Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pakistan makes surprise offer of nuclear fuel services

PM Gilani said that Pakistan had more than 35 years’ experience of operating nuclear power plants, a highly trained manpower and a well-established safety and security culture.
WASHINGTON: Pakistan has said that it has acquired advanced nuclear fuel cycle capability and can offer it to the rest of the world under IAEA safeguards.

The offer, contained in a national statement presented at a two-day summit which concluded in Washington on Tuesday, reflected Islamabad’s desire to gain recognition as a nuclear state.

“As a country with advanced fuel cycle capability, Pakistan is in a position to provide nuclear fuel cycle services under IAEA safeguards, and to participate in any non-discriminatory nuclear fuel cycle assurance mechanism,” the document said.

At the summit, Pakistan also reiterated its proposals for establishing a strategic restraint regime in South Asia.

The policy paper released during the conference stressed that such a regime would “promote nuclear and missile restraint, a balance in conventional forces, and conflict resolution”.

Pakistan said that it had already concluded with India risk reduction and confidence-building measures which included a hot line, prior notification of ballistic missile tests, and an agreement on reducing the risk of accidents relating to nuclear weapons.

“More than ever, India and Pakistan need a substantive, structured and sustained dialogue on all issues, including nuclear CBMs,” the Pakistani statement said.

It also underlined Pakistan’s legitimate needs for power generation to meet the growing energy demand of its expanding economy.

“Civil nuclear power generation under IAEA safeguards is an essential part of our national energy security plan to support sustained economic growth and industrial development,” the statement pointed out.

In his address at the inaugural dinner on Monday night, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the participants that Pakistan had more than 35 years’ experience of operating nuclear power plants, a highly trained manpower and a well-established safety and security culture.

“Pakistan qualifies for participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level. We urge all relevant forums to give Pakistan access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses, in a non-discriminatory manner,” he said.

China’s Support

Pakistan received support from a trusted ally in its quest for civil nuclear technology on Tuesday when China declared that every country had the right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

“We strongly support efforts to enhance international nuclear security and the equal right of all countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” said the Chinese national statement presented at the conference.

The Chinese statement at the nuclear summit, however, aimed primarily at clarifying its position on the US-Iran dispute on this issue.

During the two-day summit, the United States and its allies demanded measures to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear technology because they feared that Tehran would use it for making weapons, which in turn would destabilise the entire Middle East.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama secured a promise from President Hu Jintao of China to join negotiations on a new package of sanctions against Iran, administration officials said, but Mr Hu made no specific commitment to backing measures that the United States considered severe enough to force a change in direction in Iran’s nuclear programme.

The Chinese national statement also reiterated Beijing’s commitment to the policies of “no first use of nuclear weapons, at any time and under any circumstances”.

It emphasised China’s “unequivocal commitment to “not to use or threat to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states or in nuclear-free zones”.

Obama’s Warning

President Obama warned that the risk of a nuclear attack had increased as terrorists sought nuclear materials.

Taking a cue from the American leader, India too emphasised this point in a national statement it submitted to the two-day nuclear summit in Washington.

“The world community should join hands to eliminate the risk of sensitive and valuable materials and technologies falling into hands of terrorists and illicit traffickers. There should be zero tolerance for individuals and groups which engage in illegal trafficking in nuclear items,” said the Indian statement.

Each nation participating in the 47-state conference has submitted a national statement, spelling out its policies and aspirations on the nuclear issue. The rules of the conference prevent participants from targeting any particular nation, forcing India not to name Pakistan but the Indian statement included hints that seek to implicate Islamabad.

Speaking on the final day of the summit, President Obama said even though the threat of nuclear war between nations had decreased, terrorist groups like Al Qaeda were working to acquire nuclear materials.

Mr Obama said the new nuclear threat facing the world after the end of the Cold War was “cruel irony of history”. He warned that world leaders must act now and not simply talk about securing nuclear materials.

Seeking to lend force to his warning, Mr Obama said that dozens of countries held nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen, and that a weapon fashioned from an apple-size piece of plutonium could kill or injure hundreds of thousands of people. “Terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeed, they would surely use it. Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world,” he said.

Mr Obama urged the international community to take joint action against nuclear terrorism and secure or destroy vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear materials that the terrorists could acquire.

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