1. Iran Tells UN It Is 'More Determined' on Nuclear Drive, July 1, Yahoo News
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A defiant Iran said on Thursday it has told UN Security Council members that new sanctions will not affect its nuclear programme, prompting France to say Tehran was not heading in the right direction.
Tehran "considers that the adoption of such (UN) resolutions will not affect its utterly peaceful nuclear programme," the official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying in letters to the 15 Security Council members.
Instead, Mottaki said in his letters to the countries' foreign ministers that Iran is now "more determined" than ever to develop its atomic programme.
He criticised "the hasty adoption, at the insistence of America and its allies, of an unjust and illegal resolution against the great nation of Iran."
In France, foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said "very clear messages have been addressed to Iran so that it finally agrees to engage in talks on its sensitive activities."
"The letters received from Manouchehr Mottaki are not going in the right direction. What we expect from Iran is that it addresses the concerns of the international community with concrete measures," he said.
On June 9, 12 members of the Security Council, including all five permanent members, voted in favour of imposing a fourth set of sanctions on Tehran over its uranium enrichment programme, the most controversial aspect of the nuclear drive.
Brazil and Turkey, which had brokered a nuclear swap deal with Iran in May, voted against and Lebanon abstained.
Mottaki thanked Turkey and Brazil for "resisting the pressure of some specific nations and voting against the resolution," IRNA said.
He also reiterated Tehran's position that "nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defence and security policies."
World powers led by Washington accuse the Islamic republic of seeking to build nuclear weapons and are demanding that it freeze its uranium enrichment activity, which can be a key step towards developing an atomic arsenal.
Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.
Last month, CIA director Leon Panetta warned that Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to make two weapons, which it could have prepared and ready for delivery as early as 2012.
"We think they have enough low-enriched uranium for two weapons," Panetta told ABC television's "This Week" program.
Tehran would need a year to enrich it fully to produce a bomb and it would take "another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable," he said.
The new UN measures against Tehran authorise states to conduct high-seas inspections of vessels believed to be ferrying banned items to Iran and add 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama was expected on Thursday to sign a separate US package of tough new energy and financial sanctions on Iran, over and above those approved by the UN Security Council.
The US Senate and the House of Representatives approved the legislation last week by crushing 99-0 and 408-8 margins, respectively.
Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani told reporters in Syria on Thursday the US sanctions were "meaningless" and would have "little impact on Iran."
Larijani, formerly Iran's top nuclear negotiator, accused the United States of pressuring Iran to give up support for the Palestinian cause, saying that would never happen.
The new measures aim to choke off Iran's access to imports of refined petroleum products like gasoline and jet fuel and curb its access to the international banking system.
The European Union too slapped a separate set of sanctions on Iran soon after the UN measures were imposed.
Meanwhile, the UN nuclear watchdog said Thursday its top investigator Olli Heinonen, head of the agency's long-running investigations into Iran and Syria, would step down next month "for personal reasons."
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100701/ts_afp/irannuclearpoliticsun_20100701162909
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has highlighted the importance of continuing diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.
"We attach great importance to the continuation of diplomatic efforts, despite the new sanctions resolution," Davutoglu said, referring to a US-proposed sanctions resolution against Iran that was approved by the UN Security Council on June 9.
"We have always called on all parties to avail themselves of the opportunities offered by the Tehran declaration to find a peaceful solution," Turkey's Cihan news agency quoted Davutoglu as saying on Wednesday.
The foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, and Brazil signed a declaration in Tehran on May 17, according to which the Islamic Republic would ship 1200 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey to be exchanged for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched nuclear fuel rods to power the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment.
On Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran would respond to a proposal by Russia to meet with the Vienna Group (the US, Russia, and France) after consulting with Brazil and Turkey.
"After coordinating with Brazil and Turkey over the next two days, a location for this meeting will be decided. However, we propose holding the talks in Tehran," Mottaki stated.
Available at: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=132870§ionid=351020104
Shipments of illegal nuclear and weapons-building material have been intercepted in Dubai and other ports in the United Arab Emirates, local authorities have admitted.
Officials have accepted for the first time that the country is being used as a transit point for smuggling money and -illegal goods.
The admission comes as part of a drive to crack down on underground trade ties with Iran.
In the past week, the authorities have staged raids on dozens of companies regarded as fronts for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Dubai, and frozen 41 Iran-linked bank accounts.
At a meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in Abu Dhabi, a senior figure revealed the extent of the trade in weapons and "dual-use" goods.
Hamad al-Kaabi, ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said new laws relating to the trade in nuclear and dual-use goods had "led to the shutting down of dozens of international and local companies involved in money laundering and proliferation of dual-use and dangerous materials".
The goods included some whose trade was banned by United Nations regulations aimed at nuclear non-proliferation.
"Security forces have interdicted scores of ships suspected of carrying illicit cargo and seized numerous sensitive shipments that could be used for the manufacture of weapons systems, including specialised aluminum sheets, titanium, high-speed computers and sophisticated machine tools," Mr Kaabi said.
Titanium is a key component in long-range missiles. Export to Iran of titanium and specialised aluminum is banned under UN sanctions.
Mr Kaabi refused to confirm that Iran was the target of the recent interceptions. But he told The Daily Telegraph: "The UAE has implemented many notable UN security council resolutions. A lot of these have banned certain goods going to certain countries."
Three weeks ago, the security council approved a new round of sanctions against Iran, targeting conventional weapons and missile systems, and companies affiliated to the Revolutionary Guard.
Dubai, which was founded largely on trade with Iran, has long been thought to have the closest ties of all the Emirates with the country.
Available at: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Iran+nuclear+smugglers+raided/3222099/story.html
1. Lee in Mexico For FTA, U.N. Diplomacy Against Pyongyang
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak began a state visit to Mexico Wednesday, during which he will try to revive the two countries' free trade agreement talks and drum up support for Seoul's U.N. diplomacy against North Korea for its deadly naval attack.
Lee plans to hold a summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Thursday to discuss major bilateral issues including trade, investment, aviation, infrastructure, energy, culture, and consular affairs, Lee's office, Cheong Wa Dae, said.
During his three-day stay here, Lee hopes to "secure political momentum" for the resumption of FTA talks between the two sides, it added.
The negotiations began in 2007 but came to a halt a year later mainly due to a lukewarm response from Mexico's business circles.
Mexico is South Korea's largest trading partner in the region. Their two-way trade volume totaled US$8.1 billion in 2009.
The leaders will also discuss how to foster cooperation on the global stage and other issues of mutual concern such as the security condition on the Korean Peninsula, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
Mexico is a major player at the U.N., the G-20 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, and has cooperated closely on global issues such as climate change and disarmament.
South Korea expects Mexico's support for its efforts to punish North Korea through the Security Council for its sinking of a 1,200-ton South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, in March that killed 46 sailors.
"President Lee will raise the Cheonan issue at the summit with President Calderon and ask for support," a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
In his first official schedule here, Lee visited a national cemetery to pay homage at fallen Mexican patriots and was to meet a group of South Korean expatriates later in the day.
Lee is also scheduled to hold a meeting with Mexican business leaders Thursday.
Mexico is the third and last leg of his week-long trip that also took him to Canada and Panama. Lee is to return to Seoul on Saturday.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2010/07/01/65/0401000000AEN20100701000500315F.HTML
2. N.Korea Warns: Any Accident during US-S.Korea Exercise Could Start War
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Tensions still high on the Korean Peninsula over the sinking of a Southern warship as the North warned on Tuesday that any accidental clash during an upcoming US-South Korea joint naval exercise could spark war.
Minju Josun, the cabinet's official daily, accused the South and its US ally of "fabricating" facts about the sinking to incite a war against the communist state. "It is as clear as day that a small accident that might occur during the joint military exercise would easily spread to an armed clash and eventually, to an all-out war," it said, slamming the planned drill as provocative and dangerous.
The United States and South Korea are planning a special naval exercise as a show of strength in response to the sinking, which they blame on the North, but no dates have been announced. "If the US imperialists, gripped by their pipe dream of invading the North, ignite a new war on the Korean peninsula, our military and the people will wipe out not only the invaders but their strongholds as well and achieve a final triumph," the daily said.
Beijing last week expressed concern at the planned joint exercise, which reportedly will include a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier battle group in close proximity to China's territorial waters. China will start six days of live-fire military exercises off its east coast later this week, state press reported Tuesday.
South Korea, citing the findings of a multinational investigation, last month accused its neighbor of sinking the Cheonan corvette near the disputed border in March with the loss of 46 lives. The South announced its own reprisals and also wants the United Nations Security Council to censure the North. The North has denied involvement and threatened a military response to any UN action.
Available at: http://www.almanar.com.lb/NewsSite/NewsDetails.aspx?id=144391&language=en
1. Pak-China Nuclear Deal 'Peaceful', Under IAEA Safeguards: Basit
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Pakistan has reiterated that its nuclear deal with China is purely for peaceful purposes, and is under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said that the peaceful nuclear deal is nothing new, and stated that it has been already underway for producing electricity.
"Pakistan has been cooperating with the international agencies in this regard and even China has also ensured the world community that Pak-China nuclear cooperation is for peaceful purpose and there is nothing wrong in this deal," The News quoted Basit, as saying.
Referring to India's civil nuclear deal with countries including the US, the spokesman said that every country has the right to have peaceful nuclear energy.
He also said that the world should not adopt double standards on the issue, and should not target Pakistan without any justification.
Available at: http://in.news.yahoo.com/139/20100701/874/twl-pak-china-nuclear-deal-peaceful-unde.html
Pakistan believes that nuclear weapons are its “crown jewels” and a deterrent against India, a top US military official has said, even as he expressed deep concern over the safety of the nukes in the country.
He said that Pakistan’s nuclear programme is different from those of Iran and North Korea because it makes ‘extraordinary efforts’ to protect its nuclear weapons while there’s no reason to trust those two countries.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen’s statement at a public forum in Aspen, Colorado, follows a meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in New Zealand last week where the United States, contrary to media speculations, did not raise a Chinese plan to build two nuclear reactors in Pakistan.
“These are the most important weapons in the Pakistani arsenal. That is understood by the leadership, and they go to extraordinary efforts to protect and secure them. These are their crown jewels,” the admiral said.
Resuming US-Pakistan relations that had ended in the 1990s also was important in light of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, he said.
Admiral Mullen not only defended Pakistan’s efforts to protect its nuclear arsenal but also pointed out that the Pakistani programme aimed at deterring a perceived threat from India, unlike those of Iran and North Korea that Washington says would have destabilising affects around the world.
“I have raised this issue with the Pakistani military since Day 1,” he said. “As much as we are focused on this (terrorism) threat — and the Pakistanis are more than they used to be – they see a threat in India and (having nuclear weapons) is their deterrent. They see this as a huge part of their national security.”
As for efforts by Iran and North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons, Admiral Mullen described a different situation. “There isn’t any reason to trust (Iran),” he said. “There is an uncertainty associated with Iran that is very consistent with Iran for a long time.”
North Korea’s desire for nuclear weapons and its increasing aggressiveness were cause for concern, the US military chief said, adding that he’d put North Korea “at the top of the list” of nuclear proliferation concerns.
The Chinese plan for building two additional nuclear plants in Pakistan, however, was raised informally during the five-day NSG meeting but was not placed on the agenda, apparently because Beijing ignored all efforts to hold a public debate on this issue.
Available at: http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?229139
1. Finland's Parliament Approves Two New Nuclear Reactors
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Finland's parliament has approved the construction of two nuclear power stations.
The aim of the new reactors is to make Finland self-sufficient in electricity production by 2020.
Approval had been expected as the coalition parties hold a clear majority in the 200-member house.
However, the bill was opposed by Green League and Left Alliance MPs.
The government had given preliminary permission for the construction of the reactors to two utility groups but no details were confirmed.
Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the parliament and a number of environmental activists briefly protested inside parliament before they were led out.
"This is one of the most important decisions my government is going to make, because it really improves Finland's competitiveness and will create new jobs, and thus also increase the economic growth," Mari Kiviniemi, head of the country's centre-right government told AFP news agency.
Meanwhile Labour Minister Anni Sinnemaeki of the Green League said she was not surprised but "very disappointed" by the vote.
Finland's energy ambitions
Finland has four nuclear reactors producing about 30% of the country's electricity, with a fifth expected to be functional by 2013.
Bioenergy is also a crucial element in the country's energy sector, supplying almost 20% of total primary energy consumption.
The National Action Plan for Renewable Energy Sources (RES) has aimed at a 30% increase in the use of bioenergy by 2010, according to Finland's Renewable Energy Policy Review in 2009.
Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/10474511.stm
2. Russia Floats Barge for Waterborne Nuclear Plant
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Russia on Wednesday took a big step toward the controversial creation of the world's first floating nuclear power station, putting a barge that will house the plant into the water.
Environmentalists say Russia's plan to dot its northern coastline with floating nuclear power plants is risky.
The head of Russia's nuclear agency Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said the plant would be "absolutely safe" and predicted "big interest from foreign customers."
Nearly a quarter-century after the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster in Soviet Ukraine, Russia is planning to expand its own network of nuclear power plants and pursuing deals to build more abroad.
The vessel housing the plant, which Kiriyenko said should be ready to operate late in 2012, was launched at the Baltiisky shipyard in Russia's Imperial-era capital on the Baltic Sea.
Kiriyenko said nuclear fuel for the plant would be loaded later in the Murmansk region, further north, and the station towed to its place of operation. It would be hauled away after 32 years of service, he said, leaving the surrounding area "the same as before the station arrives."
Environmentalists are not convinced.
"The danger begins when the reactor is installed and nuclear fuel put there," said Vladimir Chuprov, Greenpeace Russia's energy projects chief.
"If something goes wrong ... it could mean the nuclearization of several dozen hectares of land at a minimum and tens of thousands of people evacuated from the polluted area," he said.
Critics also warily recall Soviet-era nuclear accidents and Russia's naval disasters such as the loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea after explosions on board, killing all 118 crew.
Kiriyenko said the floating plant, called the Academician Lomonosov, would have the capacity to produce 80 megawatts of electricity. He said at least six potential sites for such plants have been chosen in northern Russia.
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE6600MV20100701
Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction, South Korea's leading power equipment manufacturer, said Thursday it had won a 3.9 billion dollar order to provide nuclear reactors to the United Arab Emirates.
The order came from state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. Last December a KEPCO-led consortium won a landmark 20 billion dollar deal to design, build and operate four 1,400-megawatt reactors by 2020 in the UAE.
South Korea, which generates 30 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, is eager to export its expertise. KEPCO is currently chasing a deal to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey.
Available at: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ghwB3gVTa0XFsIv1iFwZnW_u1sRg
The U.N. nuclear agency said on Thursday its top inspector Olli Heinonen, head of investigations into Iran and Syria, has resigned for personal reasons after nearly 30 years at the Vienna-based organization.
Heinonen, 63, is head of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) safeguards department which verifies that countries' nuclear programs are not being diverted for military use. He is the agency's leading Iran expert.
A no-nonsense Finn, he is probably best known for giving a presentation to diplomats on Iran in 2008 which indicated links between projects to process uranium, test explosives and modify a missile cone in a way suitable for a nuclear warhead.
"He has been indefatigable in his pursuit of the truth behind Iran's nuclear program. He is one of the agency's most experienced, knowledgeable inspectors," said Mark Fitzpatrick at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.
"Of course, he's only part of a team of many good inspectors and the agency's work in Iran will not grind to a halt."
Since Heinonen, an expert in the chemistry of radioactive materials, joined the agency in 1983, a secret nuclear program was uncovered in Iran, North Korea left the Non-Proliferation Treaty and tested two nuclear devices, Israel bombed an alleged atomic site in Syria and Libya admitted to a covert nuclear bomb program and scrapped it.
The IAEA said his position should be filled soon. One of his deputies is Herman Nackaerts who oversees Iran inspections and holds the position Heinonen had before he was promoted. A successor could also be chosen from outside the organization.
Diplomats said new IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano, who took up his position last December, had said in private there would be changes in the agency's top staff.
Heinonen, a low-key technical expert, has been head of safeguards since 2005 and was widely seen as the trusted right-hand man of Amano's predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei.
"With my departure, I know that I leave behind a fine team of department colleagues who will continue to provide the strong support to ... Mr Amano as well as to my successor," Heinonen wrote in a message to colleagues seen by Reuters.
His department's five-year investigation into Western intelligence helped harden IAEA concerns that Iran might have worked to develop a nuclear-armed missile and was still doing so.
These suspicions surfaced most strongly in Amano's first report on Iran in February. Tehran says the intelligence is forged and says its atomic work is solely for peaceful purposes.
"We have had close collaboration and worked with him a lot," said Iran's IAEA ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh who has been involved in nuclear matters for as long as Heinonen.
Although they were often at loggerheads over Iran's atomic work, Soltanieh said they had a good working relationship.
"We continue to cooperate with him and his department as long as he is in the agency and we wish him the best of luck."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6601CZ20100701
South Korea should not move to recycle its spent nuclear fuel as risks and costs associated with the process are too high, a lawmaker warned Thursday.
“There is growing criticism that reprocessing plants would pose a much greater safety risk than nuclear plants and involve astronomical costs,” Rep. Hong Hee-deok of the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party said, at a National Assembly conference on dealing with nuclear waste.
“It is a reckless path, unless a country wants to pursue nuclear arms,” he added.
The debate is heating up over what to do with the country’s spent fuel rods, for which storage, under the current scenario, is expected run out by 2016.
Seoul, backed by many scientists here, eventually wants to reprocess them -- despite being constrained by its nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States.
Under the accord, South Korea must get consent from the United States before reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The deal was struck as a measure against the possible use of the material for military purposes.
The two countries are currently negotiating an extension of the agreement, which currently expires in 2014, with Seoul looking to regain the right to reprocess the spent fuel at its own will.
Korea, which won a landmark $20 billion contract in December to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates, has long complained that the ban hinders its aspirations to become a top exporter of nuclear plants.
Washington fears that the reprocessing could undermine its global nonproliferation efforts and provoke North Korea, further ratcheting up tensions in Northeast Asia.
Seoul maintains that through a technology in development called pyroprocessing, the reuse of spent fuel rods could be carried out without generating plutonium, the primary component for nuclear bombs.
But Jang Jeong-wook, a professor at Matsuyama University in Japan, said the technique is far from ready for safe use.
“It is a common view among scientists that the development of the fast reactor used for the reprocessing will take at least 50 years before commercialization,” he said. “Furthermore, such reactors will be at constant risk of a major disaster due to a possible explosion of sodium.”
The United States and Korea are reportedly running a joint study on the validity of pyroprocessing. The allies are expected to hold talks on the nuclear deal after September.
Korea currently gleans some 40 percent of its electricity from the 20 nuclear power plants across the country.
Available at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2010/07/113_68625.html
2. Green Group Urges Thailand to Shelve Nuclear Plans
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Environmental campaigners on Wednesday urged Thailand to shelve its nuclear power proposals, warning that the cost of the project could be much greater than expected.
Greenpeace said the government's provisional plans to build five nuclear plants could face "huge cost overruns" and pressed authorities to instead focus on renewable energy.
Campaign manager Tara Buakamsri said official estimates for the initial cost of the development was around 15.4 billion dollars, but cautioned that international spending levels for reactors suggested the outlay could be more like 20 billion dollars.
Thailand is exploring the feasibility of tapping atomic power to help meet its growing energy needs, but it has faced strong local opposition to the siting of reactors.
"The expected huge cost overruns for Thailand's planned nuclear power plants, as well as the serious public concern and strong opposition from local communities over a closed power development planning process should convince the government of Thailand and National Energy Policy Committee to cancel the proposed nuclear power plants," Buakamsri said.
He urged authorities to instead concentrate on the research and development of renewable energy, which he said could provide "cheaper, more quickly available and accessible" power as well as reducing emissions.
Available at: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100630/sc_afp/thailandenergyenvironmentnuclear
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