1. Biden: Nuclear Iran Would Threaten United States as Well as Israel
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The Obama administration has boosted U.S. defense ties to Israel and will close ranks with its ally against any threat from a nuclear-armed Iran, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Monday ahead of a trip to Israel.
Biden arrived on Monday afternoon in Israel, where he plans to deliver a message to the Israeli public about U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian nuclear program and the Middle East peace process.
Biden, the most senior U.S. official to visit Israel since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, is widely expected to caution his hosts not to attack Iran pre-emptively while world powers pursue fresh sanctions against Tehran.
In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Biden emphasized Washington's efforts to drum up greater international diplomatic pressure on the Iranians, as well as unilateral measures imposed by the U.S. Treasury.
Asked about the prospect of an Israeli attack, he said, "though I cannot answer the hypothetical questions you raised about Iran, I can promise the Israeli people that we will confront, as allies, any security challenge it will face. A nuclear-armed Iran would constitute a threat not only to Israel - it would also constitute a threat to the United States."
Meanwhile on Monday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said that Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel.
"Iran isn't an existential threat to Israel at the moment, but it has the potential to develop into one, and we are working to prevent that," said Barak, speaking before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Biden, however, emphasized the Iranian threat and reiterated the United States' commitment to Israel.
"[The Obama administration] gives Israel annual military aid worth $3 billion. We revived defense consultations between the two countries, doubled our efforts to ensure Israel preserves its qualitative military edge in the region, expanded our joint exercises and cooperation on missile-defense systems."
Israel, which is believed to have the region's only atomic arsenal, bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981 and, in 2007, launched a similar sortie against Syria.
Those tactical challenges, and U.S. reluctance to see a new regional war, has led some analysts to predict Israel will eventually come round to a strategy of "containing" Iran - which denies its controversial uranium enrichment is for bombs.
Biden, who arrives in Jerusalem on Monday and departs Israel on Thursday, was not expected to take part in indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks that would be spearheaded by Obama's special envoy, George Mitchell, and could be announced during his visit, although he will be briefed on them.
U.S.-Israeli tensions flared over Obama's early push for a complete freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank.
Obama has since embraced a more limited, 10-month moratorium on new building announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November.
Obama's has been trying to reach out to the Muslim world, a priority he highlighted with high-profile visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and, later this month, to Indonesia.
"We certainly believe that when the United States effectively builds bridges with Muslim communities, this allows us to promote our interests, including interests that Israel benefits from," Biden told Yedioth.
"The construction freeze was a unilateral decision by the Israeli government, and it is not part of an agreement with the American administration or with the Palestinians," he said.
"It is not everything that we wanted, but it is an important action that has significant impact on the ground," said Biden.
Biden's meetings in Jerusalem will begin Tuesday morning, when he will meet with President Shimon Peres at the President's Residence in Jerusalem. He will then continue on to the prime minister's Jerusalem residence to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and advisers. Following a private session, the two leaders will hold a joint press conference.
Biden will address the Israeli public at Tel Aviv University on Thursday, during which time he will discuss U.S.-Israel ties and U.S. President Barack Obama's vision for the peace process and dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.
Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154892.html
2. Iran Says No Plan for U.S. Ties, Nuclear Fuel Swap Still on Table
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A senior Foreign Ministry official said on Sunday that Iran has no plan to establish relations with the United States and reiterated Tehran’s position that the proposal for a simultaneous nuclear fuel swap is still on the table.
“There is no issue as (establishing) ties with this country,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in an address to a number of students from Shahid Beheshti university.
As long as the U.S. does not respect Iran’s rights and does not change its discriminatory approach, Tehran will not consider establishing ties with it, Mehmanparast stated.
He went on to say that Tehran will produce nuclear fuel enriched to 20 percent to power its nuclear research reactor if it does not receive the needed fuel.
However, he insisted the position that Tehran is still ready for a simultaneous swap of its low enriched uranium (LEU) with 20 percent enriched fuel on the Iranian soil.
Iran announced last week that it had sent a letter to International Atomic Energy Agency Director Chief, Yukiya Amano, urging the UN once again to provide the country with nuclear fuel for its research reactor, an offer widely seen as a confidence-building measure.
Iran has already started enriching uranium to higher degree for the medical reactor.
Available at: http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=215575
Iran announced Sunday that it has started a new production line of highly accurate, short range cruise missiles, which would add a new element to the country's already imposing arsenal.
Gen. Ahmad Vahidi told Iranian state TV that the cruise missile, called Nasr 1, would be capable of destroying targets up to 3,000 tons in size.
The minister said the missile can be fired from ground-based launchers as well as ships, but would eventually be modified to be fired from helicopters and submarines.
Western powers are already concerned about Iran's military capabilities, especially the implications of its nuclear program. The U.S. and some of its allies, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency, fear Iran is trying to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.
The West is considering stiffer sanctions against Tehran to try to force it to halt uranium enrichment, a process that has civilian uses but can be also used for nuclear arms if the uranium is enriched over 90 percent.
Iran also boasts an array of short and medium-range missiles capable of hitting targets in the region, including Israel, U.S. military bases in the region and much of Europe.
Tehran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.
Gen. Vahidi said the production of the cruise missiles, which took two years to develop, showed that sanctions on Iran have failed. He said the cruise missiles would strengthen Iran's naval power.
Cruise missiles are highly advanced, usually subsonic rocket-powered weapons that can hug the ground and hit targets with great precision. The U.S. used large numbers of cruise missiles in its attack on Baghdad in 2002, launching most of them from warships in the Persian Gulf.
Iranian state TV showed a video of boxes in a warehouse containing several missiles. It also showed footage of Iran's cruise missile test in 2007. That missile was apparently imported.
Tehran began a military self-sufficiency program in 1992, under which it produces a large range of weapons, including tanks, missiles, jet fighters, unmanned drone aircraft and torpedoes.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g6gsW0wMQqv9NE4nWfdG6MsJnuAwD9E9T7J80
4. Iran: We're Ready for Uranium Exchange With 'Fresh' Countries
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Iran is ready to conduct a uranium exchange deal with countries other than those involved in a United Nations-backed plan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Sunday, according to the Fars news agency
"As we have reached no results yet with France, Russia and the United States over the uranium exchange plan, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head has asked other countries to get involved," Mehmanparast said.
"We will wait and see whether other countries would be capable to provide us with the required fuel," the spokesman added in a meeting with students at the Shahid Beheshti university in Tehran.
Japan is reportedly one of the countries interested to get engaged in the deal.
Last October, the IAEA brokered a deal under which Iran would exchange low-enriched uranium for foreign-made nuclear fuel that would power a medical-purpose reactor in Tehran.
Iran voiced readiness to either buy the fuel for the Tehran reactor or make it itself or export its low-enriched uranium (LEU) in return for processed fuel in line with the initial IAEA plan, as long as certain guarantees were put in place.
Iran however insists that the swap should be made on Iranian soil, and rejected any third country as a venue for the exchange which both the world powers and the IAEA have so far rejected.
Iran last month started the process of boosting its 3.5 per cent LEU to 20 percent - although experts say that the country did not yet have the capability to make actual fuel elements for the Tehran reactor.
"If the agreement is further delayed, then we will cover our needs by our own 20 percent enrichment process and the (IAEA brokered) exchange plan would have no meaning anymore," Mehmanparst said.
The spokesman once again reiterated that Iran's nuclear projects were solely for peaceful purposes and rejected Western charges of a secret military program.
He said that the Iranian progress in missiles' technology in the recent years should not be regarded by the world powers as a provocation as the Iranian defence potentials just deterrent aims.
The main Western - and especially Israeli - concern are the Iranian medium-range missiles Shahab and Sejil, as they would be able to hit any part of the Jewish state.
"If a country wants growth and development, then it should insist on its rights and not wait others to grant us these rights," the spokesman said while reiterating Iran's internationally acknowledged right to pursue a civil nuclear program.
Iran is ready to negotiate with the world powers over its nuclear programs and remove ambiguities but not, as demanded by the West and the United Nations Security Council, to suspend the uranium enrichment process.
Iran's atomic chief Ali-Akbar Salehi even proclaimed last month that in the new Persian year, which begins March 21, the country planned to build 10 new enrichment sites, followed by 10 more in the future.
Ealier Iranian official media reported that Iran launched production of a short-range, highly accurate missile capable of evading radar and destroying targets of 3,000 tons, official media reported.
Iran, embroiled in a row with the West over its nuclear program, often announces advances in its military capabilities in an apparent bid to show its readiness to counter any attack.
Iran began a military self-sufficiency program in 1992, under which it produces a large range of weapons, including tanks, medium range missiles, jet fighters and torpedoes.
Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154627.html
5. Western Draft Proposal for New UN Sanctions on Iran
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The United States has agreed with Britain, France and Germany on a draft proposal for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program and circulated it to Russia and China for comments.
Russia's initial reaction to the new proposal has been negative, Western diplomats say, though Moscow has said it supports in principle the idea of new punitive steps against Tehran for defying five U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that it halt its nuclear enrichment program.
China has yet to react, the diplomats said.
Iran rejects Western charges that it is secretly developing atomic weapons and says the goal of its nuclear program is generation of electricity and other peaceful activities.
WHO IS DRAFTING THE NEW SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN?
The United States, Britain, France and Germany had been exchanging ideas for weeks on a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran. They now aim to persuade Russia and China to back the latest proposal, which was drafted by the United States.
Both Russia and China have lucrative business ties with Iran, which Western diplomats say is one of the main reasons that Moscow and Beijing have been reluctant to support any punitive U.N. measures against Tehran.
Except for Germany, all of those in the group have veto power on the Security Council and can block any resolution.
Western officials involved in the six-power negotiations say Russia has been losing patience with Tehran and will likely support new sanctions, though it opposes measures that it deems too tough, such as sanctions on Iran's energy sector.
Western diplomats say they will work hard to win Beijing over, even if it means diluting proposed measures.
WHERE ARE SANCTIONS DISCUSSIONS AT NOW?
The United States, Britain, France and Germany would like to hold a conference call with Russia and China to discuss the proposal but Beijing is resisting. The four Western powers hope China will agree to discussions soon so they can get a draft sanctions resolution to the full 15-nation Security Council.
Russia and China can be expected to work hard to water down any proposed measures as they did with the three previous sanctions resolutions passed in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
So far negotiations are being conducted between the six countries' capitals. Once the group has agreed on the wording of a draft resolution, negotiations will be taken over by U.N. missions in New York and the full Security Council will join.
WHAT NEW SANCTIONS ARE BEING PROPOSED?
The latest proposals include the following measures:
- Restrictions on new Iranian banks established abroad, a measure that some diplomats say would amount to a ban;
- It would urge vigilance regarding transactions linked to Iran's central bank, but would not officially blacklist it as the Western powers had originally suggested;
- It would restrict insurance and reinsurance firms from insuring cargo shipments to and from Iran;
- There would be additional Iranian individuals and companies facing travel bans and asset freezes, with a new focus on members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and companies controlled by it;
- Some shipping companies would be blacklisted, including the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines;
- Limits on arms trade with Iran would be expanded into a full arms embarbo with an inspection regime.
- It does not include sanctions targeting Iran's oil and gas sectors as the French had originally pushed for.
HOW WILL CHINA AND OTHERS VOTE?
China has given no clear signals on how it will vote on a new sanctions resolution, though it has repeatedly called for further dialogue with Tehran and said it does not believe it is the time is for more sanctions.
However, Western diplomats predict that China will not veto new steps against Iran if Russia supports them. While Iran is an important energy supplier for China, Bejing's ties with the United States are extremely important, they say.
Russia would likely vote in favor of a weak sanctions resolution resulting in 10 or 11 yes votes, Western diplomats predict. But they have varying predictions on how China will vote, with some expected a yes and others an abstention.
Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon have made clear they would have difficulty supporting new sanctions against Tehran. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran, is an important faction in Lebanon's government.
U.S., British, French and German officials are lobbying Turkey and Brazil to secure their support, so far without success. Diplomats say Lebanon will likely abstain.
WHAT'S THE TIMETABLE FOR NEW SANCTIONS?
Western diplomats hope to get an agreement on elements for a new sanctions resolution among the six powers this month and a resolution approved by the Security Council next month.
It is possible, they say, that negotiations on a resolution will come to a head around the time of U.S. President Barack Obama's nuclear security summit in Washington in mid-April.
Western powers hope the issue will be resolved before a month-long conference on the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty opens in early May. But diplomats say it is possible negotiations will continue into May.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKN0611956520100307
Iran's Residing Representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asqar Soltaniyeh said that Tehran could once again show its righteousness in using civilian nuclear technology in the recent meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna.
"At the Board of Governor's meeting (in Vienna from March 1 to 5), the Islamic Republic of Iran's righteousness was shown once again," Soltaniyeh said in an interview with FNA on Friday.
"We could reiterate our righteousness in using nuclear energy for peaceful means in a software campaign in the international arena and through planning and active diplomacy and mobilizing over 100 member states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)," the envoy went on saying.
He added that Iran could also motivate over 100 NAM member states to mobilize against the existing insufficiencies in the IAEA.
In a statement released by the 118-member organization prior to the Board of Governors' meeting, NAM voiced protest against the report released by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on Iran's peaceful nuclear program and expressed full support for Tehran's peaceful nuclear activities.
The statement by the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Amano's latest report does not match the organization's expectations, and said several shortcoming stated in Amano's report are irrelevant as they had earlier been addressed and resolved through cooperation between Iran and the Agency under the former Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei.
Commenting on NAM's stance, Soltaniyeh told FNA, "This was a serious message to let the new IAEA chief know right from the start that countries, specially the developing states, will not remain indifferent to such issues."
The envoy further stated that the NAM member states "have realized that the negative political atmosphere created against Iran today will be used against them tomorrow, and they, thus, praised and supported Iran's valuable resistance during the (IAEA) meeting".
Amano's report to the agency's Board of Governors on Thursday vindicates the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities and confirms that Iran's program is faced with no technical or legal problems.
Yet, Amano's first report on Iran's nuclear program, similar to those of his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei, is comprised of technical and legal as well as political aspects. Those parts which deal with the legal and technical issues underline the technical success and legality of Iran's nuclear program and the peaceful nature of the country's nuclear activities.
However, a number of issues fabricated by the western media are stated in the report on Iran which Iranian officials say has no legal rationale.
Despite, Amano's previous claims that he wants to focus on "the facts" and pursue a more technical approach than his predecessor Mohammad ElBaradei, he also complained about the level of Iran's cooperation with the Agency. This is while the agency has repeatedly praised Iran's full cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog agency in is previous reports.
Available at: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8812150968
A Western proposal for fresh UN sanctions on Iran includes a call for restricting new Iranian banks abroad and urges "vigilance" against the Islamic Republic's central bank, diplomats said on Friday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, Western diplomats familiar with negotiations on the draft proposal - which Washington worked on with Britain, France and Germany and then shared with Russia and China - said they were no longer pushing for an official UN blacklisting of the central bank.
The draft also calls for restrictions on new Iranian banks abroad, which would make it difficult for Tehran to skirt a global crackdown on transactions with existing Iranian financial institutions by setting up new ones.
"We will be looking for a tightening of restrictions of new Iranian bank activity overseas," one diplomat said.
The UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for defying UN demands it halt nuclear enrichment. Tehran rejects Western charges that its nuclear program is aimed at developing bombs and says it will only be used to generate electricity.
Another diplomat said urging vigilance about Iran's central bank in the U.S.-drafted proposal should be more acceptable to Russia and China than blacklisting it, which would have made it difficult for anyone to invest in Iran.
"The idea is to call for strengthened vigilance regarding transactions linked to the Iranian central bank, which the European Union and United States and others can then use as the basis for implementing their own tougher restrictions on (such) transactions," a second diplomat said.
Only one Iranian bank -- Bank Sepah -- is blacklisted under an array of UN sanctions spelled out in three resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
The council has issued warnings about two others -- Bank Melli and Bank Saderat -- but has not blacklisted them.
The new draft also targets Iranian shipping firms and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and firms linked to it. The measures would restrict insurance and reinsurance coverage of cargo shipments in and out of Iran, diplomats said.
It would also expand the restrictions on arms trade with Iran into a full arms embargo, including a global inspection regime similar to one in place against North Korea.
The diplomats said Russia's initial reaction was negative.
"Russia says the draft does not correspond to their idea of what the sanctions should be and they reject many of the measures in the latest draft," a diplomat said.
China has not reacted and has so far refused to engage in "substantive negotiations" on a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran. The four Western powers hope to organize a conference call with officials from all six countries to discuss the draft but have been unable to do so due to China.
Both Russia and China have lucrative trade ties to Tehran, though Moscow has indicated it could support new punitive steps against Iran provided they are not too severe. China has not ruled out backing new sanctions but has repeatedly said the issue should be resolved through dialogue, not punishment.
Moscow and Beijing reluctantly supported the three previous rounds of travel bans and frozen assets targeting individuals and firms tied to Iran's nuclear and missile industries. Russia and China, like the United States, Britain and France, have veto powers on the UN Security Council.
Western diplomats hope to present a formal draft resolution to the full 15-nation Security Council in the coming weeks so it can be adopted some time next month at the latest.
Iran: Bushehr nuclear plant to be operational in spring
Iran's long-delayed Bushehr nuclear power plant will be launched within a few months, the Iranian nuclear energy agency chief said on Friday.
"This plant will be launched according to schedule at the end of the spring and will run the same as the other nuclear plants in the world," Ali Akbar Saleh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said in quotes carried by news agency ILNA.
The Iranian spring ends in late June.
Russia said in January it would finish building a 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant this year that it agreed to build 15 years ago. Delays have haunted the e1 billion project and diplomats say Moscow has used it as a lever in relations with Tehran.
Russia says the Bushehr plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program as it will come under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision. Iran will have to return all spent fuel rods to Russia.
An IAEA review of Bushehr's safety regulation gave it good marks but assessed that Iran should pass legislation to make its nuclear regulatory authority a completely independent body, the agency said in a report this week.
The IAEA reviewers, who were from seven member states and visited Iran including Bushehr from Feb. 20 to March 2, also urged Tehran to join global conventions on nuclear safety, including one dealing with radioactive waste management.
Available at: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154412.html
1. North Korea to Boost Nuclear Weapons Capability
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North Korea said on Tuesday it would boost its nuclear weapons capability because U.S. President Barack Obama was determined to ignore its calls for peace and bring it down by military force.
North Korea said this week that it had put its army on full combat alert as U.S. and South Korean forces began joint military drills involving nearly 40,000 troops, an annual event that draws anger from the North but typically results in no major incidents.
"The U.S. is leaving no means untried to bring down the DPRK (North Korea) including military threat, economic sanctions and ideological and cultural poisoning," the North's KCNA news agency quoted an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman as saying.
"(The North) will continue bolstering up its nuclear deterrent as long as the U.S. military threats and provocations go on," the spokesman said.
The North has come under pressure to return to six-party disarmament-for-aid nuclear talks because of U.N. sanctions imposed after a May 2009 nuclear test and prodding by its major ally and the host of the talks, China.
Sanctions have dealt a blow to its wobbly economy, and a botched currency move late last year has sparked inflation and rare civil unrest.
The two Koreas are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
The North said at the weekend that any talks on denuclearising the Korean peninsula would "naturally come to a standstill" because of the drills. North Korea conducted live fire exercises near sea borders with the South earlier this year.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE6280DH20100309
2. North Korea Says Ready to 'Blow Up' South Korea, US
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North Korea's army said Monday it is ready to "blow up" South Korea and the U.S., hours after the allies kicked off annual military drills that Pyongyang has slammed as a rehearsal for attack.
South Korea and the U.S. — which normally dismiss such threats as rhetoric — began 11 days of drills across South Korea on Monday morning to rehearse how the U.S. would deploy in time of emergency on the Korean peninsula.
The U.S. and South Korea argue the drills — which include live firing by U.S. Marines, aerial attack drills and urban warfare training — are purely defensive. North Korea claims they amount to attack preparations and has demanded they be canceled.
The North's People's Army issued a statement Monday, warning the drills created a tense situation and that its troops are "fully ready" to "blow up" the allies once the order is issued.
The North also put all its soldiers and reservists on high alert to "mercilessly crush the aggressors" should they encroach upon the North's territory even slightly, said the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The communist country has issued similar rhetoric in the days leading up the drills. On Sunday, it said it would bolster its nuclear capability and break off dialogue with the U.S. in response to the drills.
South Korea's military has been closely monitoring Pyongyang's maneuvers but hasn't seen any signs of suspicious activities by North Korean troops, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier Monday.
"We see it as (North Korea's) stereotype denouncement," Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae told reporters.
About 20 anti-U.S. activists held a peaceful protest near a joint drill command center south of Seoul on Monday, chanting slogans such as "Stop war rehearsal."
About 18,000 American soldiers and an undisclosed number of South Korean troops are taking part in the drills, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, according to U.S. and South Korean militaries.
The training comes as the U.S. and other regional powers are pushing for the North to rejoin international disarmament talks on ending its atomic weapons program in return for aid. The North quit the six-nation weapons talks and conducted its second nuclear test last year, drawing tighter U.N. sanctions.
The North has demanded a lifting of the sanctions and peace talks with the U.S. on formally ending the Korean War before it returns to the negotiations. The U.S. and South Korea have responded that the North must first return to the disarmament talks and make progress on denuclearization.
The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jjz-1FsdSMQjYDWp3qoa60B4b_jwD9EA9NR80
3. China Hopeful North Korea Will Rejoin Nuclear Talks: Minister
Yonhap News Agency
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China remains hopeful that North Korea will return to the six-party talks on its nuclear arms programs as long as its partners maintain their diplomatic efforts, China's foreign minister said Sunday.
"As long as all the countries involved are resolute and remain patient, there is hope for the talks to resume," Yang Jiechi said in a press conference at the National People's Congress meeting in Beijing. He did not elaborate.
China is host of the talks that Pyongyang boycotted after the United Nations imposed sanctions on it for its nuclear and missile tests. The talks also include South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia.
Pyongyang has since set preconditions on its return to the talks: lifting the sanctions and starting new talks toward a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
China has in recent months expanded its economic ties with North Korea, raising its profile as Pyongyang's top benefactor. South Korean and Chinese media speculate North Korean leader Kim Jong-il may visit Beijing as early as later this month, before his country announces its return to the six-nation talks.
North Korea has been under pressure from U.N. sanctions that toughened after the country went ahead with its second nuclear test in May last year. Yang did not say on what conditions the North would return to the talks, but Pyongyang has said the sanctions must first be lifted, while talks aimed at forging a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War also be launched.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2010/03/07/17/0401000000AEN20100307000900315F.HTML
1. 'Jordan to Become Model for Atomic Energy Cooperation'
The Jordan Times
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Jordan is set to become a model of international nuclear energy cooperation and a main pillar in an international network of nuclear institutes, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said on Monday.
At the opening of the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy yesterday, the French president announced the International Institute of Nuclear Energy. The France-based institute would become the heart of an international network of institutes, starting with the first centre in Jordan, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday.
In a visit to the Kingdom last month, French Prime Minister Francois Fillion highlighted the two countries' atomic energy agencies’ plans to establish an “energy centre of excellence”.
According to the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) officials, the centre will group various technical and educational programmes related to nuclear engineering and safety such as the nuclear research reactor at the Jordan University of Science and Technology.
In collaboration with French and other international institutions, the centre will develop curricula and encourage multinational projects in the sector in order to attract students and professionals from across the region.
Jordan and France have also expressed intent to establish a joint university in Jordan. The university, which would receive local and international accreditation, would be modelled after the French "Ecole Polytechnique" or National Polytechnic Institute.
France, which generates 80 per cent of its electricity from nuclear power, was one of the first countries to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with the Kingdom, and has since assisted in many aspects of the country's nuclear programme.
Tractabel, a Belgian subsidiary of French energy firm GDF Suez, is currently conducting geological and environmental impact studies for the site of the Kingdom's first nuclear reactor, slated for construction near Aqaba.
The Jordan French Uranium Mining Company, a joint venture between French firm AREVA and Jordan Energy Resources Inc., intends to establish an open-pit uranium mine in the central region.
The firm has been operating within a 1,400-square-kilometre concession area encompassing the Swaqa, Khan Azzabib, Wadi Maghar and Attarat areas.
French technology has also been short-listed as a potential for the Kingdom’s first nuclear reactor, expected to be a 1,000-megawatt Generation III reactor.
A delegation headed by JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan is taking part in the two-day conference, which is witnessing the participation of dozens of countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Available at: http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=24688
2. South Korea to Host Global Atomic Summit in Seoul This Week
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea will host a summit of nuclear experts this week to promote peaceful atomic energy use and stem global warming, local organizers for the event said Monday.
The four-day Summit of Honor on Atoms for Peace and Environment (SHAPE), which starts Wednesday, will hold talks covering a nuclear weapons-free world, the non-proliferation treaty, and multi-national fuel cycle approach that explores ways to use nuclear power to meet the world's energy needs, the Korea Nuclear Society (KNS) and other organizers said.
It said the goal of the expert summit is to examine possible fallout of the so-called nuclear renaissance, prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and explore new clean energy paradigms. The nuclear renaissance refers to a surge in interest for nuclear energy as the world come under pressure to stop burning fossil fuel.
The gathering, the first of its kind, will be headed by former South Korean President Kim Young-sam and International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei.
Officials and atomic energy experts from the United States, France, Germany, Canada, Russia and China will attend the meeting, along with representatives from non-governmental organizations such as Pugwash, which aims to reduce the dangers of conflict and to seek cooperative solutions for global problems.
The KNS said the SHAPE meeting could help establish South Korea as an emerging leader in the commercial nuclear power industry and show that it is willing to take its share of responsibility for preventing proliferation and stemming global warming.
South Korea joined the ranks of a handful of countries that have exported nuclear reactors, when it signed a deal worth US$20 billion with the United Arab Emirates late last year.
The society and other organizers, including the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute and Korea Electric Power Corp., plan to set up a secretariat in Seoul and make SHAPE an annual meeting, according to the organizers.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/business/2010/03/08/79/0501000000AEN20100308008300320F.HTML
1. Russia Says Ready to Establish Nuclear Fuel Bank by Yearend
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Russia will provide by the end of 2010 the first batch of low-enriched uranium for an international nuclear fuel reserve bank under control of the UN nuclear watchdog, the head of Russia's state-run nuclear power corporation Rosatom said.
Russia has earlier proposed to establish international reserves of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to ensure stable fuel supplies to IAEA member countries in case of emergency, including "insurmountable political difficulties."
"I believe that the first part of these reserves could be formed by the end of this year," Sergei Kiriyenko said at an international conference on nuclear energy in Paris on Monday.
"We want to initially build LEU reserves that would ensure the operation of at least one 1,000 MW reactor," he said.
Russia proposed in 2007 the creation of a nuclear center with LEU reserves in Angarsk, 5,100 km (3,170 miles) east of Moscow, to enable countries including Iran to develop civilian nuclear power without having to enrich their own uranium.
Russia has pledged to give access to the reserves "to any IAEA member country that honors its non-proliferation commitments."
The IAEA Board of Governors approved the establishment of nuclear fuel reserve bank in November 2009.
Kiriyenko said on Monday a detailed agreement between Russia and the IAEA on the nuclear fuel bank could be signed in April-May.
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100309/158130462.html
2. Landau to Announce Plans for First Israeli Nuke Power Plant
Ehud Zion Waldoks
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National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau left Sunday for an international civilian nuclear power conference in Paris at the request of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
At the conference, co-sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Landau was expected to announce Israel’s interest in producing electricity through civilian nuclear power plants.
Israel is in the grips of an electricity crisis no less severe than the better-known water crisis. Reserves are at two percent and continued environmental objections have so far stymied efforts to build another coal-fired power plant in Ashkelon.
A nuclear option to produce electricity, with its attendant hazards, could nevertheless present Israel with the best option for generating non-emissions-producing electricity in significant quantities.
Nuclear, hydro and coal are considered the mainstays of baseload electricity production, and hydroelectric production is not an option in arid Israel. A nuclear option, though, would take years to develop and would not be considered a short-term solution to the current crisis.
The most obvious stumbling block is the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Israel is not a signatory, preferring to maintain an “ambiguous” posture regarding the possession of nuclear weapons.
To build a civilian nuclear power plant would necessitate some sort of reconciliation with the terms of the treaty or a way to bypass it altogether. Various possibilities are apparently being considered.
The example of India has been examined in expert circles. India is not a signatory to the NPT but has been allowed to develop civilian nuclear power.
Israel was invited to participate in the international conference by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Landau met not long ago with French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo and discussed the possibility of a joint nuclear project between Jordan, Israel and France.
France is the world leader in electricity production from nuclear power; 80% of the country’s electricity comes from nuclear power plants.
The Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) and the Israel Electric Corporation recently announced that they would begin planning the infrastructure for a civilian nuclear plant and that they planned to open a new course to train nuclear electrical engineers.
Former IAEC director-general Uzi Eilam mentioned at the Herzliya Conference last month that a new generation of trained personnel was needed, since the necessary skilled personnel were all nearing retirement age.
Available at: http://www.jpost.com/HealthAndSci-Tech/ScienceAndEnvironment/Article.aspx?id=170440
3. First Plan for UAE Nuclear Power Plant Due By End-2010
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The first application to construct a nuclear power station in the UAE is expected by the end of the year, officials said on Sunday.
The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), the UAE's independent regulator for the nuclear sector, said it has issued the first licence to the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC).
The licence authorises ENEC to study potential sites to assess their suitability for the location of nuclear power plants with the first application to build a plant expected later in 2010, news agency WAM reported.
Dr William D Travers, FANR's director general said: "This marks the formal start of FANR's important role as the independent safety regulator for the UAE's nuclear power programme."
He added that it did not mean that FANR had approved any particular site. "Such an application is expected later this year," Travers said.
In December 2009, a South Korean consortium won a $40bn deal to build and operate four nuclear reactors for the UAE, beating US and French rivals to one of the Middle East's biggest ever energy contracts.
Under the deal, the first nuclear plant in the Gulf Arab region is scheduled to start supplying power to the UAE grid in 2017.
Available at: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/583120-first-uae-nuclear-power-plant-application-due-later-in-2010
4. France Not to Toe U.S. Line on Civilian Nuclear Energy
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France's panache for assertion of independence in foreign policy will be on display at an international conference on nuclear energy to be inaugurated by its President Nicolas Sarkozy here on Monday. The global meet takes place a month before a similar conference to be hosted by the U.S. which will look at access to civil nuclear energy from an entirely different perspective.
“We take into account rules established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), ask countries to observe them and no more. The U.S. asks for more by incorporating conditionalities. It is their policy. Our policy is different,'' pointed out Ambassador Denis Gauer, General Secretary for the preparations to the conference.
In this respect, he recalled Mr. Sarkozy's observations which are at variance with those of the U.S.-UK alliance. “We don't want to be the leaders but have a clear position on nuclear energy. France is ready to help any country which wants to acquire civil nuclear energy. We can't have energy for the future for Western countries and have Eastern countries which can't get access to it,'' the French President had said. “That sums up the theme of the conference,'' said Mr. Gauer.
Over 60 countries including Pakistan and India, Israel and Syria will rub shoulders with the U.S. and other developed countries to deliberate on every aspect of developing a nuclear programme provided they fulfilled their international obligations by fully abiding with non-proliferation obligations.
All those who have shown an interest have been invited. France has chosen to invite Israel, India and Pakistan although they have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). That is because none has infringed IAEA rules. But an invitation was not sent to Iran because France feels it is not developing its civil nuclear programme in a “responsible way'' and has “infringed international rules.''
Explaining the rationale for the meeting, co-sponsored by the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) and IAEA, officials referred to the nuclear renaissance of the last 15 years during which a number of countries decided to launch civil nuclear programmes.
They include nations that had no involvement at all in this sector as well as those with fledgling projects. All of them, however, have been confronted with needs like appropriate legislation, training, access to research and development and financing. “That is why it is important to organise a conference to address their needs and to guide them on ways of using bilateral and multilateral cooperation,'' reasoned Mr. Gauer. It will also contribute to the much needed dialogue between the states that supply and the states that receive nuclear goods and technologies, he added.
Unlike the U.S., France believes that nuclear energy is an alternative to rising hydrocarbon prices and prospects of reducing resources that is forcing even oil rich countries such as Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Nigeria to look towards nuclear energy as a viable alternative.
“Nuclear energy is capable of meeting this demand. We cannot afford to ignore this pressing and legitimate demand. The international community must therefore share the benefits of civil nuclear energy while preventing proliferation risks, especially those related to the fuel cycle. In fact this is a solution to fulfil the desire expressed at Copenhagen by all countries including the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions,'' pointed out officials.
Available at: http://beta.thehindu.com/news/article201617.ece
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