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UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2011 (IPS) - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Wednesday identified three U.N. member states – Iran, North Korea and Syria – as virtual nuclear rogue nations for their continued refusal to comply with international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Singling out the countries by name, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said his approach to nuclear verification has been “very straightforward” ever since he took office in December 2009.
“All safeguards agreements between member states and the agency, and other relevant obligations such as U.N. Security Council resolutions, should be implemented fully,” he told a three-day U.N. Conference on Disarmament Issues in Matsumoto, Japan.
Currently, there are five declared nuclear weapon states, namely the United States, Britain, Russia, France and China, along with three undeclared nuclear weapon states, India, Pakistan and Israel.
The three undeclared nuclear powers have all refused to sign the NPT and remain outside the IAEA radar, as against the five declared nuclear powers who are states parties to the treaty.
North Korea is strongly rumoured to possess nuclear weapons; Iran is suspected of having an active nuclear weapons programme although it vehemently denies the charge; and Syria is accused of making a failed attempt to develop nuclear weapons.
But, as a U.N. member state, it has to comply with IAEA and Security Council resolutions.
Amano said the North Korean nuclear programme “remains a matter of serious concern”.
“As you may know, since April 2009, the agency has not been able to implement any safeguards measures in that country,” he said.
Last year, there were reports that North Korea was in the process of building a new uranium enrichment facility and a light water reactor.
If these reports are true, the IAEA head said, “they are deeply troubling.”
Amano urged North Korea to fully implement all of the relevant resolutions of the IAEA General Conference and the Security Council which have imposed strictures and/or sanctions on Pyongyang for non- compliance.
Iran, which also came under fire, has unequivocally stated that its nuclear programme is only for “peaceful purposes”.
But both the Security Council and the IAEA have refused to buy this argument.
“Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” Amano declared.
He called upon Iran “to move towards the full implementation of all relevant obligations to build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme”.
On Syria, the IAEA has concluded it is very likely that a building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site in 2007 – possibly from an air attack by Israel – was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the agency. But it was not.
Last month, the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution accusing Syria of “non-compliance with its safeguards obligations”.
Meanwhile, the IAEA has been consulting with its member states on the possibility of convening a forum on the relevance of existing nuclear weapon-free zones and to consider establishing such a zone in the Middle East.
But the proposed international conference, tentatively scheduled for 2012, may be in jeopardy amid the growing political turmoil sweeping across the Arab world – and Israel’s fears of negative fallout on its own security.
The proposal for the long-outstanding meeting was endorsed by 189 member states at the Review Conference on the NPT held at the United Nations in May 2010.
The Israeli government, while criticising the outcome document of that Review Conference, left the door open for participation in the 2012 conference.
But the political uprisings in the Arab world, including the ouster of the Israeli-friendly Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, have triggered expressions of Israeli concerns – specifically its own security in an increasingly hostile environment.
Israel has privately expressed the view that its undeclared nuclear weapons are the best guarantee of its security.
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