1. Iran Denies Plans to Develop US-Hitting Missiles
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Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi denied on Wednesday the Islamic republic is planning to develop ballistic missiles capable of striking arch-foe the United States, as alleged by Washington.
"We have no such plans," Vahidi told the official IRNA news agency, describing the allegations as "part of the enemy's psychological warfare."
Vahidi was reacting to Tuesday comments by a senior US official James Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defence for policy, who told a senate hearing Iran could by 2015 develop missiles that could strike the US.
Miller added that his assessment assumed "foreign assistance" to enable Iran to improve its missile technology.
A report last year from the US Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Centre had postulated that Iran could build an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit US soil by 2015-2018, if it received outside help.
Analysts say Iran's Safir (Ambassador) space launch vehicle, which Tehran put into orbit in February 2009, has the potential to be converted into a long-range missile.
Vahidi, however, said Wednesday Iran was producing an air defence system equipped with aerial radar, and a domestically produced missile having a range of 40 kilometres (25 miles) and an altitude of 20 kilometres.
Washington closely follows Iran's missile programme and has cited threats from Tehran and North Korea as the main impetus for building missile defence systems for the United States and its allies.
The US administration also accuses Tehran of a clandestine effort to build nuclear weapons. Iran vehemently denies this.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g2nj5iqi0bEn2T60QrsKBbLs9PfA
The Israeli security establishment is divided over whether it needs Washington's blessing if Israel decides to attack Iran, Israeli officials say, as the U.S. campaign for sanctions drags on and Tehran steadily develops greater nuclear capability.
Some senior Israeli officials say in interviews that they see signs Washington may be willing to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, an eventuality that Israel says it won't accept. Compounding Israeli concerns were U.S. statements this past weekend that underscored U.S. resistance to a military option. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday discussed a memo to National Security Adviser James Jones warning that the U.S. needed new strategies, including how to contain a nuclear Iran—suggesting that Iran could reach nuclear capability without any foreign military force trying to stop it.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reiterated Sunday the U.S. position that a military strike against Iran is a "last option."
Israel says it supports the U.S.-led push for new economic sanctions against Iran. But Israeli officials have increasingly voiced frustration over the slow pace of diplomatic efforts to get sanctions in place.
Relations between the two allies have soured in recent weeks, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government pushing back against Obama administration pressure to freeze building in Jewish areas of East Jerusalem, which Washington says is counterproductive to its Mideast peace efforts.
In another sign of a split, Israeli officials say they believe Iran—whose president has called for the destruction of Israel—could develop a warhead to strike the country within a year if it decides to, though outside experts say such capability is years away. Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful uses.
Such divisions have played into fears in Israel that if Washington's sanctions effort fails, the Israeli and American positions on Iran could rapidly diverge—and Israel, if it chooses to attack Iran, would have no choice but to do so on its own.
U.S. commanders say an attack would invite retaliation by Iran against American military interests in the region, or wider terrorist attacks by Iranian proxies Hezbollah and Hamas. Adm. Mullen said Sunday a strike could have "unintended consequences," and has long warned it could destabilize the region at a time the U.S. has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, which neighbor Iran.
A senior U.S. official said the U.S. has stated to Israel its opposition to unilateral Israeli action, but that there were still fears within the administration that Israel could strike Iran despite Washington's objections.
Some Israeli officials worry a unilateral strike would cause a break with Washington that would threaten Israeli national interests even more than a nuclear-armed Iran.
Israel's track record of coordinating such strikes with the U.S. is mixed. The country caught the U.S. by surprise with its attack on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. When Israel attacked a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007, Washington was given advanced warning, according to U.S. officials at the time.
The decision of whether to strike Iran ultimately rests with the prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu. In the past, however, senior military commanders have had significant say in such decisions. A spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Defense declined to comment on internal deliberations concerning Iran.
There are a number of routes Israeli attack jets can fly to attack Iran. They all would require Israeli planes to fly through U.S.-controlled airspace in Iraq or through the airspace of U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia or Turkey, which could cause serious political consequences for Israel.
Many Israeli military experts say Israel can easily cope with any military retaliation by Iran in response to a strike. Iran's medium-range rockets would cause damage and casualties in Israel, but they aren't very accurate, and Israel's sophisticated missile-defense system would likely knock many out midflight. Israel has similarly proved it can handle attacks against Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel also hosts a contingent of U.S. troops attached to a radar system to help give early warning against incoming rocket attacks.
More worrying to Israeli strategic planners examining possible attack scenarios is the possibility that Iran would respond to an Israeli attack by ramping up support to groups battling U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to recently retired officials familiar with the military's thinking on Iran. If American soldiers start dying in greater numbers as a result of an Israeli unilateral attack, Americans could turn against Israel.
Iran could also disrupt the world's oil supply by cutting off exports through the Persian Gulf, roiling international oil markets.
"What will Americans say if Israel drags the U.S. into a war it didn't want, or when they are suddenly paying $10 a gallon for gasoline and Israel is the reason for it," says retired Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, former director of the Israeli army's Strategic Planning Division.
Former senior members of Israel's defense establishment have weighed in recently on both sides of the debate.
"We don't have permission and we don't need permission from the U.S.," says Ephraim Sneh, who served as deputy minister of defense under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser, says Israel wouldn't jeopardize its relationship with the U.S. by launching a military strike against Iran without an American nod.
Late last month, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak seemed to acknowledge publicly the opposing viewpoints inside the administration.
"Only we have the exclusive responsibility when it comes to the fate and security of Israel, and only we can determine the matters pertaining to the fate of Israel and the Jewish people," Mr. Barak said. "But we must never lose sight of how important these relations are, or the ability to act in harmony and unity with the United States."
Available at: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB40001424052748703757504575194223689622084.html#mod=todays_europe_page_one
3. Mullen Defends Plans to Keep Iran From Getting Nuclear Weapons
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Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen defended U.S. planning on Iran, saying President Barack Obama has made it a priority to make sure the Persian Gulf nation won’t gain a surprise nuclear capability.
“There’s always a concern with that,” Mullen said in an interview yesterday as he flew back to Washington from a domestic tour focused on the needs of military veterans. “There are an awful lot of intelligence agencies working this problem very hard to understand exactly where we are within the capabilities that we have.”
Republicans in Congress, including Arizona Senator John McCain and California Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, have voiced concern in hearings and statements that the administration doesn’t have a plan should diplomacy and sanctions fail to dissuade Iran from pursuing an atomic bomb.
The Iranian government rejects assertions by the U.S. and its allies that a uranium enrichment effort and a ballistic- missile program are part of a weapons-development project.
The congressional criticism escalated when the New York Times reported that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a January memo that the administration lacked an effective strategy to counter Iran in the event diplomacy and sanctions fail.
Gates issued a rebuttal, saying the memo had been “mischaracterized” and was meant to prepare for an “orderly and timely decision-making process.”
Mullen disputed the premise that the U.S. doesn’t have a strategy designed to counter a possible Iranian pursuit of a nuclear bomb.
Obama “has made it very clear that we certainly seek to ensure that Iran does not obtain that capability, and that’s the policy,” Mullen, 63, said. “Clearly the priority right now is the engagement, dialogue, sanctions piece, which I fully support.”
The U.S. is trying to persuade China and Russia in the United Nations Security Council to back a fourth set of economic and financial sanctions against Iran, after officials in Tehran failed to take up an offer for an alternative source of enriched uranium for a medical-isotopes reactor.
Still, a Pentagon report required by Congress for the first time this year outlined military plans Iran is making to defend its nuclear plants. The review of Iran’s military capabilities, submitted to lawmakers earlier this week, said the country’s leaders have set up a separate air defense force and are seeking a Russian weapons system with the aim of shielding the sites.
Mullen said the Defense Department has contingency plans for many threats, including potentially Iran, and “constantly” updates them based on new information.
“We’ve worked this very hard for years, not months,” Mullen said. “And it’s been a priority in this administration from the day the president took over.”
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601072&sid=aZSKeSMGBqOo
UN Security Council member Turkey offered on Tuesday to help break a deadlock over an atomic fuel deal for Tehran and insisted that diplomacy is the best way to resolve Iran's nuclear crisis.
"The solution for Iran's nuclear programme is through negotiations and the diplomatic process," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference on a visit to Tehran.
Davutoglu said that Turkey, which has resisted a US push for a fourth round of sanctions against Iran, "is ready to act as an intermediary in the issue of uranium exchange as a third country and hopes to have a fruitful role in this."
"We will continue to try our best to see what we can do for this nuclear fuel swap," he added.
He was referring to a plan drafted by the UN nuclear watchdog last October that would have seen the major powers provide fuel for a Tehran research reactor in return for Iran shipping abroad most of its stocks of low-enriched uranium.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who addressed reporters alongside Davutoglu, did not explicitly respond to the latest Turkish offer but said there were regular consultations between the two governments on the nuclear issue.
"Turkey will do its part if Iranians deem fit," Davutoglu said in reply.
Talks between Iran and the major powers on the UN nuclear fuel plan have been deadlocked over Iran's insistence that it only hand over its enriched uranium stocks as the fuel is supplied, and that the exchange take place on its own soil.
For Western governments, the prior removal abroad of a large part of Iran's enriched uranium stocks is the centrepiece of the plan. They fear that Iran might otherwise covertly enrich the uranium to the far higher level required for a bomb, an ambition Tehran strongly denies.
Turkey has been hoping that its good relations with both Iran and the West may open the way to a compromise in which the uranium would be stockpiled on its soil until the nuclear fuel has been supplied to Iran.
Iran's decision to start enriching its own fuel for the Tehran reactor in February without waiting for a supply deal with the major powers infuriated Western governments who have since been pushing for a new package of sanctions at the UN Security Council.
But they have met resistance from veto-wielding permanent member China, as well as Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon.
And on Friday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to visit Uganda, also a council member, for talks with his counterpart Yoweri Museveni that officials said would touch on the nuclear issue.
"Obviously as a member of the Security Council we are going to discuss the issue of nuclear energy," Ugandan foreign ministry permanent secretary James Mugume told AFP.
Mottaki said at the weekend that Iran would make contact with all 15 council members, indirectly in the case of the United States, on the fuel swap plan.
On Monday, he said he believed a deal was still possible.
"If the other side has serious political will for the fuel exchange formula, this can be a multilateral trust-building opportunity, especially for the Islamic republic to trust the other side," he said.
On Sunday, Washington expressed interest in reviving the fuel plan but said the original UN draft needed to be "updated."
"At the heart of this was the proposal that Iran would ship out significant amounts of enriched fuel and there would be an exchange for a corresponding amount of fuel suitable for" the Tehran reactor, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.
"Iran has never agreed to that element of the offer."
Crowley said any new plan would have to be amended to take account of the fact that Iran has had seven months since the original offer in which to enrich further stocks of uranium.
Under the October draft, Iran would have been expected to ship out 70 percent of its then stocks of low enriched uranium in return for the supply of fuel by France and Russia.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jW0YAADLSh4s_FSAPn8bBUnZF5lQ
5. US Official: Iran Military Strike 'Off the Table'
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The U.S. has ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear program any time soon, hoping instead negotiations and United Nations sanctions will prevent the Middle East nation from developing nuclear weapons, a top U.S. defense department official said Wednesday.
"Military force is an option of last resort," Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said during a press briefing in Singapore. "It's off the table in the near term."
The U.S. and its allies fear Tehran is using its nuclear program to build arms. Iran denies the charges, and says its program only aims to generate electricity.
"Right now the focus is a combination of engagement and pressure in the form of sanctions," Flournoy said. "We have not seen Iran engage productively in response."
Iran has rejected a 2009 U.N.-backed plan that offered nuclear fuel rods to Tehran in exchange for Iran's stock of lower-level enriched uranium. The swap would curb Tehran's capacity to make a nuclear bomb.
Iran has proposed variations on the deal, and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tuesday that a fuel agreement could be a chance to boost trust with the West.
Earlier this week, he said Iran wants direct talks about the deal with all the U.N. Security Council members, except one with which it would have indirect talks — a reference to the United States, which with Tehran has no relations.
The U.S. is lobbying heavily in the Security Council for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hh1Nry_Tt9sf9frLtj45eR8m5BkAD9F7DV1G0
6. We Will Not Allow US to Dominate Iran: Khamenei
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Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Tehran will not allow the United States to dominate the Islamic republic, taking another swipe at US President Barack Obama's "nuclear threat."
"Nobody should dare to threaten humanity this way. We will not allow the US to impose its infernal domination on Iran again with these threats," Ayatollah Khamenei said, quoted by Fars news agency.
Khamenei, speaking to a group of nurses, targeted Obama and said the international community should react, referring to a new US nuclear policy which bars the use of nuclear arms but singles out Iran and North Korea as "exceptions."
Obama's "nuclear threat marked a black spot in that government's record," said Iran's leader, whose country has interpreted the US policy as tantamount to a threat of nuclear attack.
Khamenei lashed out at Washington, saying the arch-foe's attempt to initiate "friendship" with Tehran last year was nothing but an example of the "wolfish" and "bloodthirsty" nature of the United States.
Obama, in an unprecedented Persian New Year message to the Islamic republic in 2009, offered a hand of diplomacy to help ease the animosity between the two enemies.
"It is clear what is behind this ... outreaching of a hand of friendship," Khamenei said.
"It is evident now what is at work behind the scene and what their bloodthirsty and domineering nature is. These threats will get nowhere. Iranians will get them down to their knees."
Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The animosity has grown over Tehran's defiant pursuit of a controversial nuclear programme which Washington suspects masks a weapons drive, an allegation denied by Iran.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week called for Washington's suspension from the International Atomic Energy Agency along with all other nations which possess nuclear arms.
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Iran on Tuesday reiterated its commitment to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rules and regulations, stressing that it has and will always continue to inform the UN nuclear watchdog of any new nuclear activity in the country.
"The Islamic Republic's nuclear activities are fully transparent and informing the public opinion and supervising bodies, like the Agency (the IAEA) has always been carried out in a continued and prompt manner," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in a joint press conference with his visiting Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu here in Tehran today.
Asked about the hues and cries made by certain western media outlets about Iran's new nuclear facilities, he stressed, "Iran's nuclear activities and sites are under the supervision of the Agency and if anything comes up, the Islamic Republic will certainly disseminate the relevant information (to the IAEA)."
Tehran has informed the IAEA that it plans to build 20 nuclear plants to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
Iran announced in April 11 that it will soon announce locations for 10 new nuclear enrichment plants it plans to build in the future.
"As regards a cabinet approval for building 10 new enrichment sites in locations where they enjoy (elements of) natural civil defense, a number of measures have been adopted and the locations of some of these sites will be announced gradually," Deputy Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) for Planning, International and Parliamentary Affairs Massoud Akhavan said at the time.
Noting that Iran has begun adopting new security measures in its nuclear sites as threats against the country's nuclear installations have mounted, he reiterated that Tehran has planned for the construction of several nuclear plants, with Fordo enrichment plant being one of them.
Fordo will be Iran's second uranium enrichment plant - after Natanz facility in central Iran - for the production of nuclear fuel enriched to a 5 percent grade.
The Islamic Republic informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the plant's existence on September 21, long before the due time specified in the IAEA rules and regulations.
Tehran also informed the UN nuclear watchdog agency that the site, which remains under construction, would enrich uranium only to the low 5 percent purity level suitable for power plant fuel.
Available at: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=8901311396
2. Seoul Rejects Redeployment of US Nuclear Weapons
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South Korea on Wednesday ruled out redeploying US atomic weapons on its territory in response to North Korea's nuclear arsenal.
"It can never be our option," Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan said at a lecture.
"Redeployment of nuclear deterrence must be dealt with within the framework of a global security and in that regard, a policy coordination with the United States as part of its global nuclear strategy is crucial," he said.
US tactical nuclear weapons were reportedly pulled out of South Korea in the early 1990s, although US military maintains a policy of "neither confirm nor deny" on the existence of nuclear weapons in certain regions.
US President Barack Obama has pledged to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons, and earlier this month hosted a 47-nation summit in Washington on stopping atomic materials falling into the hands of extremists.
South Korea will host the next major nuclear summit in 2012, and Yu said he hoped the occasion would be used to pressure Pyongyang.
"The summit will serve as the last message or warning to North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. This will be the last chance for the North to do so," he said.
North Korea has "between one and six nuclear weapons," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this month.
The North last year stormed out of six-nation talks in which it had agreed to end its nuclear programme in return for security guarantees and aid.
On Tuesday, Yu warned that the stalled six-party talks would not resume if Seoul finds the communist state was involved in the sinking of one of its warships.
The downing of a 1,200-tonne corvette in the Yellow Sea last month after a mystery blast has heightened cross-border tensions, with suspicions hanging over North Korea, although Seoul has not directly accused Pyongyang.
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3. South Korea's Hosting of Nuclear Summit is Warning to DPRK: FM
Xinhua News Agency
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South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said Wednesday the country's hosting of the Nuclear Security Summit in 2012 is meant to deliver a message of warning to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), local media reported.
"I believe South Korea's hosting of a nuclear security summit is a message of warning for North Korea (DPRK). I believe it was meant to give a last change to the North to give up on its nuclear ambitions before 2012," Seoul's Yonhap News Agency quoted Yu as saying in a speech at a private think tank earlier in the day.
Seoul was chosen as a host to the next round of the summit, initiated by the U.S. President Barack Obama with an aim to eventually rid the world of nuclear arms and seek global cooperation on deterring nuclear terrorism threats.
The DPRK unilaterally pulled out of multilateral talks aimed at ending its nuclear arms programs and has since refused to return to the negotiation table.
Yu said earlier this week that the odds for an immediate resumption of the talks seem unfavorable.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-04/21/c_13260915.htm
4. South Korea Says No Sign of North Korea Nuclear Test
Bomi Lim and Nicole Gaouette
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South Korea said it hasn’t detected any sign that North Korea is readying an atomic test, and the U.S. State Department expressed skepticism about a report of such a step.
“We have no intelligence to suggest North Korea is preparing a nuclear test,” South Korea Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan told reporters today in Seoul in response to a news report.
North Korea has been preparing since February and initiated technical consultations with Russia with a view to carrying out the test in May or June, Seoul-based YTN reported today on its Web site, citing an unidentified diplomat.
“We’re skeptical of that report,” State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley told reporters in Washington. “Obviously it’s an area we watch intensely.”
Kim Jong Il’s regime is already subject to tougher United Nations Security Council sanctions banning arms trading following a second test of a nuclear device in May 2009. The country has refused to return to talks on its nuclear program until sanctions are removed.
North Korea denied April 17 it was responsible for last month’s sinking of a South Korean navy ship. South Korea’s initial investigation indicated the March 26 incident was caused by an outside explosion, raising speculation of possible North Korean involvement.
Evidence that North Korea caused the sinking, which left 46 sailors dead or missing, would make an early resumption of the six-party talks on the nuclear issue unlikely, Yu said. The forum, in which China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. negotiate with North Korea, last met in December 2008.
“If North Korea’s involvement is confirmed, it will be held responsible for its action,” Yu said. “Generally speaking, that would make it difficult to set the mood for discussing the denuclearization issue.”
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aUj8xI.2jECc
1. Egypt Seeks UN Pressure on Israel Over Nuclear Arms
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Israel may come under new pressure next month at a U.N. meeting on atomic weapons as the United States, Britain and France consider backing Egypt's call for a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear arms, envoys said.
The 189 signatories to the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will meet at U.N. headquarters in New York for a May 3-28 conference on the troubled pact whose credibility, analysts say, has been harmed by the atomic programs of Iran and North Korea and the failure of the big nuclear powers to disarm.
Israel, like India and Pakistan, never signed the treaty and is not officially attending the conference. The Jewish state is presumed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal, although it has never confirmed or denied having atomic weapons.
NPT review conferences take place every five years. At the 1995 meeting, member states unanimously supported a resolution backing the idea of "a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction."
In a working paper Egypt submitted to fellow treaty members ahead of next month's meeting, Cairo said the conference should formally express regret that "no progress has taken place on the implementation of the (1995) resolution" and call for an international treaty conference by 2011.
The point of such a conference would be "to launch negotiations, with the participation of all states of the Middle East, on an internationally and effectively verifiable treaty for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East," the Egyptian paper says.
Egyptian initiatives at NPT meetings are nothing new.
But Western diplomats familiar with the issue said the five permanent U.N. Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- might be ready to support such a conference, although not with a negotiating mandate.
The diplomats, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the three Western powers might also encourage Israel to participate, although their position was that there could be no mandate for negotiating such a treaty now, when many countries in the region refuse to recognize Israel.
Egypt is one of several Arab states that recognize Israel.
SHIFT IN U.S. APPROACH
Diplomats said backing from the five permanent Security Council members -- the NPT's five official nuclear powers -- would help ensure broad support for Egypt's plan next month.
One Western envoy said Egypt's insistence on a conference with a negotiating mandate was the main "sticking point," while another expressed the hope that Egypt would compromise during intensive negotiations on the issue in the coming weeks.
But Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz told Reuters the sticking point was Israel's reluctance to participate.
"We want the Israelis to sit at a table and negotiate," he said.
"We're flexible on the location and the format of the conference," Abdelaziz said, adding that one possible idea was to have U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon oversee it.
Western diplomats said the U.S. willingness to entertain the idea of supporting such a conference highlighted the sharp shift in Washington's approach to Israel under President Barack Obama compared with his predecessor George W. Bush.
U.S. support for a regional nuclear conference could further alienate the Israelis at a time when relations are already tense due to disagreements over Israel's settlements policy in occupied areas the Palestinians want for a state.
One Western diplomat said the Israelis were "understandably reluctant" to take part, even if the conference's outcome would be merely symbolic. But it would be difficult to refuse if Washington began to put pressure on the Israelis, he said.
"They (the Israelis) have an interest here," another diplomat said. "If the Arabs get something they want on Israel, they'll be more supportive on Iran's nuclear program and further sanctions. Israel would benefit from that."
Israel, like the United States, European Union and others, suspects Iran is developing atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies. Iran, whose president has said Israel should be wiped off the map, says its nuclear program is peaceful.
Israel's U.N. mission had no official comment on the Egyptian proposal. But an Israeli diplomat told Reuters the Jewish state will be ready to discuss issues like establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone once there is peace in the Middle East.
Several diplomats told Reuters that Egypt has made clear it sees Israel as a higher priority than Iran and has threatened to prevent the NPT conference from reaching any agreements next month if it does not get what it wants on Israel. Decisions at NPT meetings are made by consensus.
The 2005 NPT review conference, which was widely seen as a failure, was unable to reach any agreements after Washington worked to focus attention on Iran and North Korea, while Egypt and Iran attacked Israel and accused the United States and others of reneging on disarmament promises.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN19143423
2. Minsk to Hold On to Its Arms-Grade Uranium - Lukashenko
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Belarus has no plans to build a "dirty" nuclear bomb but no one can take its enriched uranium stockpiles away from it, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday.
"Russia and the United States are telling us - give us your enriched uranium. We will not give anything away. Everything here is under IAEA control. Russia tells America: Calm down, we will take it from there [Belarus]. No one will take anything without our consent. We will not allow that," he said in a state-of-the-nation address.
Lukashenko added that his strained relations with Russia and the United States were due, among other things, to its reluctance to give away enriched uranium.
"We have no plans to build dirty nuclear bombs, but we want to be treated nicely," he said.
Lukashenko said because Belarus refused to "dance" to the U.S. and Russian "tune" he was not invited to a recent nuclear security summit in Washington.
He earlier said Belarus had "hundreds of kilograms of arms-grade and less enriched uranium," which would be used for research purposes.
In 1994, Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of independent Belarus, committed to withdrawing nuclear weapons from the country, declaring it a nuclear-free state.
But Lukashenko said he believes the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the country in 1996 was "a huge mistake."
Available at: http://en.rian.ru/world/20100420/158671505.html
3. US Hopes Pakistan Will Join Fissile Material Talks
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The United States believes it will be possible to convince Pakistan to join negotiations on a treaty to ban production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday.
The U.N.-backed Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has been considering such a ban. But Pakistan has blocked the start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, arguing this would put it at a permanent disadvantage to India.
The two have fought three wars since independence in 1947.
Laura Kennedy, the new U.S. ambassador to the 65-nation conference, said its consensus rules, giving every participant a veto, would allow Pakistan to secure its interests.
"We hope that they will come to agree with us that they can engage in the negotiations and protect their national security interests at the same time," Kennedy told reporters. Pakistan could be protected by the consensus rule.
Fissile material -- plutonium or highly enriched uranium -- is the essential ingredient for nuclear weapons, Kennedy noted.
"So you don't get to a world without nuclear weapons without tackling this issue," she said, referring to the long-term goal laid out by President Barack Obama in Prague last year.
The drawn-out diplomatic manoeuvrings to launch the fissile talks have frustrated participants, with some suggesting that countries that want to make progress on a fissile pact should start negotiating among themselves.
A similar approach led to a far-reaching treaty, signed in Oslo, to ban cluster munitions, but without the participation of some of the main holders -- such as the United States, Russia and China -- of the weapons.
They contain scores or hundreds of submunitions or "bomblets" that blanket wide areas and can explode years later, posing danger to civilians.
Another approach to the stalled Geneva talks has come from the conference's incoming Belgian presidency, which has suggested starting with informal negotiations.
This would allow participants to address complicated questions of data and verification before negotiations start formally.
Kennedy recalled that years of technical work at the talks on mutual balanced force reductions (MBFR) in Vienna during the Cold War, which had long appeared stalled, paid off once there was a political breakthrough, allowing the parties to move quickly to a treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the nuclear summit in Washington on April 13 that he would consider convening a ministerial session of the Conference on Disarmament in New York in September to break the deadlock.
Kennedy said she hoped that next month's review of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an event held every five years, would also give some impetus to the Geneva talks.
One aim of the review would be to tighten up rules against countries quitting the NPT in violation of their obligations, as North Korea has done, she said.
Any state has the right to withdraw from the NPT, but they should give 90 days notice, detail the extraordinary reasons that have led them to leave and consult with other parties and the U.N. Security Council, she said.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idINLDE63J23D20100420?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews&rpc=401
India will receive new concessions as part of its bilateral civilian nuclear agreement with the United States.
In a move that has angered arms control advocates, Washington agreed to Indian demands to increase the number of plants allowed to reprocess U.S.-supplied nuclear fuel from one to two, with the option of another two if India's needs grow in the future, the Washington Times reports.
India has thus far failed to pass legislation that would release U.S. companies from liability in case of accidents related to equipment they have provided for two reactors to be built under the 2007 U.S.-Indian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.
That effectively prevents those firms from starting businesses in the South Asian country.
The U.S. government understands "the need for sufficient indigenous Indian capacity to reprocess or otherwise alter in form or content, under [International Atomic Energy Agency] safeguards, U.S.-obligated nuclear material," says the new document, which was released by the State Department.
In 2008, the Bush administration restricted Indian reprocessing to one plant in an effort to limit potential proliferation of dangerous dual-use technology, which could be used for military or civilian purposes. However, last month's agreement refers to "two new national reprocessing facilities established by the government of India."
It also says "the management of separated safeguarded plutonium ... shall take into account the need to avoid contributing to the risks of nuclear proliferation, the need to protect the environment, workers and the public."
Arms control experts denounced the new deal, saying it adds to the "damage" done by the original agreement.
"It will further undermine U.S. efforts to stop the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies," Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said of the March deal.
"It should be rejected by Congress because it is inconsistent with the terms outlined in" the original agreement, he added.
The new document does not need congressional approval and will go into force unless Congress stops it within 30 days.
Available at: http://www.bombaynews.net/story/625616
1. Finnish Government Agrees Renewable Energy Package -Media
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Finland's government has agreed on "hundreds of millions of euros" to fund the growth of renewable energy, Finnish media reported late on Tuesday, as the Nordic country seeks to cut its carbon emissions.
National broadcaster YLE said on its website the package of measures, which would include tax breaks and be focused on the wood industry, would run until 2020.
National news agency STT quoted Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen as saying the scope of the package covered the power generating equivalent of three nuclear reactors.
A government spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
The agreement comes ahead of a decision by the government, expected during the next week, on whether to build new nuclear power. Three applicants are seeking permission to build reactors, but the government has said it sees no need for three.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE63J2DS20100420?rpc=401&feedType=RSS&feedName=rbssEnergyNews&rpc=401
Korea’s ascent as a nuclear plant exporter, which started with a successful $40 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates last December, goes beyond a competitive price tag, the head of the international nuclear watchdog said at a Seoul forum yesterday.
At the event, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the world is recognizing Korea’s nuclear technology as an advanced option.
“I have been following with interest the export successes of your nuclear industry,” said Amano during a keynote speech at the International Forum on Nuclear Safety Challenges in the Flat, Mixed and Open World. “I believe this success reflects the recognition of the high quality of Korean technology and the skill and experience of your nuclear engineers and scientists.”
But safety management in particular is an area where Korea is well respected in the global nuclear power plant industry, Amano said.
Although nuclear safety in general has improved since the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the risk of a meltdown still remains, the atomic chief said. However, he added, “The Republic of Korea has always taken very seriously its responsibility to maintain the highest standards of safety at all nuclear facilities.
“Korea is a world leader in nuclear energy, with over 30 years of safe operational experience in nuclear power.”
Amano’s high views of Korea’s nuclear safety come partly from the country’s active cooperation with the IAEA, he said.
In 2008, the state-funded Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety opened the International Nuclear Safety School, which has grown into an incubator for global experts in its field. Last year, around 130 government officials and academics from 24 countries participated in the school’s program.
“The opening of the International Nuclear Safety School was an important initiative to advance the international education of nuclear safety experts,” Amano said. “The school, one of the main institutions in the world dedicated to nuclear safety and regulation, now serves as the IAEA’s regional training center for capacity building, contributing significantly not only to the Asian Nuclear Safety Network members, but also to other countries outside the region.”
Amano’s hope was that Korea’s generosity in sharing its experience will continue. “I know that Korea will make a major contribution to helping developing countries build and operate modern electricity network which will use nuclear energy safety, securely and efficiently,” Amano said.
The two-day forum, which started yesterday at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul, has drawn around 1,000 nuclear experts from this country and others, including the United States, Britain, Russia, Japan and Canada.
The hosts of the forum - the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety - said it was arranged to find common ground regarding the growing importance of nuclear safety at a time when the nuclear reactor industry is starting to boom. According to the ministry, around 60 countries are planning to introduce new nuclear plants or expand existing ones.
Other notable participants at the forum include Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; William Traverse, director general of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation; Jean-Remi Gouze, commissioner of the French Nuclear Safety Authority; Tomihiro Taniguchi, deputy director general of the IAEA; and Ramzi Jammal, executive vice president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Available at: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2919386
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