1. Iran, IAEA Discuss Ambiguities in Nuclear Program, Urge Expansion of Ties
Xinhua News Agency
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Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereidoon Abbasi and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano on Monday discussed ambiguities in Iran's nuclear program and urged for expansion of ties, the local ISNA news agency reported.
In a meeting held in Tehran, the two sides discussed the existing problems raised by the West about Iran's nuclear program "openly" and suggestions were put forward for removing the ambiguities, said the report.
Abbasi outlined the diverse activities of the AEOI in agriculture, medicine and industry and called for "effective" cooperation with IAEA.
The IAEA chief also affirmed that the UN nuclear watchdog will further expand its cooperation with AEOI in diverse areas, according to ISNA.
Amano arrived in Tehran Monday for crucial nuclear talks. During his one-day working visit, Amano will also meet Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili and other senior representatives of the Iranian government.
The UN nuclear watchdog said Friday in a brief statement that Amano would visit Tehran for nuclear talks and would discuss issues of mutual interest with high-level Iranian officials on Monday. The talks aim at pushing Iran to allow IAEA experts access to sites, people and documents the agency seeks to address concerns that the country might have been working on nuclear weapons.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-05/21/c_131602034.htm
2. U.N. Nuclear Chief Hopeful on Iran Deal Before Baghdad Meet
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The U.N. nuclear supervisor flew to Tehran on Sunday voicing optimism he could reach a deal to investigate suspected atom bomb research - a possible breakthrough that Iran may hope could help ease Western sanctions pressure and deflect threats of war.
"I really think this is the right time to reach agreement. Nothing is certain but I stay positive," Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at Vienna airport, adding "good progress" had already been made.
But though Amano scheduled Monday's talks with Iran at such short notice that diplomats said agreement on new inspections seemed near, few see Tehran convincing Western governments to ease back swiftly on punitive measures when its negotiators meet big power officials in Baghdad on Wednesday.
Amano meets Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on Monday, two days before Jalili sits across a table in the Iraqi capital from Catherine Ashton, the senior EU official heading a six-power coalition comprised of the five U.N. Security Council permanent members plus Germany.
By promising cooperation with U.N. inspectors, diplomats say Iran might aim for leverage ahead of the broader negotiations, where the United States and its allies want Iran to halt works they say are cover for developing nuclear weapons. Western sanctions on Iran's energy exports, and threats by Israel and Washington of military action, have pushed up world oil prices.
Western diplomats say Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, would only make a rare visit to Tehran if he believed a framework agreement to give his inspectors freer hands in their investigation was close. "We regard the visit ... as a gesture of goodwill," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by the Iranian student news agency. He hoped for agreement on a "new modality" to work with the U.N. agency that would "help clear up the ambiguities".
The nuclear watchdog wants access to sites, officials and documents to shed light on activities in Iran that could be used to develop the capability to make nuclear weapons, especially the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran.
Two meetings between Iran and senior Amano aides in Tehran in January and February failed to make any notable progress. But both sides were more upbeat after a new round of talks in Vienna last week, raising hopes they were making headway.
"We need to keep up the momentum. There has been good progress during the recent round of discussions between Iran and the IAEA," Amano said, adding he did not expect to visit Parchin during his short, one-day stay in Tehran.
Yet while an Iranian agreement on a so-called "structured approach" outlining the ground rules on how to address the IAEA's questions would be welcome, it remains to be seen how and when it will be implemented in practice.
"We'll see if the Iranians agree to let the agency visit Parchin. I have my doubts, no matter what any agreement says on paper," said one Western envoy ahead of Amano's visit to Iran and the meeting with world powers, the P5+1, in Baghdad.
Such a deal would also not be enough in itself to allay international concerns. World powers want Iran to curb uranium enrichment, which can have both civilian and military purposes.
Iran, to general incredulity from its Israeli and Western adversaries, insists its nuclear program is intended only to generate electricity and other civilian uses. Unlike Israel, assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, Iran is a signatory to treaties that oblige it to work with the IAEA.
"We are not going to do anything concrete in exchange for nice words," another diplomat said of the Baghdad meeting, the arrangement of which stemmed from a P5+1 meeting with Iran in Istanbul last month that ended over a year of not talking.
"Presumably, we will get a flavor of what the Iranians are prepared to do," the diplomat said. "It sounds like they are interested in making progress."
Another Western diplomat said: "What we need now, with the situation in the region, are urgently concrete steps. So our talks will focus on something that can be implemented very quickly."
Leaders of the Group of Eight, worried about the effect of high oil prices on their faltering economies, raised the pressure on Iran on Saturday, signaling their readiness to tap into emergency oil stockpiles quickly this summer if tougher new sanctions on Tehran threaten to strain supplies.
"All of us are firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions," U.S. President Barack Obama said.
Israel, convinced a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a mortal threat, has - like the United States - not ruled out air strikes to stop Iran's atomic progress if it deems diplomacy has failed.
Russia's deputy foreign minister said on Sunday that military action against Iran over its nuclear program was being considered in some Western countries.
"It is one of many various signals coming from various sources that the military option is considered as realistic and possible," Sergei Ryabkov told reporters on his way back from the G8 summit. Israel has made clear its skepticism about the prospects for diplomacy, saying Iran is just trying to buy time.
"We don't see any readiness from the Iranian side to give up their nuclear ambitions and for them all the engagement, from our point of view, it's clear deception," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday.
In Baghdad, the powers' main goal is to get Iran to stop the higher-grade uranium enrichment it started two years ago and has since expanded, shortening the time needed for any weapons bid.
Iran says it needs the uranium enriched to a fissile concentration of 20 percent for its medical research reactor.
An adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there were hopes the Baghdad meeting would be successful.
But Iran will not "tolerate any pressure and it decides about its destiny in the nuclear issue with full authority," Mehr News Agency quoted Ali Akbar Velayati as saying.
The IAEA wants Iran to address issues raised by an agency report last year that revealed intelligence pointing to past and possibly ongoing activity to help develop atomic arms.
Iran says the intelligence is fabricated, and has so far resisted requests for inspectors to visit Parchin. Western diplomats say they suspect Iran is cleaning the site to remove incriminating evidence, a charge Tehran dismisses.
"I hope Amano asks for his people to see Parchin," one Western diplomat said. "But it seems a wild guess to me."
Diplomats say the six powers will probably aim to extract an offer from Tehran to implement some limited curbs and begin a long-term process of gradual concessions from all sides.
Their hope is that economic sanctions imposed by Western nations in the last year, targeting Iran's vital oil revenues and ability to trade with international partners, would be enough to force Iran to take that first step, one diplomat said.
Immediate confidence-building measures that Iran could offer are "not all that complicated," said former senior U.S. State Department official, James Dobbins, now with the Rand Corporation's International Security and Defense Policy Center.
"It is essentially, 'Stop enriching to 20 percent, ship out what you've already done ... and then let's last start talking about more comprehensive measures'."
But European diplomats say any corresponding changes to their further oil embargo plans are out of the question for now: "The EU oil sanctions are a very big card and a very big step," one said. "Just because they have been applied last doesn't mean they will be the first to be taken off."
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/20/us-nuclear-iran-idUSBRE84J06G20120520
3. Russia Says Action on Syria, Iran May Go Nuclear
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Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned on Thursday that military action against sovereign states could lead to a regional nuclear war, starkly voicing Moscow's opposition to Western intervention ahead of a G8 summit at which Syria and Iran will be discussed.
"Hasty military operations in foreign states usually bring radicals to power," Medvedev, president for four years until Vladimir Putin's inauguration on May 7, told a conference in St. Petersburg in remarks posted on the government's website.
"At some point such actions which undermine state sovereignty may lead to a full-scale regional war, even, although I do not want to frighten anyone, with the use of nuclear weapons," Medvedev said. "Everyone should bear this in mind."
Medvedev gave no further explanation. Nuclear-armed Russia has said publicly that it is under no obligation to protect Syria if it is attacked, and analysts and diplomats say Russia would not get involved in military action if Iran were attacked.
Russia has adamantly urged Western nations not to attack Iran to neutralise its nuclear programme or intervene against the Syrian government over bloodshed in which the United Nations says its forces have killed more than 9,000 people.
Medvedev will represent Russia at the Group of Eight summit in place of Putin, whose decision to stay away from the meeting in the United States was seen as muscle-flexing in the face of the West. Putin said previously that threats will only encourage Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Analysts have said that Medvedev also meant that regional nuclear powers such as Israel, Pakistan and India could get involved into a conflict.
As president, Medvedev instructed Russia to abstain in a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution that authorised NATO intervention in Libya, a decision Putin implicitly criticised when he likened the resolution to "medieval calls for crusades".
Medvedev rebuked Putin for the remark, and some Kremlin insiders have said the confrontation over Libya was a factor in Putin's decision to return to the presidency this year instead of letting his junior partner seek a second term.
Russia has since accused NATO of overstepping its mandate under the resolution to help rebels oust long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, and has warned it will not let anything similar happen in Syria. Since Putin announced plans last September to seek a third presidential term and make Medvedev prime minister, Russia has vetoed two Security Council resolutions condemning Assad's government, one of which would have called on him to cede power.
Russia's G8 liaison Arkady Dvorkovich said Russia will try to influence the final version of the G8 statement at a summit in Camp David this weekend to avoid a "one-sided" approach that would favour the Syrian opposition.
"In the G8 final statement we would like to avoid the recommendations similar to those which were forced upon during the preparations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions," Dvorkovich said. "A one-sided signal is not acceptable for us."
Russia successfully managed to water down the part of the statement on Syria at a G8 summit in France in May 2011, removing the calls for action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"We believe that the United Nations is the main venue to discussing such issues," Dvorkovich said. The G8 summit is likely to be the last appearance among all the leaders of industrialised nations for Medvedev, who embraced U.S. President Barack Obama's "reset", improving strained ties between the nations.
Dvorkovich said Putin's absence from the summit, the first time a Russian president has skipped one, would not affect the outcome: "All the leaders, I saw their reaction, are ready to comprehensively work with the chairman of the government (Medvedev)."
Dvorkovich said that at a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Medvedev will raise opposition to attempts by some U.S. lawmakers to introduce legislation which will address human rights violations in Russia.
Such legislation could take a form of the so-called Sergei Magnitsky bill, named after the Russian lawyer who died in prison in 2009. The Kremlin human rights council says he was probably beaten to death.
The bill would require the United States to deny visas and freeze the assets of Russians or others with links to his detention and death as well as those who commit other human rights violations. "New legislation which will address new political issues as imagined by some U.S. congressmen or senators is unacceptable," Dvorkovich said, promising a retaliation.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/17/g8-russia-idUSL5E8GHEQW20120517
1. S. Korea, U.S., Japan Warn N. Korea Over Nuclear Test, Urge 'Different Path'
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea, the United States and Japan on Monday warned that North Korea will risk facing more sanctions and deepening its isolation if it conducts a nuclear test, imploring the North to take a "different path" to refrain from further provocations.
The united message came after high-level diplomats from the three nations held three-way talks in Seoul earlier in the day to discuss ways to curb further provocations by North Korea amid concerns it may be preparing to proceed with a third nuclear test.
The talks involved Lim Sung-nam, Seoul's chief nuclear envoy, his Japanese counterpart Shinsuke Sugiyama, and Glyn Davies, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy.
"I think it would be a serious miscalculation and mistake if North Korea worked to engage in a nuclear test," Davies told reporters after the Monday talks.
"If there is further provocation such as a nuclear test, there will be swift and sure reaction by the international community," Davies said.
Concerns have grown after its failed launch of a long-range rocket on April 13, a clear violation of U.N. resolutions that prompted the international community to tighten sanctions against the impoverished regime.
Asked about whether there are any imminent signs of a nuclear test in North Korea, Davies replied, "I don't have any particular word to convey to you about that. We all have followed the same information that you've seen about what may or may not be going on in North Korea to prepare for a nuclear test." “We are united in our resolve, to respond not just (as) the three allies, but Russia and China as well," Davies said, adding he hopes that North Korea does not "miscalculate" and will make "a different set of decisions."
Earlier in the day, the South Korean envoy Lim also called on North Korea's new leadership to take a "different path" toward peace and change its course of provocations.
“In response to the failed launch, the international community, including the three of us, as well as China and Russia, has been able to send a clear and consistent message to Pyongyang that North Korea should refrain from any further provocations," Lim said in his opening remarks.
"There will be a different path for them if they make the right decision," Lim said, adding he hopes that the Monday talks could "lead North Korea to the right side of peace."
In a separate meeting with the media after the talks, Sugiyama also echoed the remarks by Lim and Davies.
If North Korea proceeds with a "further escalation" of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the three nations will take a "unified and coordinated action," Sugiyama said.
"If, otherwise, DPRK (North Korea) decides rightly, all of our three are ready to go for a different path," Sugiyama said.
Seoul officials said that the Monday talks were aimed at assessing the situation on the Korean Peninsula following the failed launch of a long-range missile and discussing ways to prevent North Korea from carrying out additional provocations.
Davies will leave for Beijing on Tuesday where he plans to meet with Wu Dawei, China's chief nuclear envoy on North Korea, the official said.
With the defiant launch last month, North Korea reneged on a Feb. 29 deal with the U.S. that had spawned some hope of diplomacy with the North under new leader Kim Jong-un, who inherited the impoverished state following the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December.
Under the "Leap Day" deal, North Korea pledged to suspend nuclear and missile tests and halt uranium enrichment under supervision of U.N. inspectors. In return, the U.S. promised 240,000 tons of food aid, but the April 13 launch scuppered the deal.
By launching the rocket, Davies said the North's new leadership has "sent a signal that they can't be trusted to follow through on their own undertakings and promises."
"Words are no longer, quite frankly, interesting to us. What we want to see is action from North Korea," the U.S. envoy said.
North Korea previously conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, after the U.N. imposed sanctions against its rocket launches.
Late last week, the Group of Eight world leaders warned North Korea it would face further sanctions if it conducts further "provocative acts," expressing "deep concerns" over the North.
Available at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2012/05/21/59/0301000000AEN20120521004300315F.HTML
2. U.N. Probes Possible North Korea Arms Trade with Syria, Myanmar
Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols
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A U.N. panel of experts that monitors compliance with sanctions on North Korea is investigating reports of possible weapons-related deals between Pyongyang and Syria and Myanmar, the panel said in a confidential report seen by Reuters on Thursday.
"The DPRK (North Korea) continues actively to defy the measures in the (U.N. sanctions) resolutions," the panel said in the report, which it submitted to the U.N. Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee earlier this week.
"Member states did not report to the committee any violations involving transfer of nuclear, other (weapons of mass-destruction)-related or ballistic missile items," it said. "But they did report several other violations including illicit sales of arms and related materiel and luxury goods."
U.N. panel of experts' sanctions reports are highly sensitive. China, which is named in the report as a transit hub for illicit North Korean arms-related breaches, has prevented the 15-nation Security Council from publishing past reports and may do so with the latest one, U.N. envoys have told Reuters.
"Although the (sanctions) have not caused the DPRK to halt its banned activities, they appear to have slowed them and made illicit transactions significantly more difficult and expensive," the panel's report said.
One of the cases involving suspected illicit arms trade with Syria was reported to the council's sanctions committee last month.
"In April 2012, France reported to the committee that it had inspected and seized in November 2010 an illicit shipment of arms-related materiel originating from the DPRK and destined for Syria," the report said.
The shipment, which was on board the ship M/V San Francisco Bridge, was said to be containing "copper bars and plates."
"However, France's inspection of the cargo revealed that it contained brass discs and copper rods used to manufacture artillery munitions (pellets and rods for crimping cartridges and driving bands) and aluminium alloy tubes usable for making rockets," the panel said.
Another case cited in the report involved a 2007 shipment of propellant usable for SCUD missiles and other items that could be used for ballistic missiles. The panel had referred to it in last year's report but added details about a Syria connection and confirmed that it had been transported via China.
"This shipment originated in the DPRK, was trans-shipped in Dalian (China), and Port Kelang (Malaysia), and transited through other ports," the report said. "It was en route to Latakia, Syria."
Although both shipments mentioned in the report were made before the Syrian government launched its assault on opposition demonstrators in March 2011, diplomats said they were worrying because it showed the kinds of items Damascus had been trying to add to its arsenal - and the aid it received from North Korea and China.
The panel said it could not prove North Korea continued to maintain ballistic missile cooperation with Iran, Syria and other countries, "but notes that it would be consistent with reports of the DPRK's long history of missile cooperation with these countries and with the panel's observations."
Ten thousand rolls of tobacco, 12 bottles of Sake, and some second-hand Mercedes Benz cars are among the latest reported breaches by North Korea of the luxury goods ban.
The panel said it was looking at the possibility North Korea has a deal with Myanmar on conventional weapons cooperation in violation of Security Council sanctions passed in 2006 and 2009 after Pyongyang's nuclear test in those years.
The report said the panel took note of statements by the new president of the former Burma that Myanmar does not "have nuclear or weapons cooperation with the DPRK."
There have been media reports that Myanmar's previously ruling generals, who recently ceded power to a civilian-led government, had been exploring nuclear-weapons cooperation with North Korea. Myanmar has always denied such reports.
The panel said it took note of those denials but expressed concern about the possibility of "other prohibited cooperation" between Myanmar and North Korea.
It referred to a recent statement by the speaker of Myanmar's new parliament, Thura Shwe Mann, who, according to the panel, announced he had signed a memorandum of understanding with Pyongyang during a 2008 visit to North Korea.
"It was not on nuclear cooperation as is being alleged," the panel quoted the speaker as saying. "We studied their air defense system, weapons factories, aircraft and ships. Their armed forces are quite strong, so we just agreed to cooperate with them if necessary."
The panel said Shwe Mann may have visited a ballistic missile factory in North Korea and added that it was concerned the memorandum of understanding violated U.N. sanctions, which forbid North Korea from selling arms and related technology as well as from buying or selling nuclear and missile technology.
The United States and its allies are worried that North Korea is planning a third nuclear test after its recent failed missile launch. They are also concerned that Pyongyang is expanding its uranium enrichment program in addition to its plutonium reprocessing work that has yielded atom bomb fuel.
High-grade enriched uranium, like plutonium, can be used as fuel for a nuclear weapon.
But the U.N. panel said it had seen no evidence that North Korea had been attempting to import banned items like maraging steel and highength aluminium tubes, which it would need to expand its enrichment centrifuge program.
"Since May 2011, no attempts by the DPRK to import these have been reported to the committee or brought to the attention of the panel," the report said.
"It remains unclear whether this is because the DPRK has succeeded in doing so undetected, or stockpiled these items before sanctions were introduced, or is not after all trying to procure them," the panel said.
The panel said it did not agree with suggestions that North Korea could produce highength maraging steel, adding that even if it could do so, it would likely not be able to produce it with the quality needed for enrichment centrifuges.
The panel also took U.N. member states to task for lax application of the punitive measures, saying "overall implementation of the sanctions leaves much to be desired."
Available at: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/05/18/uk-korea-north-sanctions-idUKBRE84G1KN20120518
3. North Korea Seen Restarting Work On Nuclear Reactor
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North Korea has restarted construction on a nuclear reactor that is an essential component in building nuclear weapons, according to a U.S. university monitoring project.
Commercial satellite imagery from April 30 shows that the Pyongyang government is close to completing a containment building for a new experimental light water reactor, according to a website maintained by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies based in Washington.
The reactor, for possible completion by 2014-2015, would be able to supply needed electricity as well as fissile material for a nuclear weapon, the report says. It quoted a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Olli Heinonen, as saying that once the reactor is operational, it would be capable of producing enough plutonium to add “a little more than one bomb per year” to North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
U.S.-led talks to curb North Korea’s nuclear program fell apart last month. The U.S. and South Korea have expressed concern that the North, under new leader Kim Jong Un, is preparing to test a nuclear explosive device soon.
North Korea issued several threats last month with officials talking of “powerful modern weapons” and threatening to reduce South Korea to “ashes” in minutes.
The construction of the experimental light water reactor, “which the North Koreans have indicated is the prototype for additional reactors, as well as a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon, is an important indication of the North’s intention to move forward with the expansion of its nuclear weapons stockpile in the future,” said a post today on the ‘38 North’ blog run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS.
The State Department would not comment on the report, in keeping with its policy of not commenting on intelligence matters.
South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy Lim Sung Nam plans to meet his U.S. and Japan counterparts in Seoul on May 21 to discuss affairs on the Korean peninsula following North Korea’s April 13 long-range rocket launch, a violation of United Nations resolutions. The U.S. delegation will be led by Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies.
The U.S. canceled food assistance in response, leading the North Koreans to break off an agreement to halt testing of nuclear devices or long-range missiles. U.S. officials say that North Korea must comply with its commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, which include South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.
Construction on the reactor resumed in late February or early March, the report said.
The combination of the reactor and enrichment plant could allow the North to continue expansion of its nuclear-weapons stockpile “well into the future,” according to the report.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-17/north-korea-seen-restarting-work-on-nuclear-reactor.html
1. G-8 Warns North Korea About Further Provocations
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The Group of Eight world leaders has warned North Korea that it faces more sanctions if it continues to threaten the stability of the region with provocative acts such as its failed long-range rocket launch in April.
The U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Britain issued a declaration on the results of the two-day summit. It includes a statement about the G-8's concerns over North Korea's nuclear program, including its uranium enrichment program.
"We affirm our will to call on the UN Security Council to take action, in response to additional (North Korea) acts, including ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests," the declaration reads. North Korea's state media didn't immediately respond to the G-8's warning.
The United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and stepped up sanctions after its second test in 2009, hoping to derail the country's rogue nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
North Korea earlier this month threatened to bolster its nuclear arsenal at any cost. President Barak Obama said Saturday that world leaders also made progress at Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland on other international issues at the summit, including on Iran and Syria.
Available at: http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/g-8-warns-north-1441197.html
2. G8 Leaders Express "Grave Concern" over Iran's Nuclear Program
Xinhua News Agency
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The leaders of Group of Eight (G8) major industrial nations said on Saturday that they remain united in their "grave concern" over Iran's disputed nuclear program, while urging Tehran to address such concern without delay.
"We remain united in our grave concern over Iran's nuclear program. We call on Iran to comply with all of its obligations under relevant UNSC (United Nations Security Council) resolutions and requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governors," the G8 leaders said in a declaration issued after their summit at the Camp David, the U.S. presidential retreat in the state of Maryland.
The G8 leaders urged Iran "to continuously comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including its safeguards obligations," the declaration said.
They also demanded Iran "address without delay" all outstanding issues related to its nuclear program, such as questions concerning possible military dimensions, while expressing the desire for "a peaceful and negotiated solution to concerns over Iran's nuclear program."
The G8 summit was held days ahead of the next round of resumed talks on Iran's nuclear program due on May 23 in Baghdad, Iraq, which will be attended by five G8 nations, including Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as China.
The first round of talks, held in Istanbul, Turkey, in April, ended on a positive note which eased the rising tensions between Tehran and the U.S.-led West that threatened to lead to armed confrontation.
Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, but the U.S.-led Western nations suspect that it is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon.
The G8 leaders welcomed the resumption of the talks, while urging Iran "to seize the opportunity" to resolve the dispute, by engaging in detailed discussions about near-term, concrete steps that can, through a step-by-step approach based on reciprocity, lead towards a comprehensive negotiated solution, the G8 declaration added.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who hosted the G8 summit at Camp David, told reporters that G8 leaders "are firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions."
The U.S. has imposed tough economic sanctions on Tehran in an attempt to persuade it from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which Washington warns could lead to military strike by the U.S. and its allies, especially Israel.
"And our hope is that we can resolve this issue in a peaceful fashion that respects Iran's sovereignty and its rights in the international community, but also recognizes its responsibilities, " Obama said.
In another move to exert pressure on Iran, the G8 leaders said a statement that they "stand ready to call upon the international Energy Agency to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied" in case of further disruption of oil supplies.
This indicated that the G8 leaders support Obama's proposal to tap oil stocks for the second time in two years, if tensions flare up in the West's nuclear standoff with Iran, a major oil supplier.
Available at: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-05/20/c_131598886.htm
4. G8, Raising Pressure on Iran, Puts Oil Stocks on Standby
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Leaders of the Group of Eight major economies raised the pressure on Iran on Saturday, signaling their readiness to tap into emergency oil stockpiles quickly this summer if tougher new sanctions on Tehran threaten to strain supplies.
"We remain united in our grave concern over Iran's nuclear program," the G8 leaders said in a statement summing up the results of their meeting in Camp David in rural Maryland.
In unusually blunt language, the G8 put the International Energy Agency -- the West's energy adviser responsible for coordinating reserves -- on standby for action.
It was the clearest sign yet that U.S. President Barack Obama is winning support for tapping government-held oil stocks for the second time in two years.
"Looking ahead to the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales and the expected increased demand over the coming months, we are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied," the G8 said in separate statement earlier on Saturday.
The meeting came just days before the next round of Iran talks, to be held in Baghdad. Western countries suspect Iran's nuclear program is aimed at making a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies. The U.N. nuclear chief is also due to fly to Tehran on Sunday in an apparent bid to secure a deal enabling his inspectors to probe suspicions of atomic bomb research.
"All of us are firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions," Obama told reporters.
"And our hope is that we can resolve this issue in a peaceful fashion that respects Iran's sovereignty and its rights in the international community, but also recognizes its responsibilities," he said.
Although it made no explicit mention of oil reserves, the message was unmistakable. "That's what the IEA does ... it coordinates the release of strategic reserves," Michael Froman, a senior White House aide, told reporters.
Speculation had been growing that Obama would use an energy session at the G8 to seek support to tap emergency oil reserves before a European Union embargo of Iranian crude takes effect in July and tough new U.S. sanctions come into force in late June. Exports have already fallen by more than a fifth this year.
The meeting also showed that this month's slump in oil prices has not deterred Obama from moving toward tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) again - an unprecedented second release for a U.S. president. That could expose him to criticism from Republicans that he is using a national security tool to win votes this November.
"The word 'likely' signals further disruptions in oil markets don't need to be earth-shattering to potentially prompt action" to tap oil reserves, said Michael Levi, an energy policy fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Froman said although oil prices have been declining in recent weeks, they remain high. He said the G8 did not discuss any specific trigger that would prompt action.
"It's an important statement to the market, to consumers, to producers, to the Iranians that the G8... has a common position, that they are ready to act, and to act through the IEA, to ensure that the market is fully... supplied as these sanctions go fully into effect," he said.
The statement also made an indirect reference to concerns that big producers -- principally Saudi Arabia -- may be running short of extra capacity to boost output further, more reason to ready emergency stocks.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi says the kingdom is pumping around 10 million barrels per day (bpd), leaving it another 2.5 million bpd in reserve. But some analysts fear it could not sustain output at that peak level.
"There have been increasing disruptions in the supply of oil to the global market over the past several months, which pose a substantial risk to global economic growth," the statement said.
"In response, major producers have increased their output while drawing prudently on excess capacity."
Saudi officials have highlighted the 80 million barrels they are storing at home and abroad to assure consumer nations that they can keep the world supplied with crude without the need to tap into emergency stocks.
Tapping the reserves is not a foregone conclusion. It is unclear yet whether Obama and allies would opt to wait and see if Iran's exports fall and prices spike, or move preemptively to head off a speculative panic that could drive U.S. gasoline quickly above $4 a gallon.
U.S. crude oil has tumbled 12 percent this month, dropping to the lowest point since before a November U.N. report on Iran's atomic program which kindled global fears.
Iran and the world powers involved in nuclear diplomacy - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - revived negotiations in Istanbul last month after a 15-month hiatus during which the West sharpened sanctions to an unprecedented degree, targeting Iran's oil trade and banks.
The resumption of diplomacy offers a chance to defuse that tension as well as worries about a new Middle East war. Their next meeting will take place in the Iraqi capital on May 23.
"We call on Iran to seize the opportunity that began in Istanbul, and sustain this opening in Baghdad by engaging in detailed discussions about near-term, concrete steps that can, through a step-by-step approach based on reciprocity, lead towards a comprehensive negotiated solution which restores international confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively peaceful," the G8 statement said.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/19/us-g8-summit-obama-iran-idUSBRE84I08L20120519
Japan's nuclear emergency of last year has left a mark on Chinese nuclear manufacturers, which have since seen billions of yuan worth of orders postponed, a senior industry official said.
"Work stalled on 14 of the 27 reactors that were under construction before Japan's nuclear emergency, causing orders worth 50 billion yuan ($7.9 billion) to be delayed," said Sui Yongbin, chief engineer of the China Machinery Industry Federation, an industrial organization that represents machinery manufacturers.
The country suspended giving approvals to nuclear projects for 14 months starting on March 16, 2011, in response to the nuclear leak that occurred at a Japanese nuclear plant following the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island country in the same month. Work on recently approved projects was also stalled to give the government time to conduct safety inspections.
Shanghai Electric Group Co Ltd, one of the three largest nuclear equipment makers in China, said it received no orders in 2011.
"China's nuclear industry was expanding too quickly before the nuclear crisis last year and that will ultimately end in diminished quality," Sui said.
The engineer also warned that Chinese nuclear manufacturers are now dealing with overcapacity as the world nuclear industry enters a trough, adding that strong competition already exists among Chinese manufacturers.
"Manufacturers can produce 20 pressure vessels every year and they are competing with each other by offering lower prices," Sui said. "In the meantime, we are still importing certain key components from foreign companies."
China can manufacture 12 nuclear reactors sets annually whereas the industry needs only 40 sets before 2020, according to Sui.
He predicted the government will resume approving new nuclear projects either at the end of this year or early next year and set a more manageable goal of having 60 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020.
Before Japan's nuclear crisis, many observers had expected that China would set a goal of having 80 gW of nuclear capacity by 2020.
Sui said the main type of nuclear reactor used in China will be the AP 1000, which was introduced by Westinghouse Electric Co in 2007.
China is now building four of the reactors, two in Sanmen, in Zhejiang province, and two in Haiyang, in Shandong province. The technology they rely on is considered to be third-generation, or Gen III.
Another two reactors, known as European Pressurized Reactors, are under construction in Taishan, Guangdong province.
Available at: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2012-05/19/content_15336779.htm
2. CEZ Sticks to Plans for New Dukovany Nuclear Plant
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CEZ is committed to building a fifth nuclear reactor at Dukovany despite cost pressures that have clouded the Czech utility's expansion plans, Chief Executive Daniel Benes said on Thursday.
The company also plans to build two units at its other nuclear site at Temelin followed by as many as three more elsewhere in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Hurdles include an uncertain energy market in Europe and opposition to nuclear expansion from neighbouring Germany and Austria.
"We are working on the feasibility study. We have a schedule and we have the intention of getting this project done," Benes told lawmakers in a lower house committee.
"We assume ...the unit might be completed between 2032 and 2035."
He reiterated the Temelin expansion completion date remained at 2025.
CEZ and government officials say building more nuclear reactors including the one at Dukovany is needed to deliver stable electricity prices and safeguard the European Union nation's future energy security.
Last week, CEZ, central Europe's largest listed company, said it would launch a tender to select a potential strategic partner for the multi-billion dollar Temelin expansion project.
Benes said while a strategic partnership was an option, CEZ could potentially build the project on its own if needed.
"When the tender is finished, we would decide with our shareholders whether it makes sense to have a strategic minority partner. It may be that we will pick no one," he said.
Analysts have said CEZ could fund the project without a strategic partner or state guarantees on loans, but that it would take on too much risk without power purchase price guarantees, an option of support which government ministers have been open to.
Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse, France's Areva and Russia's Atomstroyexport are due to submit bids for Temelin in July.
Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/17/cez-nuclear-dukovany-idUSL5E8GHBQO20120517
1. Kazatomprom: Nuclear Power Plant in Kazakhstan Can Become one of Safest in World
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A nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan, if a decision on its construction is made, will not be afraid of tsunamis which damaged the Japanese Fukushima, Kazatomprom head Vladimir Shkolnik believes.
"This is a reactor of small and medium-sized FBG - 300, which, according to our partnership agreement, is to be built with Russia. This is the safest reactor in the world, it's not even 3 +, but 4 +," Shkolnik said during the panel discussion at the international conference "Kazakhstan - U.S.: 20 years of partnership in the name of security and development" on Friday in Astana.
He said it is such reactors that global nuclear power industry should be based on.
"Unfortunately, in some reactors they make active zones of 1,500 megawatts, where warm accumulates in the event of an accident. But FBG - 300 reactors can withstand not only tsunamis, which damaged the Fukushima, but the situation even if they are completely covered by the water. In this case, they are able to cool themselves," Shkolnik said.
He said such a project already exists. "Feasibility study has been developed. Now we discuss along which way we will go in our country and whether we will develop nuclear power," Shkolnik said. He noted that today, very high technology is needed for the construction of nuclear power plants in Kazakhstan, in the case of a positive decision.
"By the decision of the Government and the President of the Russian Federation, all the licensing procedures have been transferred from the military branch to the civil and conducted for using them in our joint venture," Shkolnik noted.
It should be recalled that in March 2011 Rosatom head Sergey Kiriyenko discussed in Astana with the Kazakh government's management issues of the draft intergovernmental agreement on construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. A draft agreement on construction of nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan was developed, however, in general, the question remains open.
Available at: http://en.trend.az/capital/energy/2027556.html
2. China May Approve Nuclear Plan Next Month, Official Says
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China’s state council, or Cabinet, will probably hold a meeting before the end of June to approve safety and development plans for the nuclear industry, according to Xu Yuming, the vice secretary general of the China Nuclear Energy Association.
The government can resume approval of new nuclear plants after the plans are passed, Xu said before a conference in Beijing today. The plan was rejected earlier and amendments are being made to some “minor” details, he said, without elaborating.
China suspended new nuclear projects after last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant and prompted a global review of atomic energy plants. The policy has hurt China’s major nuclear power equipment makers, including Shanghai Electric Group Co., Dongfang Electric Corp. and Harbin Electric Co., which had long-term contracts frozen.
“The timing is a bit more positive than news from last week that it may be as late as July for a State Council decision on approvals,” said Guo Shou, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Barclays Capital. “From a public image point of view, it may be difficult for the government to be very aggressive in setting targets for 2020 plans.”
Construction hasn’t started on four nuclear reactors that were approved prior to the Fukushima disaster, according to Xu. The reactors are Yangjiang Nos. 4, 5 and 6, and Fuqing No. 4, he said. Two new reactors will begin operations by the end of the year, he said. The facilities at Hongyanhe and Ningde resumed construction after a nationwide safety inspection that started in April 2011.
The State Council will hold a second round of talks on nuclear safety and the mid- and long-term atomic power development plans, Xinhua News Agency said on May 10, citing Wang Binghua, chairman of the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. Xinhua didn’t provide details.
China’s Cabinet has yet to pass a safety plan for nuclear plants, Caixin magazine reported on May 11. The nuclear power safety regulation is ready and a draft will be submitted to the State Council after minor adjustments, the environmental protection ministry said in a statement on its website on Dec. 12. The regulation, prepared by the China Nuclear Safety Administration, a division of the ministry, outlines rules and goals for nuclear safety by 2020.
Passage of the safety regulations and atomic power development plans are the two key conditions to resume China’s nuclear expansion plans, Li Yongjiang, vice president of the China Nuclear Energy Association, said in January.
China, which started its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the association.
The country may have 70 gigawatts of installed nuclear power capacity and 30 gigawatts under construction by the end of the decade, Xu said today. It may have 200 gigawatts of installed capacity by 2030, he said.
The 2020 target may be scaled back to 60 gigawatts to 70 gigawatts, Li told Bloomberg in October. China will limit the number of reactors to be built on the coast, the State Oceanic Administration said on April 7 last year. The country, which is constructing more reactors than any other nation, has at least 14 atomic units in operation and more than 25 under construction, according to reports from the World Nuclear Association.
Available at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-17/china-likely-to-approve-nuclear-plan-by-end-june-official-says.html
1. Japanese Boost Nuclear Submarine Reactor Disposal
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Seventy reactors from decommissioned nuclear submarines are scheduled for disposal in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorye Territory by 2020, the regional Legislative Assembly has reported.
Fifty four reactors are already located in Primorye Territory and another 19 will be delivered from Kamchatka. Disposal of reactors will be carried out with equipment donated by Japan in May 2012.
According to the Legislative Assembly, a long-term storage for reactor compartments from decommissioned submarines has already been created. The disposal will be carried out as part of a program of industrial utilization of weapons and military hardware planned for 2011-2015 and 2020.
On May 18, 2012 Japan gave the Far Eastern Center for Radioactive Waste Management the sea tugboat Sumire, two portal cranes and the floating dock Sakura with a displacement of 3.5 thousand tonnes. The cost of the supplied equipment is about two billion rubles. The transfer of the equipment was carried out as a part of a government level agreement between Russia and Japan on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Previously the construction cost of a storage facility for decommissioned submarine reactors was estimated at 80 million dollars. Japan has been involved in international programs for disposal of nuclear submarines in the Pacific for the past 20 years.
Available at: http://en.ria.ru/russia/20120521/173583295.html
2. Turkey To Send 600 Students To Moscow for Nuclear Training
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Six hundred Turkish students will be sent to Russia to train for employment at the planned Turkish nuclear power plant located at Mersin-Akkuyu as part of a government-funded project. The students will be given full scholarships, and all their expenses will be paid. They are also guaranteed high-salary employment upon their return.
Turkish Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz said that Turkey will have to build and operate three nuclear power plants before 2023 to meet the country’s growing energy requirements.
The minister also noted that much progress has been made in ongoing negotiations with Japan, China, South Korea, Russia and Canada for a second nuclear power facility on the Black Sea.
The project involves sending the students to study at the Russian National Nuclear Research University (MEPhI), and was coordinated in partnership with the Akkuyu NGS Power Production Corporation. After graduation, the students will sign contracts in which they will work at least 13 years at the Akkuyu nuclear power facility.
Students will spend one year learning Russian before five and a half years of nuclear engineering education. While attending the university, students will receive a $500 monthly stipend in addition to one round trip flight between Turkey and Moscow each year. All of their school books, supplies, food and lodging will also be paid for by Akkuyu. Upon finishing the university studies portion of the program, the students will spend one to three years as interns in Russian nuclear power facilities.
After finishing their education and internship in Russia, the students will be employed, with health insurance and housing along with high salaries, at the new Akkuyu nuclear power plant.
Available at: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/business/2012/05/600-students-to-russia-for-nucle.html
3. Nuclear Deal With Pakistan Not Possible: Australian HC
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Australian High Commissioner Tim George on Thursday said nuclear deal similar to Australian-Indo nuclear agreement was not possible with Pakistan.
George, whose three-year term as Australian envoy to Pakistan comes to an end, was speaking at a farewell news conference.
To a question, he said Pakistan does not qualify for Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and a bilateral nuclear agreement similar to his country struck with India, was not possible with Pakistan.
NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries which seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of Guidelines for nuclear related exports. He, however, pointed out that the deal for selling Australian uranium to India was not a move against Pakistan.
He also welcomed the on-going dialogue for the resumption of Nato supplies route and President Asif Ali Zardari's decision to attend Chicago summit.
Earlier, highlighting performance of his three-year tenure, George said "I particularly welcome the deepening of our engagement, which is based on a productive, friendly and mutually beneficial partnership.
Areas, which I highlighted include development co-operation, defence co-operation, collaboration in tackling transnational crime, education and other people-to-people links, and closer collaboration in the trade and investment.
We see Pakistan as a valuable long-term partner.
We also wish to support Pakistan in facing its significant challenges."
He welcomed Pakistan's valuable participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth in 2011, the revival of Senior Officials Talks between Foreign Ministries and of the Joint Trade Committee, and good progress towards cementing much closer Parliamentary ties.
Australia's development assistance to Pakistan has expanded significantly in recent years, to an estimated Australian $96 million in 2012-13.
The signing of the Australia Pakistan Development Partnership (APDP) was an important milestone, providing a positive framework for our long term bilateral development co-operation.
Australia has also been a major contributor of humanitarian assistance in time of crisis. Co-operation between Australia and Pakistan in combating terrorism and transnational organised crime has expanded substantially.
A landmark development has been the establishment in 2010 of the high-level Pakistan-Australia Joint Working Group (JWG) on Border Management and Transnational Crime, which meets annually.
George said he appreciated deeply Pakistan's excellent co-operation on these issues. Defence co-operation has also grown strongly with an emphasis on mutually-beneficial training programs, and the regular high level Strategic Dialogue, and, since 2010, the highly successful 1.5 Track Security Talks.
George said there was much scope to boost links in the field of trade, investment, and joint ventures.
"Both countries have much to offer each other. Pakistan, with its large and talented population and its many resources, has great potential.
Australia is the thirteenth largest economy globally, has strong economic fundamentals, and is a major Asia Pacific player with a diverse, multi-culture society".
He noted that, based on its strong international credentials, Australia is a candidate for the United Nations Security Council for 2013/2014.
"If successful, we look forward to working with Pakistan and other friends on this important forum", he added.
Available at: http://www.brecorder.com/general-news/172/1190658/
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