1. France's Sarkozy Says Time for Iran Sanctions Nearing
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French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his Chinese counterpart that the time for sanctions on Iran is nearing, citing an absence of constructive dialogue on Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"China hopes to give dialogue every opportunity, France understands this," Sarkozy said at a joint press briefing with Chinese president Hu Jintao in the Chinese capital.
"The whole question is to examine at what point the absence of constructive dialogue, must lead to sanctions in order to enhance constructive dialogue. Everyone is convinced that moment is approaching."
Sarkozy said he told Hu that the progression by Iran toward "nuclear armament" could harm world stability.
Neither Hu nor Sarkozy took questions.
Available at: http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-48065320100428
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran halts its nuclear program.
At a press conference with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington on Tuesday, Barak said Israel supports the United States' efforts to impose tougher economic sanctions on Tehran.
But only time will tell if sanctions have an impact on Iran's nuclear stance, he added.
Barak said that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon, which he says would "change the landscape," and not just of the Middle East, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
Israel, which is the only entity in the Middle East that possesses nuclear weapons, accuses Iran of pursuing a military nuclear program.
However, unlike Israel, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has repeatedly declared that its nuclear program is peaceful and is being pursued within the framework of international regulations.
In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran's civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=124668§ionid=351020104
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Iran should be directing its concerns to the International Atomic Energy Agency instead of trying to sway public opinion about its nuclear program.
Clinton said Tuesday Iran "knows the address of the IAEA" and should be sitting down with the international watchdog and providing an answer to its offer regarding a nuclear fuel deal.
Clinton says the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany are working intensively on a plan that will "spell out consequences of Iran's defiance."
She says the countries are working to complete an agreement on sanctions against Iran by mid-June, despite the failure of recent talks between the nations to produce anything new.
Earlier, Iran's foreign minister told reporters he is optimistic that Iran and the international community will strike a deal to swap nuclear fuel soon.
Manouchehr Mottaki held talks in Tehran Tuesday with his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim.
Brazil's foreign minister said Iran and the international community must show "flexibility" on a nuclear fuel deal.
He said he thought the fuel swap deal brokered by the United Nations last year could be revived, but that Iran must guarantee that its nuclear program is not designed for military purposes.
The nuclear deal has been stalled because Iran insists on altering its terms. It calls for Iran to send its low-level enriched uranium to another country for conversion into fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran. Iran has so far refused to accept some terms of the proposal.
The United States is leading a diplomatic push to get Brazil and other U.N. Security Council members to approve a fourth round of sanctions on Iran aimed at curbing its nuclear program.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its atomic program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran has been pursuing closer relations with Brazil as part of its own diplomatic campaign to prevent new U.N. sanctions.
Iranian news agencies say Amorim told Iran's parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, that new sanctions against Iran would be "negative" and "unfair."
Available at: http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Clinton-Iran-Should-Direct-Concerns-to-IAEA--92205089.html
4. Gates Satisfied with Planning to Counter Iran Threat
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Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday he was satisfied with Pentagon planning to counter the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program.
"I'm very satisfied with the planning process both within this building and in the inter-agency. We spend a lot of time on Iran and we'll continue to do so," Gates told reporters at a press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Barak voiced support for the U.S. strategy, which is focused for now on curbing Iran's nuclear program using diplomacy and sanctions, rather than military action.
"The time is clearly, at this stage, the time for sanctions and diplomacy," Barak said.
But he said Israel expected sanctions to be "effective and to be limited in time so we will be able to judge to whether, what kind of results, stem from the sanctions regime."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63Q4T320100427
5. Iran FM Hopeful for Nuke Fuel Deal, No Sanctions
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Iran's foreign minister on Tuesday expressed optimism Tehran would soon strike a deal with the international community to provide his country with nuclear fuel — the latest in a new Iranian diplomatic push to stave off fresh U.N. sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.
As part of the push, top Iranian officials have been courting some non-permanent Security Council members to pre-empt possible sanctions.
Only permanent Council members could veto proposed sanctions, but strong opposition by non-permanent members could strengthen Iran's case.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki held talks with Bosnian leaders Monday after making little progress in Austria over the weekend. And last week, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Uganda, another non-permanent member of the 15-nation Council.
On Tuesday, Mottaki held talks with visiting Brazilian counterpart Celso Amorim.
"We are hopeful to see a fuel exchange go into operation in the near future," Mottaki said, adding that Brazil, also a non-permanent member, could play a more effective decision-making role in the Council.
The U.S. and its allies fear Iran's nuclear program aims to produce nuclear weapons, and are pushing for tougher sanctions in the Security Council over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment — a process that can lead to nuclear weapon making.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters Tuesday that the United States did not believe Mottaki's meeting with Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Yukiya Amano changed the calculus of possible sanctions. She said that the U.S. did not believe Iran presented any new information.
"We still don't have anything other than an ongoing effort to influence public opinion," Clinton said.
The call for sanctions stepped up after Iran last year rejected a U.N.-backed plan that offered nuclear fuel rods to a Tehran reactor in exchange for Iran's stock of lower-level enriched uranium. The swap would have curbed Iran's capacity to make a nuclear bomb.
Under the U.N. proposal, Iran was to send 2,420 pounds (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium abroad, where it would be further enriched to 20 percent and converted into fuel rods, which would then be returned to Iran. Sending its low-enriched uranium abroad would leave Iran with insufficient stocks to enrich further to weapons-grade level.
Tehran needs the fuel rods to power a research reactor in the Iranian capital that makes nuclear isotopes needed for medical purposes. Once converted into rods, uranium can no longer be used for making weapons.
Iran, which denies any plan for making nuclear arms and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, has made several counteroffers to the West, including one to swap smaller batches of Iran's low-enriched uranium.
But the U.S. and its allies say the proposals obviate the goal of rendering Iran unable to build a nuclear-powered warhead.
Amorim said both Iran and the West should show more flexibility in efforts to find a peaceful solution. Iran should provide guarantee that its nuclear program has no military ambitions in return for enjoying its right to have peaceful nuclear technology, the Brazilian top diplomat said.
Separately, Amorim was quoted as saying in an interview with the official IRNA news agency that a swap between Iran and the West could take place in Brazil, if his country was asked to host the exchange.
"Such a proposal has not been offered to us so far," Amorim said, according to IRNA. "If we receive it, we consider it."
Available at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114310355
6. Iran Reactor-Fuel Swap Floated by Brazil, Tied to Cooperation
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Brazil said it may offer its territory as the site for an exchange of uranium that would provide reactor fuel for Iran, provided the country increases its cooperation with United Nations nuclear inspectors.
“We can consider hosting the swap deal if we are asked,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency during a visit to Tehran. “Iran may need to act more flexibly, even more than what the International Atomic Energy Agency requires, to gain the trust of the other sides that its nuclear program is peaceful.”
The UN’s IAEA has said it can’t confirm that Iran’s atomic intentions are peaceful because the government isn’t cooperating with the agency. The U.S. is pushing for further UN sanctions to stop what it says are Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran should “do more to prove its nuclear activities are peaceful,” Amorim said, “so that nobody will have doubts” about the aims of the Iranian program.
Under a deal proposed in October, European nations would take low-enriched uranium from Iran and provide the country with more highly enriched uranium in a form that can only be used in a medical reactor in Tehran that is running out of fuel. Negotiations stalled after both sides disagreed about where the swap should take place, and under what conditions.
The talks with Brazil’s minister were the latest effort by Iran to persuade a member of the UN Security Council to reject a fourth round of UN sanctions against the Persian Gulf nation. During this week’s trip, Amorim is scheduled to meet with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s state television said.
Amorim’s visit is preparation for a trip next month by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, according to Iran’s state-run Fars news agency.
Besides meeting with officials from Austria and Brazil, both of which have non-permanent seats on the Security Council, Ahmadinejad traveled on April 23 for talks in Uganda, a third non-permanent member.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601086&sid=at_6_BJ7AXdM
1. U.S. Committed to 6-Way Talks Resumption Despite North Korea's Suspected Role in Ship Sinking: State Department
Yonhap News Agency
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The United States said Wednesday it is still committed to reviving the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs despite suspicions over the North's involvement in the sinking of a South Korean warship last month.
"I wouldn't necessarily link those directly. And we want to see North Korea come back to the six-party process," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said, dismissing reports that Washington has suspended its efforts for the reopening of the nuclear talks pending the outcome of the probe. The Cheonan, rocked by an explosion March 26, sank in waters near the disputed sea border, killing 40 sailors and leaving six others missing.
Crowley also said any conclusion suggesting North Korean involvement will have wide ramifications.
"We're committed to this with our partners, but clearly provocative actions that North Korea takes have an impact on the broader environment," he said.
South Korean officials have said that they may not push ahead with the resumption of the nuclear talks until the result of the probe of the sinking comes out, hinting at bringing the case to U.N. Security Council for further sanctions if North Korea is confirmed to have been behind it.
Seoul officials said that they will share the outcome of the probe with China and Russia ahead of referring it to the Security Council, where the two veto-wielding powers have often resisted international efforts to rebuke the North.
Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, said Monday he had asked China to play "a responsible role" regarding the incident, one of the worst naval disasters for South Korea.
Speaking to a forum at the American Enterprise Institute, Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, said the ship sinking has complicated international efforts to revive the nuclear talks, improve human rights and other issues related to the reclusive communist state.
"Trying to deal with these issues has been made much more complicated by last month's sinking of the Cheonan," King said. "That's going to create difficulties and questions in terms of how we proceed from this point forward."
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young has said a torpedo attack is the most likely cause of the sinking, although he fell short of naming North Korea.
A joint investigation by South Korea, the U.S., Britain, Australia and Sweden has not yet officially determined the cause.
"The investigation on the ship sinking continues," Crowley said. "We'll draw conclusions once we understand what the investigation discovers. If it was an external explosion, what was it? And where'd it come from? Again, these are all things that have to be investigated."
North Korea, already under sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests, has called for an end to the sanctions before it returns to the six-party talks, which it has boycotted since early last year. It also demands dialogue toward a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea said recently that the Obama administration's new nuclear policy has soured the atmosphere for the resumption of the six-nation negotiations, and threatened to bolster and modernize its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent.
The U.S. earlier this month renounced for the first time the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapons states that are in compliance with international nonproliferation obligations, but left open a nuclear strike on North Korea and Iran.
Bruce Bechtol, a professor at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, meanwhile, called on the U.S. to join forces with South Korea and other allies in taking the ship sinking to the Security Council for further sanctions, if North Korea is confirmed to be involved.
"Actions to be taken by the UNSC can and should be the first move to be made," he told the AEI forum. "Expand U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874. This can and should expand to include companies and individuals engaged in counterfeiting, drug trafficking, money laundering and other illicit activities."
Current resolutions ban North Korea from shipping weapons of mass destruction and some conventional arms.
Bechtol also suggested that Washington relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, saying, "North Korea clearly falls in that category."
"The U.S. needs to be transparent in its policy and put North Korea on the list of nations supporting terrorism if they support terrorism," he said. "The Bush administration took them off the terrorism list because of the six-party talks. Let's be honest. The Obama administration appears to be reluctant to put them back on the list for exactly the same reason."
Obama in February announced that he will not relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, which would subject it to additional sanctions, saying the North "does not meet the statutory criteria to again be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism."
Former President Bush removed North Korea from the State Department's list in October 2008, hoping that the step might prompt progress in the six-party talks.
North Korea was first put on the terrorism list soon after it downed a South Korean airplane over Myanmar in 1987, killing all 115 passengers.
Some experts say the sinking of the Cheonan and the North's nuclear and ballistic missile tests do not constitute terrorist acts and thus do not meet the requirement for relisting the North.
Bechtol also called on South Korea and the U.S. to take further actions on their own, aside from U.N. sanctions.
"When it comes to combating North Korea's provocative acts on land and at sea, the best way to meet this challenge in my view is a strong ROK-U.S. military alliance and cooperation not only between the U.S. and South Korea but with other allies with interests in the region," he said. "This can perhaps be done by bringing stronger economic and political actions against Pyongyang if it turns out the sinking of the Cheonan was a violent provocation initiated by North Koreans."
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2010/04/29/26/0301000000AEN20100429000200315F.HTML
India has placed ten of its nuclear reactors for review by the International Atomic Energy Agency as per the safeguard agreement reached with the United Nations monitoring body.
"In accordance with the Separation Plan, so far, ten nuclear power reactors have been placed for review under the agreement between the government and the IAEA, for the Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities signed in February 2009," Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan informed Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
India signed the key safeguards agreement with the IAEA -- to allow the inspection of additional civilian reactors -- to clear the decks for the supply of atomic fuel and technology by the international community.
Chavan said the agreements between India and various countries, on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, were to be implemented as per agreed terms and "no hurdles were foreseen in their implementation".
On the progress of talks between India and the United States on nuclear fuel reprocessing, he told the Lok Sabha, "India agreed to establish a new national reprocessing facility dedicated to reprocessing safeguarded nuclear material under IAEA standards." "Article 6(iii) of the Agreement for Cooperation calls for consultations on agreements and procedures within one year," the minister said. In March 2009, he said, the US responded to India's request, invoking Article 6(iii) on arrangements and procedures, confirming that the first round of formal consultations would commence no later than August 3, 2009 and that final agreements and procedures would have to be reached on or before August 3, 2010.
"The text has been finalised in the last round of negotiations (between India and the US) held between March 2 and March 4 this year," Chavan said.
Available at: http://news.rediff.com/report/2010/apr/28/ten-nuke-reactors-under-iaea-review-says-centre.htm
1. Iran, Egypt Ready for Battle at U.N. Nuclear Meeting
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Iran and Egypt are gearing up for battle against the United States and its allies over Israel and developing countries' rights to atomic technology at a major meeting on the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to attend the conference, which opens on Monday and runs until May 28. He will be facing off with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who heads the U.S. delegation at the meeting at U.N. headquarters.
Diplomats expect Ahmadinejad to take a defiant stand against the United States and its Western allies, accusing them of trying to deprive developing states of nuclear technology while turning a blind eye toward Israel's nuclear capability.
The 189 signatories of the landmark 1970 arms control treaty -- which is intended to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and calls on those with atomic warheads to abandon them -- gather every five years to assess compliance with the pact and progress made toward achieving its goals.
The last NPT review conference in 2005 was widely considered a disaster. After weeks of procedural bickering led by the former U.S. administration, Egypt and Iran, the meeting ended with no agreement on a final declaration.
Analysts and U.N. diplomats hope things will be different this time and that the conference can breathe new life into a treaty that has failed to prevent North Korea from building a nuclear bomb or force Iran to stop uranium enrichment. A Pakistani-led illicit nuclear supply network and slow progress on disarmament have also highlighted the NPT's weaknesses.
Israel is presumed to have a nuclear arsenal but neither confirms nor denies having one. Like India and Pakistan, it has not signed the NPT and will not participate in the conference.
Ahmadinejad is the highest-ranking official attending the conference. He will travel to New York as diplomats from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany are meeting nearly every day in Manhattan to hammer out a draft resolution imposing a fourth round of sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.
Diplomats say the six are far from agreement as Russia and China push to dilute a U.S-drafted sanctions proposal.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SUCCESS
"A successful conference would add legitimacy to the treaty at a time when its effectiveness is in doubt because of Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs," David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said in testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.
North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 and tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. Western powers have called for stiffer penalties for nations that withdraw from the pact, making tougher U.N. inspections mandatory, and other steps that would make it difficult for states to develop atomic weapons.
Western envoys say a successful meeting would yield a declaration that hits all three NPT pillars -- disarmament, non-proliferation, and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the United States and other governments "understand the crucial importance of this conference ... and indeed the risk to the viability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Regime if this conference, following 2005, does not make progress" in all three areas.
Western diplomats said U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, unlike that of his predecessor George W. Bush, was trying to promote a unanimous agreement at the conference.
This time, diplomats said, it was France that was actively opposing a proposed reaffirmation of disarmament pledges made at an NPT conference in 2000 -- despite public statements from Paris that it is committed to disarming.
In 2005, the Bush administration repudiated those pledges that it and the other countries allowed to keep nuclear arms under the NPT -- Britain, China, France and Russia -- had made in 2000, enraging the 118-nation bloc of non-aligned nations.
Rice said Obama's April 2009 speech in which he called for a world without nuclear weapons and a new U.S.-Russian arms reduction deal showed "how committed the United States is to the non-proliferation regime and to disarmament."
Speaking to reporters this week, Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz praised Obama's new disarmament moves but said developing nations wanted more. He also said it was important not to focus exclusively on the nuclear threat posed by Iran.
"Success in dealing with Iran will depend to a large extent on how successfully we deal with the establishment of a nuclear-free zone" in the Middle East, Abdelaziz said.
"We refuse the existence of any nuclear weapons ... whether it is in Iran or whether it is in Israel," he said.
Egypt has submitted a working paper to the review conference demanding an international meeting with Israel's participation that would begin work on a treaty to establish a nuclear-arms-freeze zone in the Middle East.
Diplomats told Reuters that the United States, Russia and the other three permanent U.N. Security Council members were open to the idea and hope to strike a compromise with Cairo.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63S0GW20100429?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews
2. Ban Outlines Hopes for Disarmament Ahead of Global Review Meeting at UN
U.N. News Center
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The Earth’s very future leaves no alternative but to pursue nuclear disarmament, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he emphasized that the United Nations is destined to lead global efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
In an opinion column published days before the start of the periodic review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to be held at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban wrote that “the United Nations stands today at a new ground zero – a ‘ground zero’ for global disarmament, no longer a place of dread but of hope.”
The actual “ground zero” is the former nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, which was shut down in 1991 as a step towards abolition of nuclear weapons, and which Mr. Ban visited earlier this month as part of his official tour of Central Asia.
“Those who stand with us share the vision of a nuclear-free world. If ever there were a time for the world’s people to demand change, to demand action beyond the cautious half measures of the past, it is now,” he wrote in the International Herald Tribune. Mr. Ban added that the UN “is the world’s sole universally accepted arena for debate and concord” and, along with the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), serves as the forum where the world can come together.
The opinion column just days before the Secretary-General is due to address dozens of leaders and other officials at the review meeting for the NPT, which since 1970 has provided a foundation for nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful use.
In the article Mr. Ban reiterates his praise for Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev for recently signing a new Treaty on the Limitation and Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms, or START, calling it a “fresh start on a truly noble aspiration.”
Mr. Ban also noted increasing support for disarmament from both governments and civil society, building momentum which could help steer this year’s review following “an acknowledged failure” at the last review five years ago.
At that time, Sergio Duarte, the President of the 2005 Review Conference and the current UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said the gathering accomplished “very little” amid widely diverging views, and wrapped up without any substantive agreement.
Mr. Ban today emphasized that at this year’s meeting, Member States cannot afford to lose an opportunity for progress “on disarmament; on compliance with non-proliferation commitments, including the pursuit of a nuclear weapons free-zone in the Middle East; [and] on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
In addition to the NPT, Mr. Ban will host a conference later this year to review the implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, a ministerial-level meeting to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, and has urged leaders to negotiate for a binding treaty on fissile materials.
In October, the General Assembly is expected to consider more than 50 resolutions on various nuclear issues.
These UN events build on Mr. Ban’s five-point action plan put forward in 2008 to reinvigorate the international push towards disarmament, which led to a special debate on nuclear disarmament and security at the General Assembly and a Security Council summit last September.
The aim, Mr. Ban wrote, is “to take the many small steps, today, that will set the stage for a larger breakthrough tomorrow.”
Available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=34521&Cr=nuclear&Cr1
The Georgian government is charging an undisclosed number of individuals with criminal conduct in connection with a thwarted attempt to sell highly enriched uranium on the black market in Tbilisi.
Zaal Lomtadze, head of the Georgian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources’ Nuclear and Radiation Safety Service, told EurasiaNet.org that police took possession of highly enriched uranium (HEU) during a March 13 sting operation in the Georgian capital. Lomtadze did not disclose how much radioactive material was seized in the sting.
Official charges have been filed in connection with the case, stated Shota Utiashvili, head of the Georgian Ministry of the Interior’s Information and Analysis Department. He would not specify the charges, or the number of individuals facing prosecution.
Lomtadze would not reveal how radioactive the seized material is. Citing unnamed Georgian government sources, an April 13 blog report by The Guardian stated that the HEU was "over 70 percent enriched," which would be of high enough quality to create a crude nuclear bomb.
The Georgian government currently has the seized HEU in "a secure location." Lomtadze said that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] has been notified about the seizure, but IAEA officials refused to comment to EurasiaNet.org about the investigation.
The materials’ possible provenance remains a tightly guarded secret. Answering a reporter’s question at The Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, on April 15, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili implied that the HEU is somehow connected with Russia and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- areas that he termed "black holes."
"[Y]ou can assume from where they were coming," Saakashvili said. "One thing I can say, they were not coming from Australia, and they were not coming from some other place, from Norway, for instance."
"Fact is that once there were multiple attempts, there were these things going around in that region and we all should be vigilant," Saakashvili continued, without specifying the region. "We are very well equipped, but black holes ... nobody can guarantee it fully."
Russian officials have denied any involvement in the HEU smuggling, the Associated Press has reported.
Nuclear material enriched "beyond a certain grade" carries a "fingerprint" that can reveal its point of origin, Lomtadze asserted. Based on fingerprints obtained from HEU seized during previous police operations, Georgian officials know that the material is coming from various locations, he said. The fingerprint of the HEO batch seized during the March 13 operation has not been determined yet, Lomtadze stated.
Georgia does not have the necessary laboratories for fingerprinting HEU, but has worked in collaboration with the IAEA and the US government, among other partners, to analyze materials seized in the past.
US embassy spokesperson Karen Robblee did not provide any indication that US government representatives were involved in the current HEU investigation. She stated that the March sting operation was a "Georgian seizure," and added that the US government is "thankful for the effort" Georgia has made to secure nuclear materials.
Washington has equipped 11 Georgian border crossings, two seaports, two airports, and one training center with "portal monitors" to "detect, interdict, and deter illicit trafficking of special nuclear and other radioactive materials."
Over the past 10 years, according to Lomtadze, there have been eight confirmed attempts to smuggle HEU through Georgia. "[We] are in possession of every means to stop this ... and I don’t think there are cases which are smuggled that are not known," he said. He added that officials cannot control borders in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In 2006, another sting operation resulted in the seizure of 100 grams of HEU from a North Ossetian smuggler, who had taken the materials through a border checkpoint high in the mountains that separate Russia’s North Ossetia from Georgia.
Lomtadze noted that Georgian officials encounter a couple of smuggling attempts of potential dangerous substances every year, but "only the lesser part" of them involves radioactive materials. The frequency of the attempts indicates that there is likely an "organized" effort to smuggle HEU through Georgia, he said.
"This is not an isolated case of one person or one group," Lomtadze said. "So we have to be careful and pay attention to this."
Available at: http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insightb/articles/eav042710a.shtml
1. Russia, Norway to Deter Nuclear Proliferation Threat Together
Itar-Tass News Agency
(for personal use only)
Russia and Norway are ready to deter the nuclear proliferation threat together, says a joint statement posted on results of the state visit of President Dmitry Medvedev to Norway.
The sides emphasize the need to deter such international security challenges as the access of unauthorized agents to nuclear material within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty framework, the statement runs.
Russia and Norway affirmed the fundamental significance of the treaty and pledged to work on the success of the Review Conference planned in New York for May 2010.
They also pledged to promote the observation of the treaty in the disarmament and non-proliferation aspects and the right to peaceful atomic technologies for the sake of a safer world without nuclear weapons.
Russia and Norway energetically support the activity of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and further strengthening of the IAEA system of guarantees and continue to promote the multilateral access to the nuclear fuel cycle in meeting legitimate interests of many countries in atomic energy devoid of unnecessary risks and the threat of the spread of sensitive technologies.
Russia and Norway welcome the IAEA Board of Governors’ approval of the creation of guaranteed reserves of low enriched uranium in Russia for further deliveries to member countries.
They also adhere to the exclusively peaceful use of the outer space.
Russia values high the Norwegian support to Russian initiatives of transparency and confidence building measures in space activities and information technologies.
Norway welcomes the latest signing of the new START treaty between Russia and the United States. Both countries believe that this treaty will strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and spur on nuclear disarmament, which may engage other participants in the future.
Bearing in mind the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, Russia and Norway will work on the achievement of international consensus and the development of a new legally binding climate deal for the period after 2012, which will be based on Copenhagen accords and the Baltic Action Plan. The new agreement must be comprehensive and universal and derive from the scientific opinion that global temperatures must not go up by more than 2 degrees Centigrade.
Available at: http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=15070899&PageNum=0
1. China to Build Two Nuclear Reactors in Pakistan
The Times of India
(for personal use only)
China has agreed to build two new civilian nuclear reactors in Pakistan, a report said on Thursday, amid persistent concerns about the safety of nuclear materials in the restive south Asian state.
Chinese companies will build at least two new 650-megawatt reactors at Chashma in Punjab province, the Financial Times said.
China began building a reactor at Chashma in 1991 and broke ground on a second one in 2005, which is expected to be completed next year, it said.
A statement posted on the website of the China National Nuclear Corporation on March 1 said financing for two new reactors at Chashma was agreed by the two sides in February.
A spokeswoman for the corporation, which oversees China's civilian and military nuclear programmes, said she was unaware of the deal when contacted by AFP on Thursday.
"Our Chinese brothers have once again lived up to our expectations," the Financial Times quoted an unidentified Pakistani official as saying of the deal, which would help Pakistan cope with a crippling energy crisis.
"They have agreed to continue cooperating with us in the nuclear energy field."
US President Barack Obama convened a summit in Washington earlier in April that pledged renewed world efforts to secure and safeguard fissile materials from falling into the hands of militant groups.
At the summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao said Beijing "firmly" opposed atomic weapons proliferation, while backing civilian uses.
Reports have said Washington is concerned over the security of nuclear materials in troubled Pakistan, where the Taliban movement is waging a bloody offensive.
In 2004 Abdul Qadeer Khan -- revered by many Pakistanis as the father of the country's atomic bomb -- confessed to sending nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, although he later retracted his remarks.
Washington is currently seeking Chinese support for new sanctions on Iran over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear programme.
The Financial Times quoted an expert as saying China likely felt emboldened to go ahead with the deal after the United States signed a civilian nuclear agreement with Pakistan's arch-rival India in 2008.
The agreement facilitated nuclear cooperation between the world's two biggest democracies despite India's refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/China-to-build-two-nuclear-reactors-in-Pakistan/articleshow/5871203.cms
2. Westinghouse and PGE to Deliver AP1000 Nuclear Power Plant in Poland
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Westinghouse Electric has signed a memorandum of understanding with Polish energy provider Polska Grupa Energetyczna to collaborate on delivering the AP1000 nuclear power plant.
Under the agreement, Westinghouse and Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) will jointly study the feasibility of building new nuclear reactors in Poland based on the AP1000, which includes features such as modular construction, passive safety systems, and a portfolio of construction projects that are currently on time and within budget.
Bob Pearce, director of international project development at Westinghouse, said: "We welcome the opportunity to partner with PGE in supporting Poland's nuclear energy program, and look forward to collaborating on meeting their economic and energy priorities."
Available at: http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/4067367
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