Tags: U.N.'s | ElBaradei: | Nations | Can | Make | Nuclear | Weapons

U.N.'s ElBaradei: 40 Nations Can Make Nuclear Weapons

Monday, 20 September 2004 12:00 AM

His comments appeared prompted by a series of revelations of proliferation or suspected illicit nuclear activities over the past two years.

Libya last year revealed a clandestine nuclear arms program and announced it would scrap it; North Korea is threatening to activate a weapons program; Iran is being investigated for what the United States says is evidence it was trying to make nuclear arms; and South Korea recently said it conducted secret experiments with plutonium and enriched uranium, both possible components of weapons programs.

ElBaradei linked the need for strengthened controls to concerns about the international nuclear black market, which supplied both Iran and Libya and whose existence was proven last year.

The "relative ease with which a multinational illicit network could be set up and operate demonstrates clearly the inadequacy" of the present controls on nuclear exports, he said.

ElBaradei did not name the countries capable of quickly turning peaceful nuclear activities into weapons programs. But more than a dozen European countries with either power-producing nuclear reactors or large-scale research reactors are among them, as well as Canada, and countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Most peaceful nuclear programs use enriched uranium, a substance that when processed to levels of enrichment above 90 percent can be used to make nuclear warheads, as a power source. Most countries also could extract plutonium from spent fuel for nuclear weapons use.

Iran's enrichment program has been the focus of increased world concern because of suspicions Tehran may not be telling the truth when it says it is interested in the technology only to generate power. Such suspicions are fed by 18 years of clandestine nuclear activities that were revealed only two years ago, including experiments with possible weapons applications; and some nuclear questions that remain unanswered.

A resolution passed unanimously Saturday by the agency's governing board demanded for the first time that Iran freeze all work on uranium enrichment and expressed alarm at Iranian plans to convert more than 40 tons of raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the gas that when spun in centrifuges turns into enriched uranium.

Suggesting that Iran might have to answer to the U.N. Security Council if it defies the demands, the resolution said the next board meeting in November "will decide whether or not further steps are appropriate" in ensuring Iran complies.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, in his comments to the conference, urged Iran to "cooperate fully and immediately with the IAEA's requests."

And speaking for the 25-nation European Union, Dutch delegate Justus de Visser asked Tehran to "heed the content of the resolution, and in particular ... to suspend fully all its enrichment-related activities."

Libya, which has been embraced by the international community for renouncing its weapons ambitions, also suggested Tehran "cooperate with the IAEA to the full."

"The Iranians have to meet these obligations," Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Matouq Mohammed Matouq told reporters.

But Iran remained defiant. Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi told Iranian state television that his country "may resume [enrichment] any moment." And he reiterated Tehran's rejection of board's demands.

"The resolution is illegal," he said. "The Islamic Republic of Iran ... will ignore the provisions of the resolution because it is beyond the responsibilities of the IAEA."

Delivering the same message at the Vienna conference, Iranian Vice President Reza Aghazadeh said his country will "continue its nuclear activities without interruption."

In his comments Monday, ElBaradei also urged Iran to comply with the resolution _ to "verify its past nuclear program and ... do its utmost to build the required confidence" by heeding the full suspension call.

He also touched on North Korea, saying it "continues to pose a serious challenge" to nonproliferation.

North Korea cut its ties with the agency two years ago, saying it had quit the Nonproliferation Treaty. It is now engaged in on-and-off negotiations with the United States and four other countries on aid and other concessions it seeks in return for scrapping its nuclear weapons program.

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His comments appeared prompted by a series of revelations of proliferation or suspected illicit nuclear activities over the past two years. Libya last year revealed a clandestine nuclear arms program and announced it would scrap it; North Korea is threatening to...
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2004-00-20
Monday, 20 September 2004 12:00 AM
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