Bush Seeks New Push to Curb N-Weapons

To stem the spread of nuclear weapons, President Bush proposes a ban on all sales of civilian nuclear enrichment technology. Under his new plan, nuclear countries would provide fuel only to those countries that renounce enrichment. Recognizing that this could fundamentally change the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Bush is seeking to make changes through the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 40-nation consortium. The proposal, motivated by discovery of Pakistan's nuclear scientist's black market nuclear sales, would still allow existing nuclear nations to continue to develop nuclear weapons. Mohamed El Baradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had formulated a plan in which reprocessing and enrichment would have been brought under multinational control. According to one scholar, getting his plan accepted will require Bush to commit himself to "diplomatic heavy lifting." – YaleGlobal

Bush Seeks New Push to Curb N-Weapons

Edward Alden
Thursday, February 12, 2004

President George W. Bush called on Wednesday for a renewed effort to halt the spread of atomic weapons by banning all sales of civilian nuclear enrichment and reprocessing technologies to countries that do not already possess them.

In a speech at Washington's National Defense University, Mr Bush said that nuclear countries should agree to provide fuel for civilian nuclear reactors "at reasonable cost" but only to those states that renounce enrichment and reprocessing. In addition, those states must accept more intrusive monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The proposal would mark a fundamental change in the 36-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which the US and other nuclear weapons states agreed to support civilian nuclear programmes, including the development of nuclear fuel, for countries that renounced nuclear weapons.

Under the NPT, signed by more than 180 countries, non-nuclear states must agree to safeguards to prevent diversion of nuclear materials for weapons use.

But Mr Bush charged on Wednesday that civilian enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel had been a loophole exploited by countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Shutting off access to civilian enrichment and reprocessing technologies, he said, would "prevent new states from developing the means to produce fissile material for nuclear bombs".

"Proliferators must not be allowed to cynically manipulate the NPT to acquire the material and infrastructure necessary for manufacturing illegal weapons," he said.

The president also urged the UN Security Council to pass a controversial resolution that would criminalise proliferation activities and strengthen controls of exports of sensitive technologies, and called for expanded co-operation to shut down proliferation networks.

The new proposals come in response to the discovery of a vast clandestine network led by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, which provided enrichment technologies for weapons programmes to Libya, Iran and North Korea. Mr Bush said on Wednesday that he had been assured by General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's leader, "that his country will never again be a source of proliferation".

The Bush administration is hoping to make the changes through agreement in the 40-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group of advanced countries rather than seeking a formal amendment to the NPT. Robert Einhorn of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said the effort would require "sustained diplomatic heavy lifting" and a readiness by the US to "adjust its own position to meet the requirements of others, something it has often been reluctant to do in the counter-proliferation area".

Mr Bush's proposal differs significantly from a scheme proposed last October by Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director-general, which called for all reprocessing and enrichment to be brought under multinational control. That could potentially have restricted existing weapons states, including the US, from developing additional nuclear weapons.

The US is facing criticism over its plans to expand its own nuclear arsenal by developing smaller weapons that could penetrate underground targets.

© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2004.