A defiant Iran shrugged off Wednesday the threat of new sanctions as Brazil and Turkey urged the United Nations to wait and see how a nuclear swap deal plays out before caving in to US pressure.
US President Barack Obama said he was "pleased" by developments after usual standouts Russia and China gave their backing to a tough new draft sanctions resolution circulated Tuesday to the full UN Security Council.
"We agreed on the need for Iran to uphold its international obligations or face increased sanctions and pressure, including UN sanctions," Obama said after talks with visiting Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon.
"And I'm pleased that we've reached an agreement with our P5 plus-1 partners on a strong resolution that we now have shared with our Security Council partners."
But Security Council members Turkey and Brazil urged the world body not to impose new sanctions until Iran had been given time to honour a deal they brokered to swap about half its low enriched uranium (LEU) for nuclear fuel.
"Brazil and Turkey are convinced that it is time to give a chance for negotiations and to avoid measures that are detrimental to a peaceful solution," read a letter signed by their foreign ministers.
The two countries forged a deal Monday they hailed as a step toward ending Iran's years-old standoff with the West, but which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton framed as an attempt by Tehran to avoid further punishment.
Under the deal, the Islamic republic agreed to ship out much of its stockpile of low enriched uranium to neighbouring Turkey in exchange for fuel for a research reactor for medical isotopes.
"This agreement is a new fact that has to be evaluated," Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who led the Iran-Brazil-Turkey negotiations, insisted in Brasilia.
Iran, which maintains that its nuclear enrichment activities are purely for civilian energy purposes and not aimed at building an atomic weapon as the West fears, suggested that the international desire for new sanctions was wilting.
"(Talk of) imposing sanctions has faded and this resolution is the last effort by the West," the Fars news agency quoted Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who also heads Iran's atomic energy organisation, as saying.
The new draft being considered by the Security Council foresees cargo ship inspections and new banking controls.
It would also expand an arms embargo and measures against Iran's banking sector as well as ban sensitive overseas activities like uranium mining and developing ballistic missiles.
The draft has the blessing of all five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany -- a significant boon to the US after months spent trying to persuade Moscow and particularly Beijing to come on board.
China's backing of a fourth round of sanctions against Iran came despite its earlier support for the fuel swap deal.
"We attach importance to and support this agreement," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said after Monday's accord was struck.
Given the Brazil-Turkey letter, China's apparent reluctance to comment on new sanctions and Russia speaking only of its "understanding in principle... on the draft resolution," Salehi expressed doubts there was an emerging international consensus against his country.
"We should be patient because they won't prevail and by pursuing the passing of a new resolution they are discrediting themselves in public opinion," he said.
"I think there are some rational people among them who will stop them from making this irrational move."
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki expressed similar scepticism about the chances of new sanctions being passed.
"There is no chance the resolution is going to be passed," he told state-run Al-Alam television from the Tajik capital Dushanbe. "The nations who are seeking to impose sanctions are in the minority."
Already under three sets of UN sanctions over its defiance of repeated ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment, Iran touted its agreement with Brazil and Turkey as a goodwill gesture that paves the way for a resumption of talks with the major powers.
The deal is similar to one suggested last year by the P5 plus 1, who had been negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme until their patience ran out at the end of last year.
The US says its main objection to the new deal is that there is no commitment from Iran to suspend its enrichment activities.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5itrGuyhJSkNgKKZHMovtXvEVzuDw
2. Diverging Plans For Iran's Nuclear Program Pit Turkey Against US
Hurriyet Daily News
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In the wake of a successful diplomatic offensive in Tehran, Ankara now faces a bigger test. Turkey and Brazil's work for Iran to sign on the dotted line for the nuclear swap deal has brought them head-to-head with the US, which has found itself victorious on its own front, winning support from China and Russia for sanctions against the Islamic republic
It began as a coordinated but distinctly two-track diplomatic effort involving the United States and Turkey to rein in Iran’s controversial nuclear program. But now, like nuclear fission itself, it may split the very atom of the alliance in the remaining days of May as the two sides find themselves seeking to convince members of the U.N. Security Council to endorse their diverging lines of thinking.
The deal brokered Monday morning by Turkey and Brazil and announced by Iran envisages a complicated “swap” of enriched uranium, seen as key to forestalling a new package of international sanctions on a regime suspected by the West of secretly developing nuclear weaponry under the cloak of a nuclear energy program.
Elsewhere and nearly simultaneously, however, the United States and European diplomats secured the long-elusive backing of both Russia and China to support U.N. action to hammer Iran with new anti-nuclear sanctions.
So, who will blink first?
The U.S. has made it clear the last-minute deal will not stop the plan to impose new sanctions. In fact, the United States' own last-minute deal to enlist China and Russia support on the sanctions has only made the country’s diplomacy more determined that Tehran must surrender more.
The Turkish government, however, has also made it clear that it will have little understanding for a new round of anti-Iranian sanctions. After all, the deal cobbled together by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted in Washington.
One of the difficulties faced by Turkish diplomacy has been the lack of finding a single voice in both Tehran and Washington. Iran’s decision-making body is not a monolith, which forced Turkey to negotiate the deal with several power centers on the Iranian political scene. Dialogue with Washington has not proved easier, as those in the administration who favor a policy of engagement are under pressure from the Israeli lobby.
Only one day after the uranium swap deal was signed in Tehran, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced late Tuesday that an agreement on a strong draft was reached with the cooperation of both Russia and China, the two countries that had so far opposed a new U.N. Security Council resolution to stiffen sanctions on Iran.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was one of the signatories of the deal committing Iran to exchange 1,200 kilos of lightly enriched uranium in Turkey, said there was no ground for discussing the sanctions. “I don’t see sanctions possible in the coming days.”
Talking to the private NTV broadcaster late Tuesday after the statement from Washington, Davutoğlu said, “We cannot display understanding for talk of sanctions against Iran.”
He said the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council should approach the issue more cautiously following the latest development.
In his televised remarks, Davutoğlu said the Western insistence on sanctions would harm Turkey’s interests and that the country could not allow that.
The difficulty Turkey and the U.S. are facing appears to stem from the timing of two separate ongoing diplomatic efforts: one spearheaded by Turkey on convincing Iran on a measure that will receive international support, and the other spearheaded by the U.S to rally U.N. Security Council members behind a decision that will impose a new sanctions regime.
Iran, however, was not expected to change its attitude, Davutoğlu told journalists Tuesday.
Still, by the time the Turkish deal was signed, Washington was likely finalizing a deal with Russia and China. Moreover, having ultimately reached a deal with the two countries, the U.S. is unlikely to want to lose the consensus that took so long to attain.
“The West is angry at Turkey, which is seen as harming the consensus that has been so difficult to reach,” wrote Semiz İdiz, a columnist for the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Turkey appears as if it has dealt a blow to Washington’s game plan while many Westerners believe Turkey has been deceived by Iran, said İdiz.
International relations academic Mensur Akgün, however, said the deal was a success for Turkish diplomacy, yet he also asked whether Iran was ultimately intent on acquiring nuclear weapons.
While a new sanction regime will harm Turkey, an Iran with nuclear weapons is also a threat to Turkey’s interests, he warned in a column that appeared in the daily Referans’ Wednesday.
“We should not contradict the U.S. and Europe due to Iran’s nuclear weapons ambition,” he said.
Davutoğlu, meanwhile, was set to start a diplomatic campaign by telephone to convince all relevant parties about giving the Turkish plan a chance.
Clinton’s statement that Russia and China were behind a new Security Council decision, however, indicates that Moscow and Beijing have now made it clear where they stand on the issue.
It remains to be seen whether Ankara will be successful in convincing China and Russia to back down, since it might prove more difficult to convince the U.S. administration to abandon its decision to forge ahead with sanctions.
Available at: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=splitting-the-atom-of-iranian-diplomacy-2010-05-19
3. IAEA Waiting For Iran Notification Of Nuclear Deal
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The International Atomic Energy Agency is still waiting for an official notification from Iran on a uranium enrichment deal with Turkey and Brazil, the nuclear watchdog’s chief Yukiya Amano said Wednesday.
Amano told reporters during a visit to Bucharest that he knew of the accord struck by the Iranian, Brazilian and Brazilian presidents in Tehran on Monday.
“Nevertheless, that declaration says that Iran is going to write the AIEA in one week’s time. I am now waiting for the communication in writing from Iran,” he added.
The UN nuclear watchdog said Monday it had received the text of the joint declaration but expected official notification of the commitments made.
Under Monday’s accord, Iran would deposit 1,200 kilogrammes (2,640 pounds) of low enriched uranium in Turkey in return for fuel for a Tehran research reactor.
“I appreciate the leadership of Brazil and Turkey” on the Iranian nuclear dossier, Amano stressed.
He declined to comment further on the IAEA position on Iran, however, saying it was “too early to make any indication” as long as he had not received Tehran’s letter.
The United States, France, Russia and the IAEA made an offer last October to ship most of Iran’s low-enriched uranium out of the country in return for higher grade reactor fuel supplied by Russia and France. Iran rejected the offer.
Western nations suspect Iran’s nuclear programme hides a covert effort to make a nuclear bomb. Iran denies the charges.
Available at: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle08.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2010/May/middleeast_May321.xml§ion=middleeast
4. Obama Talks To Turkey's Erdogan About Iran Concerns
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President Barack Obama told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday the United States would continue to press for UN sanctions on Iran, citing "fundamental concerns" about its nuclear drive.
In a telephone call, Obama acknowledged the deal forged by Turkey and Brazil for the Islamic republic to swap about half its low enriched uranium for nuclear fuel in Turkey, the White House said in a statement.
But Obama "stressed the international community's continuing and fundamental concerns about Iran's overall nuclear program, as well as Iran's failure to live up to its international obligations," it added.
"Further, he indicated that negotiations on a new UN Security Council resolution will continue, noting that Iran's persistent refusal to meet with the P5+1 on Iran's nuclear program and recent refusal to halt enriching uranium to nearly 20 percent, do not build confidence."
The so-called P5+1 groups the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany.
The United States announced on Tuesday that it had the backing of Russia, China and the other powers for a draft UN Security Council resolution that would slap a fourth set of sanctions against Iran.
But Turkey and Brazil responded by calling on fellow members of the UN Security Council to give negotiations with Iran a chance and "avoid measures that are detrimental to a peaceful solution of this matter."
Washington fears Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear arsenal under cover of its civilian nuclear program, a charge Tehran denies.
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100519/pl_afp/irannuclearpoliticsusturkey
5. Russia, China Back U.S. On New Sanctions To Deter Iran's Nuclear Program
Dallas Morning News
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With backing from all veto-wielding members of the U.S. Security Council, the U.S. introduced a resolution Tuesday that would impose new sanctions against Iran and seek to curtail military, financial and shipping activities linked to its nuclear program.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the resolution would give "greater teeth" to existing sanctions and add "strong" new measures to intensify pressure on the Iranian government to resolve concerns that its nuclear program is peaceful and not aimed at producing weapons.
Russia and China, which have close ties to Iran, joined fellow permanent council members Britain, France and the United States, as well as nonmember Germany in supporting the sanctions proposal.
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the sanctions deal was a rejection of Iran's efforts to forestall penalties with a deal it agreed to Monday with Brazil and Turkey.
"This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken by Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We don't believe it was any accident that Iran agreed to this declaration as we were preparing to move forward in New York."
U.S. and European officials had warned that the proposal brokered by Brazil and Turkey, under which Iran agreed to ship some of its enriched uranium out of the country, would allow Iran to continue enriching uranium, keeping the door open to pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Rice said the pursuit of new sanctions has nothing to do with a proposed swap of nuclear material that Iran agreed to Monday. She said the proposed resolution is targeting the Islamic Republic's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program and its plans to build 10 new nuclear facilities.
The draft resolution would target a range of activities related to Iran's nuclear program including those of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls companies and organizations that have links to weapons proliferation, a senior U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
These companies and individuals would be added to a list of those subject to an asset freeze and travel ban. The list is still being compiled.
The draft would also ban Iranian investment in sensitive nuclear activities abroad, such as uranium mining; prohibit the sale of eight categories of heavy weapons to the Islamic Republic, including attack helicopters, warships and missiles; and ban Iran from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the official said.
Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
Available at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/world/stories/DN-sanctions_19int.ART.State.Edition1.49a527d.html
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the UN Security Council lacks the "credibility" to deal with Iran's nuclear issue.
Erdogan criticized the permanent members of the Security Council for maintaining their nuclear capability while calling on other countries to abandon their weapons.
His comments came a day after Iran said it had agreed to send some 1,200 kg of its 3.5 percent enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for a total of 120 kg of 20 percent uranium.
The nuclear declaration came after negotiations between Iran, Turkey and Brazil in Tehran.
"Where is your credibility if you have nuclear weapons but are telling other countries not to have them," Erdogan said while visiting the European University in Madrid, where he received an honorary doctorate.
Britain, China, France, Russia and the US are the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council.
Despite worldwide calls for a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear issue, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced earlier on Tuesday that Washington had reached an agreement with Russia and China on a "strong draft" resolution for new UN sanctions against Iran.
The remarks came as a surprise as both Beijing and Moscow welcomed Iran's nuclear declaration as an important step in solving Iran's nuclear issue.
Turkey and Brazil are both non-permanent members of the Security Council, which was reportedly to meet on Tuesday to receive the draft resolution on new UN sanctions against Iran.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=126927§ionid=351020104
1. Japan Says Hard To Resume N.Korea Nuclear Talks
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Japan said on Thursday that it would be difficult to resume multilateral talks on reining in North Korea's nuclear programme after South Korea accused the reclusive state of sinking one of its navy ships.
A report by investigators, including experts from the United States, Australia, Britain and Sweden, concluded that a North Korean submarine had fired a torpedo that sank the Cheonan corvette in March, killing 46 sailors.
Japan said the findings would make it hard to restart negotiations in denuclearisation talks involving North Korea, South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.
"It would be difficult to have the six-party talks if the situation stays as it is now," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference.
Pyongyang has boycotted the talks since 2008, but North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was reported to have said during a recent visit to China that he was willing to discuss returning to negotiations.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said in a statement that he backed South Korea on the navy ship investigation and said that he would continue working closely with Seoul and Washington for the region's stability.
"North Korea's action is hard to forgive and we strongly condemn it along with the international community," Hatoyama said.
Available at: http://in.news.yahoo.com/137/20100520/760/twl-japan-says-hard-to-resume-n-korea-nu.html
1. No Dates On Disarmament In 2nd Draft Agreement At NPT Conference
Xinhua News Agency
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A second draft agreement circulated on Wednesday at the review conference of the Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is gutted of all dates in the disarmament action plan, a change likely to dismay non-nuclear weapon states, which have called on the nuclear "haves" to set clear benchmarks for the elimination of atomic weapons.
The previous draft called on atomic-weapon states to meet no later than 2011 to discuss how to move forward on nuclear disarmament, after which time United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon would convene an international conference some time in 2014 to make further progress.
The latest draft simply says that the Geneva-based "Conference on Disarmament should immediately establish an appropriate subsidiary body ... to reduce nuclear weapons with the ultimate goal of their elimination."
The UN chief is still urged to convene a high-level meeting to take stock and agree on a roadmap for the complete elimination of atomic weapons, but no date is set.
The negotiations will continue in the coming days with the hope of a consensus outcome on May 28.
At the heart of the NPT, the five original nuclear weapon states -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- pledged to move toward disarmament. And, in return for not acquiring the atomic bomb, non-weapon states have been promised access to peaceful nuclear energy. During the opening days of the NPT Review Conference, the majority of non-weapon states said the legitimacy of the treaty would be threatened if atomic-weapon states did not make an early commitment to reducing their nuclear arsenals.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-05/20/c_13304719.htm
Jordan on Monday warned that the failure to implement the 1995 resolution on the Middle East would be a source of deep concern to the whole world.
Head of Jordan delegation to the second committee of the Non-Proliferation Treaty NPT conference, Musa Burayzat told the conference that establishing a nuclear-weapon-free-zone is vital and critical to the stability and prosperity of the Middle East.
"The lack of progress in the efforts to put the entire Middle East under the full scope of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comprehensive safeguards system, undermines not only the review process and the NPT but endangers the stability of the region," Burayzat warned.
He urged to pressure Israel, the only non-NPT member in the Middle East, to place its nuclear facilities, programs and materials under the IAEA comprehensive safeguards and join the NPT as a non-nuclear state.
Jordan, Burayzat said, welcomes dialogue among the parties and is aware of the fact the guidelines stipulated by the relevant UN Commission on the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free-zones worldwide call for such a dialogue.
"Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel and is a non-nuclear member of the NPT.
But it cannot be convinced that the linkage between the peace process in the Middle East and the efforts to implement the 1995 resolution calling for a non-Nuclear/mass-destruction-weapon-free Middle east is the most appropriate course of action for this review to take." He added.
Available at: http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidZAWYA20100519034348
Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant, which is being built by Russia, is scheduled to begin operating in August regardless of any new sanctions against Tehran.
"We are counting on the nuclear power station launching in August, if everything goes as planned," Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's federal atomic energy agency, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
The remarks come two days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Group of Six world powers, which includes Russia, had reached an agreement on a "strong draft resolution" for new sanctions against Iran.
Kiriyenko further said, "The resolution now being prepared on Iran will not in any way affect this."
The P5+1 comprises of the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- plus Germany.
The draft resolution came only a day after Iran announced it had reached an agreement with Turkey to send 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for 120 kg of higher-enriched uranium it requires for producing medical isotopes in Tehran's Research Reactor.
The shipping of Iran's low-enriched uranium to a foreign country was the US and its Western allies' main demand in talks with Tehran on nuclear fuel swap.
In 1995, Russia signed an agreement with Iran to build the plant. Under the deal, the plant was originally scheduled to become operational by 1999 but the completion of the $1 billion project has been frequently delayed.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=127086§ionid=351020104
2. China Power Investment To Build More Nuclear Plants
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China Power Investment Corp., one of the nation’s five largest electricity producers, plans to build nuclear plants in southern, central and northeastern China as domestic energy demand surges, said a company official.
China Power is studying plans to build AP1000 nuclear reactors in the provinces of Jilin, Guangxi, Liaoning, Henan and Chongqing, Yu Zhuoping, an adviser at the company, said in an interview today after an industry conference in Beijing.
China Power is competing with larger rivals including Huaneng Power Group to add nuclear capacity under a government plan to increase the use of alternative fuels to cut pollution and dependence on oil and coal. The world’s fastest-growing major economy may spend more than 1 trillion yuan ($146 billion) in the next decade on nuclear energy, Xu Yuming, vice secretary general of China Nuclear Energy Association, said today.
China Power plans to build four AP1000 units at its Pengze plant in Jiangxi province, Yu said. The project may be approved “soon,” he told the conference. Six more units may be added to the Haiyang reactor in Shangdong province, he said.
The company received government approval to start work on Haiyang in 2007. The plant may eventually have eight AP1000 units, compared with six in the original plan, Yu said.
AP1000 reactors use Westinghouse Electric Company LLC’s design to generate power.
By 2030, China may have 94 gigawatts of nuclear capacity, compared with 600 gigawatts worldwide, Steve Kidd, head of strategy and research at World Nuclear Association, said at the conference.
Under high-scenario projections, China may have 140 gigawatts by 2030 against 800 gigawatts worldwide, Kidd said.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=aA7CwT9U60Mg&pid=20601087
3. China's Third-Gen Nuclear Reactor Ready By 2013
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China's new third-generation nuclear reactor, known as the ACP600, will be completed by 2013 and the first unit is likely to be built in the island province of Hainan or Gansu in the remote northwest, the country's biggest nuclear developer said on Wednesday.
"The design will be completed in 2013 and there are choices on the domestic market, including Gansu and Hainan, but we are discussing the specific details with the government," Liu Jing, deputy director of nuclear power at the China National Nuclear Corporation, said at an industry conference.
Third-generation reactors -- larger, sturdier and more fuel efficient than their predecessors -- are a crucial element of China's ambitious nuclear expansion plans, with the designs of the U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric forming the standard for China's own "localised" brand following a technology transfer agreement reached in 2007.
There are six foreign-designed third-generation reactors under construction -- including the world's first Westinghouse AP1000 unit in Sanmen, Zhejiang province, scheduled to go into operation in 2013, along with two Areva European Pressurised Reactors being built in the southeast.
Liu said CNNC was keen to crack the foreign market and was "very willing" to work with other international companies to promote its new reactors.
He said the company is also seeking partners to help develop new "fourth-generation" fast breeder and supercritical water reactors, which will further improve fuel efficiency and safety.
Steve Kidd, director of strategy and research at the London-based World Nuclear Association, said fourth-generation reactors would be crucial if China was to avoid a serious bottleneck in uranium supplies in the coming decades.
The speed of development would depend on how fast the country can commercialize current technologies.
"If you go to 300 or 400 GW of total capacity, you're going to have to start looking at something else because you are getting into very high-cost uranium," Kidd said.
"By then they should develop the next generation of reactors, but you only get to the next generation when you are successful with the current generation. If China is suddenly doing 10 (third generation) pressurised water reactors a year, there will be an incentive to come out with something better," he said.
When the Chinese government announced in 2007 that total nuclear capacity would rise to 40 gigawatts by the end of 2020, existing capacity stood at just 9 GW and no new reactor was scheduled to go into operation until 2011.
But many now believe that 40 GW is well within reach after a slew of project approvals along China's eastern coast.
Xu Yuming, vice secretary-general of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said the target was now expected to be met five years ahead of schedule, and total capacity could reach as high as 80 gigawatts by the end of the decade.
"The pace of construction over the last three years has far, far exceeded our initial expectations and the target will definitely be met by 2015," he said.
Available at: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/5/19/worldupdates/2010-05-19T171730Z_01_NOOTR_RTRMDNC_0_-486195-1&sec=Worldupdates
4. Serbia Says To Eye Participation In Bulgaria's Nuclear Project
Sofia News Agency
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Serbia's energy minister has confirmed reports that the country is considering participation in Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant, which has stalled over lack of funding.
"The Bulgarian prime minister officially made an offer for Serbia to participate in financing construction of the Belene plant," Energy Minister Petar Skundric told an energy conference. "We haven't made the decision yet, but we are interested."
In his words the project would show that the country, which has an embargo on nuclear power plants until 2015 put in place following the Chernobyl disaster, is able to hadle such projects.
“It would be a good reference for us and allow us to respect the embargo," Skundric said. "It would also contribute to regional stability and cooperation."
The minister disclosed that the question about a loan to finance Serbia's role in the project has been discussed during his recent visit to China, but said no deal has been concluded.
Earlier in the month Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said Serbia has expressed interest in a 5% stake in the project, which in his words would turn it into "a Balkan, European project."
The government has also reportedly unsuccessfully courted Romania as it angles for a new chief investor in its second nuclear power plant Belene to replace the German energy company RWE, which withdrew last autumn.
Bulgaria suspended the construction of its second nuclear power plant until it finds a new investor and funds to complete the project at Belene, on the Danube, 180 kilometres northeast of the capital Sofia.
The plant was originally to be built by Russian company Atomstroiexport for EUR 4 B. The firm had signed a contract with the previous, Socialist-led government, swept from power by Borisov's conservative GERB party swept in last year's July elections.
Borisov rejected a EUR 2 B offer made by Moscow for a stake in the plant and said Bulgaria will seek a European investor to finish its second nuclear plant.
Available at: http://www.novinite.com/newsletter/print.php?id=116368
1. German Arrests Over Iran Sale Anger Russia-Envoys
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Germany has detained several men suspected of buying technology for a Russian-built nuclear reactor in Iran, opening the door to a diplomatic feud between the European Union and Russia, Western diplomats said.
Diplomats familiar with the case said the arrests had infuriated Russia, which complained to members of the U.N. Security Council's Iran sanctions committee. That panel oversees compliance with the punitive measures imposed on Tehran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program.
The dispute highlights the gulf between countries like Russia and China, which have continued to do business with Iran despite three rounds of U.N. sanctions and a possible fourth round in the works, and Western powers, which have been quietly making it increasingly difficult to trade with Tehran.
One European diplomat, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the businessmen were detained at a German airport by the customs police on suspicion of violating a ban on the export of sensitive "dual-use" technology to Iran.
The arrested men are German nationals working for a German firm. The diplomat declined to name the firm and it was not immediately clear how many men were detained or what items they had purchased for the Bushehr plant.
The diplomats said the detained Germans were acquiring equipment on behalf of Russia and its Bushehr light-water nuclear power reactor in Iran, scheduled to open in August.
The first U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran, passed in 2006, exempted technology for light-water reactors like Bushehr, which are seen as less of a proliferation risk than heavy-water reactors, the spent fuel from which is rich in bomb-grade plutonium.
But the European Union's own internal directives on implementing U.N. steps against Iran go further than the U.N. sanctions resolutions and do not exempt the Bushehr reactor, which was why Germany arrested the men, diplomats said.
"It may be allowed under Security Council resolutions, but it's not allowed under EU rules," a European diplomat told Reuters. "Perhaps Russia wasn't aware of it."
LAVROV: NO 'ONE-SIDED' SANCTIONS
Russia has been annoyed at what it sees as unilateral steps. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that states under U.N. sanctions "cannot under any circumstances be the subject of one-sided sanctions imposed by one or other government bypassing the Security Council." [ID:nLDE64C0C3]
Iran says its atomic program is aimed at generating electricity, not developing arms, as Western powers suspect.
The five permanent Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- along with Germany have agreed on a new draft U.N. sanctions resolution against Iran. The U.S. delegation presented it to the full 15-nation council on Tuesday. [ID:nLDE64I14A]
The draft resolution was diluted from earlier U.S. and European proposals that called for much more draconian measures against Tehran that were unacceptable to Russia and China.
If the resolution is approved next month, as the U.S. and EU delegations hope, diplomats say the EU will likely use it as a basis for implementing even tougher steps that go beyond voluntary U.N. calls for vigilance on trade with Iranian banks, shipping firms, the Revolutionary Guards and other entities.
Diplomats say that approach to the three previous sanctions resolutions has helped put a stranglehold on Iran's nuclear, missile, banking and other industries.
Nuclear security expert David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and current head of the Institute for Science and International Security think tank, said Germany might be trying to send a message to Russia that it needs to be more aggressive in implementing the U.N. sanctions against Tehran.
"Perhaps Germany is pushing back on Russia's unwillingness to enforce the sanctions on dual-use technology for Iran," Albright said.
A spokeswoman for Germany's U.N. mission said she could neither confirm nor deny the diplomats' assertions. Russia's U.N. mission also declined to comment.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1925713120100519?type=marketsNews
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