viktor Shevaldin told The Associated Press.
The country will likely now have to import significantly more energy from neigboring Russia, which Lithuanians fear will result in more Russian say in the workings of the country.
Estonian state owned power company Eesti Energia says it expects to cover at least 10% of Lithuania's power demand.
Available at: http://www.baltictimes.com/news/articles/24094/
2. Poland's PGE Likely to Pull Out of Lithuanian Nuclear Power Project
Warsaw Business Journal
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Due to delays in the construction of the Ignalina II nuclear power station, an investment that was due to completed by 2020, the Polish Energy Group (PGE) might pull out of its participation in the project.
"If construction of Ignalina started earlier, as initially planned, it would have been a chance for PGE to gain some experience in the field of nuclear energy," said an expert in the energy industry.
The management of the power station in Lithuania wants foreign partners to acquire at least half of the shares in the project. The plant is to be built to replace the old power station that was decommissioned last year.
PGE deputy CEO Wojciech Topolnicki said, "Talks are still in progress and should come to an end within a month and then a decision will be made. We have to analyze the terms of the investment due to the recent changes."
Available at: http://www.wbj.pl/article-47981-polands-pge-likely-to-pull-out-of-lithuanian-nuclear-power-project.html?typ=pam
3. Mudslides Prompt Call for Shutdown of Brazil's Nuclear Power Plants
The Seattle Times
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The mayor of a mudslide-devastated city Sunday urged a precautionary shutdown of Brazil's only nuclear-power plants because of blocked highways while the death toll from flooding and slides rose to 75.
Angra dos Reis Mayor Tuca Jordao said that while the nuclear-power plants are not damaged or threatened, mudslides that have killed at least 44 people in his city alone have disrupted escape routes needed to cope with any emergency.
"We don't want any risk," Jordao said.
There was no immediate response from higher authorities, but officials of Brazil's state-run nuclear-energy company Electronuclear said a temporary closure of the plants would not seriously hurt the country's power supply, according to Globo TV.
Crews using rescue dogs, heavy machinery, boats and helicopters took advantage of improved weather on Sunday to hunt for Angra dos Reis slide survivors.
A civil-defense spokeswoman said two bodies were recovered in the Carioca slum — where 15 people died — and two on the Ilha Grande island, where at least 29 died when a hillside collapsed on a vacation resort and neighboring houses on New Year's Day.
Overall, authorities said, 66 people died in slides or flooding in Rio de Janeiro state, three in Minas Gerais state and six in the São Paulo state city of Cunha.
Jordao said about 20 areas in Angra dos Reis were still at risk of mudslides and he said some people were being evacuated.
The slides were triggered by 10 inches of rain that had drenched the region since Wednesday, authorities said.
Available at: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2010689121_mudslides04.html?syndication=rss
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