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Nuclear non-proliferation dominates IAEA conference
25/9/2004 8:52

The 48th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded Friday evening with a call for the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons and their delivery means to help maintain international and regional peace and stability.

During the five-day conference, delegates from over 100 member countries of the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, discussed a wide range of issues such as nuclear security, measures to protect against nuclear and radiological terrorism as well as international cooperation in nuclear, radiation and transport safety and waste management.

The participants reached consensus on almost all the issues they have covered, which analysts said, will contribute to enhancing the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The resolution on "Measures to Protect against Nuclear Terrorism" emphasized the importance of physical protection and other measures against illicit trafficking and national control systems for ensuring protection against nuclear terrorism and other malicious acts, including the use of radioactive material ina radiological dispersion device.

It urged all member countries to continue to provide political,

financial and technical support, including in-kind contributions, to improve nuclear and radiological security and prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism, and to provide to the Nuclear SecurityFund the political and financial support in needs.

As part of its activity of promoting nuclear safety, the IAEA has focused since the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001 on "helping countries identify their vulnerabilities" in nuclear security.

This includes protecting against terrorists getting radioactivematerials to use in so-called dirty bombs. These are conventional bombs laced with radioactive materials and designed to contaminatewide areas.

The IAEA helped out on a conference last week in Vienna co-hosted by US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Russian atomic chief Alexander Rumyantsev on a global initiative to keep highly radioactive materials out of the reach of terrorists.

In May, Abraham announced that the US was giving 450 million dollars to the initiative, which tries to prevent nuclear materials stored around the world from getting to terrorists who could use them to make a dirty bomb or even a full atomic device.

Another resolution on "Strengthening the Effectiveness and Improving the Efficiency of the Safeguards System including Implementation of Additional Protocols" passed at the IAEA conference affirmed that measures for the safeguards system with aview to detecting undeclared nuclear material and activities must be implemented rapidly and universally by all concerned states andother parties in compliance with their respective international commitments.

It called on all member states to give their full and continuing support to the IAEA in order to ensure that the agency is able to meet its safeguards responsibilities.

The IAEA resolution, which called for the creation of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, in a move clearly aimed at Israel which is believed to be the only state in the region with nuclear weapons, is another important achievement made during the conference.

The resolution, which was presented by Egypt and passed by consensus, affirmed the urgent need for all states in the Middle East to accept the application of full-scope agency safeguards to all their nuclear activities, as a step in enhancing peace and security in the context of the establishment of a nuclear-free zone.

It does not specifically mention Israel, which neither confirmsnor denies that it has nuclear weapons, and is the only state in the region that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), setting safeguards that are monitored by the IAEA.

The IAEA is "concerned by the grave consequence, endangering peace and security, of the presence in the Middle East region of nuclear activities not wholly devoted to peaceful purpose," the resolution said.

In his keynote address to the conference on September 20, IAEA director-General Mohamed EIBaradei disclosed that more than 40 countries with peaceful nuclear programs could retool them to makeweapons. He said that it is time to tighten world policing of nuclear activities and to stop relying on information volunteered by countries.