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-- the Editors at Arms Control Today
Negotiators Close to Iran Accord
Diplomats from world powers and Iran say they are close to reaching agreement on the implementation steps for their first phase agreement on pausing key elements of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for limited and reversible sanctions relief.
For more information, see USA Today, "Movement on deal to implement Iran nuclear accord" and the Dec. 2 ACA Issue Brief, "Assessing the First-Phase Deal to Guard Against a Nuclear-Armed Iran."
OPCW Reviews Delayed Syria Plan
On January 8, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council will meet to review progress on the plan to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The plan has been delayed due to logistical and security challenges inside Syria.
In the coming days, a multilateral array of naval vessels is preparing to remove the estimated 700 tons of Syria's bulk chemical agents and precursors once they are delivered by the government of Syria to the port of Latakia. A Danish ship, protected by Norwegian, Russian, and Chinese vessels will carry the material to an Italian port where it will be transferred to the U.S.-flagged MV Cape Ray, which has been outfitted with two field hydrolysis units to neutralize the chemicals in accordance with plans approved last month by the OPCW Executive Council.
For more on the operation, see: "Unprecedented Technology En Route to Disarm Syria," MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, Jan. 2, 2014.
B61 Bomb Program Faces Budget Pressure
Members of Congress will return to Washington next week to continue work on an omnibus, 12-part spending bill that must be approved by Jan. 16 to prevent a government shutdown. According to media reports one of the issues that must be ironed out is the amount of funding to be appropriated for the multi-billion dollar refurbishment of the B-61 nuclear gravity bomb.
Other warhead life extension projects, including the W78/W88 "interoperable warhead" program, could be delayed due to budgetary pressures on the National Nuclear Security Administration and the funding levels established by Congress in the omnibus spending bill according to a December report in the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor.