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"I actually have a pretty good collection of Arms Control Today, which I have read throughout my career. It's one of the few really serious publications on arms control issues."
– Gary Samore
Former White House Coordinator for Arms Control and WMD Terrorism
October 2008
Edition Date: 
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Cover Image: 

Tackling the Illicit Small Arms Trade: The Chairman Speaks

Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis

When I was nominated in December 2007 as the chair-designate of the third biennial meeting of states (BMS3),[1] my team and I immediately focused on the task of ensuring a successful outcome. This, of course, is the duty of any meeting chair; but in this case, the need for success was acute. The first two biennial meetings held to consider the implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) in 2003 and 2005 had been criticized for their lack of tangible results, specifically the absence of an agreed outcome. The 2006 Review Conference for the program had ended, amidst some acrimony, with no substantive agreement of any kind.

Small arms and light weapons are the instruments of choice in crime and conflict, undermining security, human rights, and social and economic development worldwide.[2] It is estimated that armed violence kills more than 740,000 people each year, both directly and indirectly, with approximately two-thirds of these deaths occurring outside war zones. The annual economic costs of armed violence in nonconflict settings (lost productivity due to violent deaths) approaches $100 billion, on a conservative estimate, but could be much higher. In addition to these statistics, one must take account of the costs inflicted on people, societies, and economies as a result of the (often permanent) injuries stemming from armed violence. Although the effects are not evenly distributed, with some regions suffering much more than others, every country is affected to some degree.[3]

The PoA provided the first global framework for tackling the small arms problem, committing all states to some essential initial steps designed, above all, to curb the supply of illicit small arms and light weapons. Along with certain regional initiatives, it also appears to have encouraged many states to become more transparent in reporting on their small arms exports. Following the 2006 Review Conference impasse, however, there was a risk that the PoA would cease to be taken seriously. The United Nations had established separate processes on illicit brokering, international arms transfers (the Arms Trade Treaty), and surplus ammunition, but a question mark hung over the broader framework. The third biennial meeting, scheduled for July 14-18 at UN headquarters in New York, was not supposed to be a make-or-break event; but in our assessment, another diplomatic stalemate or even an exceptionally weak agreed outcome would have undermined the PoA and slowed or halted global momentum on the small arms issue.

That view was shared by many others. From the beginning of our preparations, we sensed very strong backing from all stakeholders to get the UN small arms process “back on track” with a successful BMS3. Our sense was that unequivocal success required some form of agreed outcome that, along with the meeting discussions, would help to enhance and accelerate the PoA’s implementation, not amend it. Another priority for many states was to restore consensus on the process. The PoA itself was adopted in 2001 by consensus, and that was also true of the UN resolutions and meetings devoted to small arms during the following period.

Consensus began to fray, however, in 2005 and 2006 as the UN General Assembly committee that considers arms control and disarmament matters (the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security) registered the first abstentions and negative votes on certain small arms resolutions and decisions. In 2006 and again in 2007, the United States—alone—voted against the UN General Assembly’s omnibus resolution on small arms because of its opposition to the convening of a third biennial meeting. The question as to whether the United States would participate, in some form, in the BMS3 was the subject of much speculation during the months preceding the meeting. The possibility, even likelihood, that the United States would not participate was certainly a concern. We were equally worried that other states might follow the U.S. lead and elect to opt out of the UN small arms process. A second factor that troubled us was time. The July meeting was scheduled to last only five days. This left very little room for states to reach agreement on an outcome document. We concluded that extensive preparation and discussion would be needed if we were to secure an agreed outcome.

Preparations Pay Off

My early nomination in December 2007 coupled with that of the Bureau[4] a month later, helped us get the necessary groundwork underway well in advance of the BMS3. I was able to hold my first round of open-ended consultations with the UN membership in New York at the end of January 2008 and in Geneva in early February. At an early stage, we also sought the counsel of knowledgeable individuals and groups, including the Geneva Process on small arms.[5]

The outlines of the meeting agenda, including the themes on which most states wished to focus in the discussions, were already becoming clear. The statements made at the First Committee’s session in the fall of 2007 and my consultations in early 2008 revealed a strong preference for the themes of illicit brokering, along with stockpile management and surplus disposal. The cross-cutting issue of international cooperation, assistance, and national capacity building was another clear favorite. These were all core PoA issues, unlikely to elicit much controversy but important to effective implementation. We also had a general mandate from the General Assembly to use the meeting “to highlight…challenges and opportunities” in implementing the PoA.[6] At the same time, the General Assembly had decided in 2006 that the first meeting to consider implementation of the International Tracing Instrument (ITI),[7] an offshoot of the PoA, would occur within the framework of the July gathering.

So far, so good. An early start and agreement on the need to focus the discussions, coupled with much goodwill from UN member states and other groups and individuals in Geneva and New York, had put us on a good track; however, in order to maximize the transparency and inclusiveness of the process during the months preceding the July meeting, I held two further rounds of open-ended consultations and many meetings with individual states, regional groups, and other stakeholders.

We also needed a structure that could channel the views of all participants into the final outcome. Unfortunately, we could not rely on a formal preparatory process like so many other multilateral arms control talks. We had one important resource at our disposal—national reporting on PoA implementation, including the very useful analysis of the reports prepared by United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and the Small Arms Survey.[8] We also opted for a facilitation process designed to optimize our use of time, both before and during the meeting, and to further enhance transparency and inclusiveness. I appointed facilitators from Colombia (international cooperation, assistance, and national capacity building), Egypt (ITI), South Korea (illicit brokering) and Switzerland (stockpile management and surplus disposal). They were joined at the BMS3 by Canada (other issues) and Finland (brokering). In June, based on their consultations and analysis of the national reports, the original four facilitators produced discussion papers designed to provide some of the raw material for the future Outcome Document. The national reports were another important source of draft text.

By the time the BMS3 began on the morning of July 14, most of the necessary pieces were in place: extensive consultation, more than 100 national reports on PoA implementation,[9] an analysis of reporting, the facilitator discussion papers, and suggested language for much of the Outcome Document. New parts of the document, including “the way forward” (recommendations) sections, were issued, in all six UN languages, the morning after the relevant theme was discussed in BMS plenary sessions, with the UN Secretariat working overnight to make this possible. On Thursday morning, July 17, the complete draft report was issued, again in all UN languages, with a revised version following the next morning, the last day of the meeting.

We came close to adopting the final report, including agreed outcome, by consensus. One state, Iran, blocked adoption of the report on Friday morning and could not be persuaded to join consensus. Not for the first time, Iran indicated that it wanted “line-by-line negotiations” on the text. A few other states also expressed reservations regarding the method of work. Nevertheless, Iran’s request for a recorded vote yielded a pleasant surprise. We achieved consensus of a kind, with 134 states voting to adopt the final report (and outcome) on Friday afternoon, none voting against, and two states abstaining (Iran and Zimbabwe).[10]

As one delegation pointed out that day, negotiations can take many forms. I elected to keep control of the text throughout the process, channeling inputs through the facilitators. Opening the text up to line-by-line amendment, as Iran requested, would in my view have led to an unmanageable blizzard of proposals and counterproposals. As I stated throughout the preparatory process and at the meeting itself, there was no time for classic, treaty-like negotiations; nor were we developing a new instrument, but rather considering the implementation of an existing one. I heard many expressions of support for this view and was certainly heartened by the result of the vote.

The Way Forward

The BMS3 Outcome Document incorporates the concepts and compromises that states thrashed out before and during the meeting. It undoubtedly has its weaknesses, which will probably have been analyzed in some detail by the time these lines appear in print. I am nevertheless confident that, despite its imperfections, the document offers UN member states a series of useful hooks for future work. I will not undertake a comprehensive review here but merely highlight some of the possibilities inherent in the document.

The first paragraph of the section on international cooperation, assistance, and national capacity building sets the tone for the rest of the Outcome Document, underlining the need for states to do more to exchange information and build national capacity for the effective implementation of the PoA. The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs’ new Program of Action Implementation Support System and UNIDIR’s database for matching needs and resources, welcomed by states in the document, could play useful roles here, as could improved use of the reporting tool. The importance of national reporting to PoA implementation is reflected in its frequent citation in the BMS3 Outcome Document, including in the paragraph presenting proposals for a “forward-looking implementation agenda.” These proposals include asking states to report biennially (less often, but more comprehensively), further develop reporting templates (to increase comparability), and analyze reports more systematically.

On illicit brokering, the Outcome Document highlights the importance of implementing the recommendations of the Group of Government Experts, stressing also the contributions international cooperation and end-user certification/verification can make to a resolution of this problem. Verifying the identity of the end users of weapons shipments is an important means of preventing their diversion to the illicit market. The section of the Outcome Document on stockpile management and surplus disposal usefully emphasizes the link between good stockpile management and surplus identification. It also lists a range of areas in which resources may need to be expended for effective stockpile management and the responsible disposal of surpluses. The outcome on the implementation of the ITI, included as an annex to the main report, stresses the mutually reinforcing nature of weapons marking, record keeping, and tracing and highlights some of the essential initial steps states need to take in implementing the instrument.

The next steps for the ITI are relatively clear. According to the terms of the instrument itself, another biennial meeting should be held in two year’s time to consider its implementation. The United States participated in the two sessions devoted to the ITI at the BMS3, sitting out the other sessions devoted to the PoA, so it appears that there is unanimous support for a continuation of the ITI process.

Follow-up for the PoA remains an open question. No firm recommendations emerged from the BMS3, although several interesting ideas were introduced during the discussions and are reflected in the Outcome Document. These include regional meetings in years between biennial meetings of states and periodic meetings of governmental experts. Certain regions have pioneered efforts to tackle the small arms problem over the past decade and can be expected to continue to lead the way. The proposal for periodic expert meetings—with the UN framework—would, however, ensure that action at the global level keeps pace. A decision on the next PoA BMS is up for discussion at the First Committee’s 2008 session. The Outcome Document lists the issues that various states—not necessarily the UN membership as a whole—consider important to PoA implementation. These are, in essence, placeholders for future program meeting focus topics, subject to further discussion and negotiation.

This year’s First Committee should offer greater clarity on the next steps for the PoA. The BMS3, although quite successful, is only one additional step on the road. Long-term success in meeting the small arms challenge will require the sustained commitment of UN member states to effective action in collaboration with our partners in international organizations and civil society. It was an honor for me to have been able to contribute to our crucial goal. Although much hard work remains before us, we can take satisfaction in the important progress made at the BMS3.

 

A Recipe For Success?

The strategy we pursued for the third biennial meeting of states (BMS3) borrowed bits and pieces from various other arms control forums, in particular the meetings devoted to consideration of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Not unlike the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), the BWC reached an impasse at its Fifth Review Conference in 2001. We drew inspiration from the ability of the BWC process to recover from this setback with a focused, practical program of work. These were our guiding principles for the BMS3: remain focused and avoid the politicization of technical issues. Of course, the method of work we used for the meeting has its unique features; it will not suit all arms control meetings. Yet, those fora that, like the BMS3, look at the implementation of an existing instrument while facing serious time constraints may find much of value in our approach. It had 10 key components.

1. Early designation of the chair and Bureau A short meeting with big ambitions required early and extensive preparation. My early nomination in December 2007 along with that of the Bureau in January 2008 bought us critical time for the necessary advance work.

2. Extensive consultation In advance of the BMS3, I held three rounds of open-ended consultations in New York and Geneva and participated in regional small arms conferences that were convened in Bogota, Brussels, and Seoul. I also held more than 100 meetings with individual states and regional groups, including the principal suppliers of small arms and light weapons and many of the countries suffering most from the effects of the illicit trade. I used these consultations to make direct contact with as many delegations as possible, listen to their views, and present my ideas for the preparatory process and the meeting. During these consultations, it was especially important to reach a common understanding on the mandate of the BMS3. In the weeks preceding the July meeting, consultations with the facilitators increasingly focused on draft language for the Outcome Document. The facilitators and I continued, indeed accelerated, our consultations during the meeting. The fundamental aim throughout was to maximize the transparency and inclusiveness of the process.

3. Keeping the Meeting Focused My initial consultations confirmed very broad support for the concept of narrowing the discussion to a few topics and deepening discussion on those. To be sure, there was some disagreement over the choice of topics. However, the concerns of states that had one or more preferred themes outside the final list were addressed by introducing an “other issues” session in the meeting and reflecting the content of that discussion in the agreed Outcome Document.

4. Use of facilitators If we wanted everyone on board, it was essential to structure the preparatory process. We opted for a facilitation process that would work continuously to solicit inputs from all states on the four issue areas. The discussion papers produced by the facilitators in advance of the BMS3 were the key elements here, allowing us to focus our attention on implementation gaps, challenges, and opportunities in each of the areas and provide concrete inputs for the Outcome Document. The facilitators played a central role during the meeting itself, consulting widely with states and channeling their inputs into the final text.

5. Timely national reporting The reports states submitted on their implementation of the PoA and International Tracing Instrument (ITI) constituted the other crucial set of inputs to the Outcome Document. We could only take them into account, however, if they came in relatively early. In consultation with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), we set the end of March as our target date for submissions. As it turned out, we received a substantial number of reports by that date or shortly thereafter, allowing the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the Small Arms Survey to prepare their very useful analysis of reporting since the adoption of the PoA on the BMS3 focus topics.[1]

6. Reinforcing the New York-Geneva link Although PoA meetings are invariably held in New York, much of the expertise on small arms lies with the national missions and intergovernmental and civil society organizations in Geneva. In an effort to make full use of that expertise, I appointed two facilitators from Geneva along with two from New York. I also met extensively with representatives of governments, international organizations, and civil society in Geneva and New York.

7. Timely translation of key documents In order to increase transparency and outreach, we decided to release as official documents—in the United Nations’ six official languages—all of the key documents produced by the chair and the facilitators. This was new for a UN small arms meeting. The UN Secretariat’s willingness to translate draft outcome text overnight during the meeting greatly enhanced communication and decision-making between delegations and capitals.

8. Extensive use of UN Website Another means of improving transparency and communication was to use the UNODA Web site as a central repository for BMS3 documents, statements, and information. Instead of reading their statements, I encouraged delegations to place their statements on the Web site, reading only important excerpts.

9. Dispensing with the general exchange of views In one form or another, a general exchange of views had been a major, even dominant, component of the two preceding biennial meetings, as well as the 2006 Review Conference. If the BMS3 was to remain focused and results oriented, it was important that states spoke to the issues under consideration. States therefore agreed to structure the meeting agenda around the focus themes and, at my urging, mostly read only selectively from their national statements and national reports, posting full versions on the UNODA Web site.

10. Making better use of civil society expertise It was our conviction, at an early stage, that civil society had an important contribution to make to the success of the BMS3. Procedural rules adopted at the 2001 UN Small Arms Conference and applied to subsequent PoA meetings precluded civil society representatives from intervening during the meetings, except at a special designated session. There was no consensus on changing these rules for the BMS3, but states did agree to have representatives from Amnesty International and the Small Arms Survey give presentations to kick off the governmental discussions of illicit brokering and the ITI. This represents a first modest step, one hopes, toward a more interactive and productive relationship with civil society at future UN small arms meetings. I also continued the practice begun by previous BMS chairs and encouraged governments to include representatives of civil society on their national delegations. Many countries, including my own, followed this recommendation to good effect.

A good chair is, at least partly, a lucky chair. We were fortunate that several other factors, independent of our control, pulled toward rather than against a favorable outcome at the BMS3. These included strong support from the UN Secretariat, our facilitators, and the Bureau. The UN General Assembly had nudged things in the right direction, providing the BMS3 with a more focused mandate.[2] We were also able to draw on the expertise and innovative thinking of groups such as the Geneva Process when considering how to take that mandate forward. Finally, at the end of the day, there would have been no result without the strong commitment of the UN membership as a whole to a successful outcome.

ENDNOTES

1. Sarah Parker and Silvia Cattaneo, “Implementing the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons: Analysis of the National Reports Submitted by States From 2002 to 2008,”draft report, July 2008, http://unidir.org/.

2. UN General Assembly, Resolution 62/47, para. 8. The resolution’s reference to “priority issues or topics of relevance” helped us to focus the BMS3 agenda well in advance of the meeting.


Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis is permanent representative of the Republic of Lithuania to the United Nations and recently served as chair of the third biennial meeting of states to consider the implementation of the 2001 Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which was held in New York July 14-18.


ENDNOTES

1. Third Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA), (A/CONF.192/15, July 20, 2001, http://disarmament2.un.org/cab/poa.html).

2. UN Security Council, “Small Arms: Report of the Secretary-General,” S/2008/258, April 17, 2008.

3. Geneva Declaration Secretariat, “Global Burden of Armed Violence,” September 2008, www.genevadeclaration.org/pdfs/Global-Burden-of-Armed-Violence.pdf.

4. The chairperson and vice chairpersons of UN arms control meetings are collectively known as the Bureau. Fourteen states were appointed by their regional groups to assist as vice chairs with the BMS3.

5. The Geneva Process on small arms brings governments, international organizations, and civil society together in Geneva for regular meetings on small arms issues, with a particular focus on PoA implementation.

6. UN General Assembly, Resolution 62/47, para. 8.

7. International Instrument to EnableStates to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, A/60/88, June 27, annex, http://disarmament2.un.org/cab/oewg/Report.pdf. The instrument commits UN member states to a series of measures designed to improve the traceability of small arms and light weapons in crime and conflict situations. See Small Arms Survey, Small Arms Survey 2006: Unfinished Business (Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2006), ch. 4.

8. Sarah Parker and Silvia Cattaneo, “Implementing the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons: Analysis of the National Reports Submitted by States from 2002 to 2008,” draft report, July 2008, http://unidir.org/.

9. A record 109 states submitted reports by July 18, 2008, the final day of the meeting.

10. Department of Public Information, United Nations, “Biennial Meeting of States on Small Arms Adopts Draft Report by Recorded Vote,” DC/3124, July 18, 2008, http://un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/dc3124.doc.htm. Ten additional states subsequently indicated that they would have voted in favor of the draft report had they been present. “Report of the Third Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects,” A/CONF.192/BMS/2008/3, para. 23 (note 1) (hereinafter BMS3 report). The United States did not participate in the vote.

Israel: Hezbollah Violating Arms Embargo

Meredith Lugo

In the wake of Israeli claims that the militant group Hezbollah is smuggling weapons into southern Lebanon in an attempt to illegally rearm, the UN Security Council Aug. 27 unanimously extended the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The extension comes on the heels of a UN report detailing lax border security in Lebanon.

During the Security Council meeting, Israeli ambassador Daniel Carmon stated that the “continuing transport of weapons” from Iran and Syria into Lebanon was in violation of Security Council resolutions. Lebanese representative Nawaf Salam affirmed the importance of the UN report but pointed to Israel’s refusal to aid or participate in the UN and Lebanese effort to disarm cluster munitions Israel dropped during the 2006 conflict between Lebanon and Hezbollah. (See ACT, October 2006.)

UNIFIL has been deployed in Lebanon since 1978, and its current mandate includes the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, which was passed in August 2006 to end that summer’s conflict. The resolution prohibits any armed militias from operating or smuggling weapons within Lebanon and specifically calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah. It also calls on Israel to provide maps of submunitions used in Lebanon.

Israel maintains that Hezbollah never fully disarmed after the 2006 hostilities. In a June 5 press release, the Israeli Foreign Ministry claimed that Hezbollah is focusing on “rebuilding its military infrastructure” and constructing a “new rocket arsenal.” Israel says that the group is using the “period of calm” to gain strength without UNIFIL or Israeli interference, has armed itself beyond the 20,000 rockets it had at the beginning of the 2006 conflict, and has sent militants to Iran for training.

An Israeli official told Arms Control Today Sept. 26 that Hezbollah has been arming itself “on a constant basis” for the last two years and estimated that Hezbollah has acquired about 42,000 short-, medium-, and long-range missiles. The official said that Iran and Syria manufactured the weapons and transported them mainly through land border crossings between Lebanon and Syria.

The UN border security report, submitted Aug. 25 to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon by an independent task force, stated that no arms smuggling had been detected through seaports, airports, or land border crossings. The report was emphatic, however, in its calls for improvement in border security. Stating that Lebanese border control officials lacked necessary equipment, procedures, and coordination among various agencies, the report concluded that the “overall situation renders Lebanon’s borders as penetrable as they were one year ago.”

The Israeli official indicated that lack of detection of smuggling was mainly due to ineffective border monitoring. “The deployment of the Lebanese army is not effective,” the official said. “If [Hezbollah has] 42,000 missiles, they had to get them somewhere. That is the proof.”

Major General Claudio Graziano of Italy, the UNIFIL commander, claimed at an Aug. 14 press conference that the UN mission to Lebanon is succeeding. A June 27 UN report on the implementation of Resolution 1701 stated that UNIFIL has found “no evidence of a new military infrastructure” but acknowledged that past violence against Israel and UNIFIL has “demonstrated that there are unauthorized arms and hostile groups prepared to use them.” The report notes that UNIFIL and Lebanese troops found 92 banned items in the UN-controlled area south of the LitaniRiver, including arms, ammunition, explosive devices, and two rockets. There was no indication that any of these arms had been used recently, and the report concluded that the equipment dated back to the 2006 conflict or earlier. Ban has reiterated several times that he believes the disarmament of Hezbollah should be conducted “through [a] Lebanese-led political process” and not forcefully by UNIFIL troops.

An earlier report from the secretary-general, dated February 2008, stated that Hezbollah “has not challenged allegations regarding the development of military facilities…and has publicly announced that it will use its arsenal against Israel if provoked.” More recently, the Associated Press reported that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah remarked in a televised speech Aug. 14 that keeping its arsenal “secret” is part of Hezbollah’s battle against Israel.

At the Aug. 27 Security Council meeting, Salam echoed previous calls from Ban for Israeli cooperation with efforts to clear land contaminated by cluster munitions dropped by Israel during the 2006 war. The United Nations and Lebanon have asked Israel to provide information on the number and location of cluster munitions deployed during the 34-day conflict. Between August 2006 and the middle of July 2008, the UN reports that 27 civilians were killed by cluster munitions, and 231 were injured. By late June 2008, 984 contaminated locations had been identified. The Israeli official told Arms Control Today that Israel had disclosed the necessary information to the UN.

In the wake of Israeli claims that the militant group Hezbollah is smuggling weapons into southern Lebanon in an attempt to illegally rearm, the UN Security Council Aug. 27 unanimously extended the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The extension comes on the heels of a UN report detailing lax border security in Lebanon. (Continue)

North Korea Moves to Restart Key Nuclear Plant

Peter Crail

North Korea has begun taking steps to restart operations at its reprocessing facility at Yongbyon as negotiations over verifying its nuclear activities have bogged down. Pyongyang announced Aug. 26 that it would consider taking steps to restore the disabled facilities in response to Washington’s insistence that North Korea first agree to a verification protocol before being removed from the Department of State’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. (See ACT, September 2008.) Pyongyang claims that it has already carried out what the United States said was necessary to be removed from the terrorism list.

Pyongyang also recently suggested it may withdraw from commitments made in multilateral talks over the last year. Quoting a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Sept. 19, the official Korean Central News Agency stated that Pyongyang is no longer interested in being taken off of the terrorism list and that it “will go its own way.” U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley admitted to reporters the same day that it is unclear whether North Korean statements “reflect a change in policy or are just the kind of negotiations we’ve seen before.” Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill is scheduled to travel to Pyongyang Oct.1 in an attempt to resolve the impasse over the verification arrangement.

The current logjam has ensued amid reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il suffered from a serious health problem in August, leading to his lack of public visibility in the last several weeks. In particular, Kim was unexpectedly absent from a major celebration of the North Korean regime’s 60th anniversary on Sept. 9. It is unclear what role Kim is currently playing in the decision-making process of the leadership in Pyongyang. North Korean officials have denied reports that Kim is in ill health.

NK Rejects Intrusive Inspections

Pyongyang insists that verification has not been a requirement of previous agreements in the six-party talks, which also include China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. Hyun Hak Bong, North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy director-general stated during a Sept. 19 meeting with South Korean officials that “the October 3 agreement…does not call for so-called verification.”

According to an October 2007 joint statement, Pyongyang pledged to disable its primary nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and provide a “complete and correct” declaration of its nuclear activities. In return, the other parties, with the exception of Japan, agreed to provide energy aid. The United States also agreed to “advance the process” of lifting certain restrictions against North Korea, including removing it from the terrorism list, once North Korea delivered its declaration.

North Korea submitted a declaration on its nuclear activities at Yongbyon June 26.

U.S. officials, however, have insisted that a verification protocol is part of the declaration process, and therefore a requirement for North Korea’s removal from the terrorism list. Hill said during a Sept. 5 press conference that “a declaration without a [verification] protocol is only half the obligation.”

The six parties agreed to establish a verification mechanism in a July 12 joint statement. (See ACT, September 2008.) The statement outlined broadly what such a mechanism would entail, including facility visits, review of documentation, and interviews with technical personnel.

In addition to claiming that it is not obligated to conclude a verification protocol, North Korea has asserted that some of the proposed inspections procedures are too intrusive. Hyun expressed concern with provisions of the protocol calling for inspectors to “visit any place at any time to take samples and to investigate with measurement devices,” adding that this meant “coercive” inspections akin to those which preceded the 2003 Iraq war.

According to the original U.S. verification proposal provided to North Korea in July and published by The Washington Post Sept. 26, Washington insisted on “full access upon request to any site, facility or location” whether or not it was in the North Korean declaration. It also provided for inspectors to make use of a variety of surveillance, recording, and detection equipment “at any site, facility or location.”

Siegfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratories told Arms Control Today in June that access to key parts of the Yongbyon facilities and the ability to sample the waste from their operations would provide a “high degree of confidence” regarding the amount of plutonium North Korea produced. North Korea reportedly claimed to produce about 37 kilograms of plutonium in its June declaration. U.S. estimates have assessed that North Korea may have produced as much as 50 kilograms. (See ACT, June 2008.)

Pyongyang Prepares to Reconstitute Yongbyon Facilities

Following through on a threat to begin reconstituting its disabled nuclear facilities, North Korea has begun to move some equipment from out of storage and asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to remove seals from its reprocessing facility. According to a Sept. 24 IAEA press release, North Korea informed the agency that it would begin introducing nuclear material at the plant “in one week’s time,” and has denied agency inspectors access to that facility.

Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming confirmed to Arms Control Today Sept. 24 that monitoring mechanisms and agency seals were still in place at two other key facilities, a fuel fabrication plant and a five megawatt reactor. She also indicated that inspectors still have access to those facilities for now. U.S. monitors also remain at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

In November 2007, the six parties agreed on 11 steps to disable these three primary facilities, which North Korea used to produce much of its stockpile of plutonium. The disablement steps are intended to temporarily prevent North Korea from operating these facilities. U.S. officials have asserted that it would take North Korea at least a year to reverse these measures and being operating the facilities again should the disablement work be completed.

At the time that North Korea halted the disablement work in mid-August, 8 of the 11 disablement steps had been completed. The three remaining steps include removing 8,000 spent fuel rods from the reactor, removing the mechanisms that operate the reactor’s control rods, and rendering currently stored fresh nuclear fuel unfit for use in the nuclear reactor.

Removal of the spent fuel rods began at the end of 2007. Hyun told South Korean officials Sept. 19 that 4,740 spent fuel rods had been removed from the reactor before Pyongyang halted that process. Removing the drive mechanisms for the control rods can only occur once the removal of the remaining spent fuel rods is completed.

North Korea has still not agreed on how the fresh fuel rods are to be addressed. A Department of Energy official told Arms Control Today in December 2007 that the United States wants to bend the fresh fuel rods so that they cannot be run in the reactor. While Hyun acknowledged Sept. 19 that addressing the fresh fuel rods is an outstanding step, North Korea has not yet agreed to disable the rods.

Measures to permanently dismantle the facilities are intended to be part of a future agreement.

Hill told reporters Sept. 22 that it would take weeks to “very few months” for North Korea to restart the reprocessing facility, “depending on how the machinery operates.” He added that “certainly they have taken the machinery out and put it back together.”

Hecker echoed this assessment, explaining to Arms Control Today Sept. 17 that it would only take “a month or so” to restart operations at that facility once the equipment was moved back into place. He noted that “the reprocessing facility was the one that was disabled the least.” The disablement work on the reprocessing facility focused on the “front-end” loading operations because the other portions of the facility contain high-level radioactive waste.

Reconstituting the reprocessing facility would allow North Korea to chemically separate plutonium from the 4,740 spent fuel rods that were removed from the reactor, as well as those still left to be unloaded. Together, these 8,000 spent fuel rods contain about 7-10 kilograms of plutonium, enough for 1-2 nuclear weapons. North Korea would first need to remove the IAEA seals from the removed spent fuel rods in order to reprocess them.

Hecker indicated that, although considerable work would be needed to restart operations at the 5 megawatt reactor and the fuel fabrication facility in particular, North Korea was sufficiently capable of reconstituting the three facilities without relying on foreign sources of equipment or materials.
It is unclear what impact the halting of disablement operations may have on incentives North Korea has been receiving for its denuclearization activities. According to the July 12 agreement on a verification framework, the six parties agreed that the disablement steps would proceed in line with the delivery of energy aid, with an aim to completing disablement and the delivery of heavy-fuel oil from Russia and the United States by the end of October.

A Russian diplomat told Arms Control Today Sept. 24 that Moscow intended to “suspend” some it its energy assistance to North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s backtracking on disablement.

The United States has not indicated whether or not it would engage in a similar suspension. When asked whether Washington would continue its energy assistance to North Korea during a Sept. 27 Reuters interview, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that “We may need to take steps, but that’s not the stage at which we are right now.” The United States, however, is not slated to deliver another shipment of heavy-fuel oil to North Korea until after the suspended Russian shipment.

China and South Korea agreed to provide North Korea with heavy-fuel oil equivalents. South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Yu Myung-hwan, told reporters Sept. 22 that “any further aid provision might be difficult if North Korea suspends disabling on a full scale and begins restoring the reactor as it is related to aid of materials.”

NK Constructs New Missile Test Site

North Korea has also raised tensions by carrying out work on its ballistic missile program, opening up the possibility of additional long-range missile tests. Based on satellite imagery of a site near the North Korean village of Pongdong-ni, Janes Defense Weekly reported Sept. 17 that North Korea has nearly completed a new missile test site. The site is believed to be more sophisticated than North Korea’s current site at Musudan-ni, with a capacity to carry out flights tests on a more frequent basis.

The site contains a 10-story tower aimed at accommodating North Korea’s largest ballistic missiles, such as its Taepo Dong-2, which has an anticipated range of about 5,500 kilometers, capable of reaching parts of Alaska if successful. North Korea has not yet successfully tested the Taepo Dong-2 and last carried out a failed flight test of the missile in July 2006.

Although North Korea’s missile programs have not been specifically addressed in the six-party talks, the UN Security Council prohibited Pyongyang from further advancing its ballistic missile programs after the failed 2006 Taepo Dong-2 test. The council adopted Resolution 1695 in July 2006, demanding that North Korea “suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program,” and reestablish its voluntary missile moratorium agreed in 1999. It reiterated this demand in Resolution 1718 following North Korea’s October 2006 nuclear test.

NSG, Congress Approve Nuclear Trade with India

Wade Boese

The Bush administration succeeded Sept. 6 in its three-year campaign to secure a waiver for India from long-standing international nuclear trade restrictions. Three days of U.S. prodding and an Indian reiteration of its current nuclear testing moratorium pledge helped the United States overcome the last resistance of some nuclear suppliers to the sweeping policy reversal. With international trade restrictions on India removed, the U.S. Congress heeded Bush administration exhortations to bypass existing U.S. law to approve a bilateral U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement on an expedited basis.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who agreed in July 2005 to the joint venture with the United States and risked his coalition government’s survival on the deal, hailed the decision by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). In a Sept. 6 statement, Singh said the move “marks the end of India’s decades-long isolation from the nuclear mainstream and of the technology denial regime.”

The United States and some other countries curtailed nuclear exports to India after it conducted a 1974 nuclear explosion that broke Indian commitments to Canada and the United States to use their trade for peaceful purposes only. India’s isolation grew when the NSG, founded in response to the Indian test, adopted a 1992 rule that required non-nuclear-weapon states as defined by the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to permit international oversight of their full nuclear complex to be eligible for most nuclear trade. Although nuclear armed and not a signatory to the treaty, India is classified by the accord as a non-nuclear-weapon state because it did not explode a nuclear device before Jan. 1, 1967. India has not opened up its entire nuclear enterprise to outside inspection, so the 1992 rule effectively has barred India from global nuclear commerce. It was that rule that the NSG members recently agreed in Vienna to waive for India.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who feverishly lobbied foreign officials by phone during the NSG deliberations, told reporters Sept. 6 that the waiver was a “very big step forward for the nonproliferation framework.”

But some representatives of other NSG members did not share Rice’s enthusiasm. After the NSG conclave, according to a Sept. 6 Reuter’s report, one diplomat remarked, “NPT RIP?” Another diplomat told the same reporter that the final decision met with “complete silence…no clapping, nothing.” The diplomat said the quiet reception reflected that “a lot of us felt pressured to some extent into a decision by the Americans, and few [NSG members] were totally satisfied.”

Heading into the meeting, originally scheduled for two days but extended to a third, many states objected to the initial U.S.-proposed waiver. Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland led calls for augmenting the draft to terminate nuclear trade if India conducts new nuclear tests as well as to prohibit certain transfers, such as uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technologies that can be used to produce material for nuclear bombs in addition to fuel for nuclear reactors. India strenuously opposed such measures and demanded a “clean” exemption.

Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand apparently resisted U.S. pressure the longest but eventually acquiesced to adopting the waiver after some slight modifications and a Sept. 5 statement by Pranab Mukherjee, India’s external affairs minister. Mukherjee reiterated previous Indian positions to adhere to a unilateral nuclear testing moratorium and negotiate an additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Such measures grant the IAEA greater authority to investigate a country’s nuclear activities to ensure that materials and facilities for peaceful purposes are not used surreptitiously to make nuclear arms. In India’s case, such an instrument would be largely symbolic because India will continue to operate a nuclear weapons production sector outside of IAEA safeguards.

The text of the approved waiver states that it is “based on the commitments and actions” described by Mukherjee. Several states assert this reference indicates that the group will end nuclear trade with India if it does not honor the Mukherjee statement, particularly if it conducts a nuclear test. In a Sept. 6 statement, New Zealand declared, “It is our expectation that in the event of a nuclear test by India, this exemption will become null and void.” Other states, including Japan and Ireland, offered similar statements.

Still, the waiver does not contain any explicit provisions that trade will be terminated automatically. It mandates that the group will meet if a member considers that “circumstances have arisen which require consultations.” Because the NSG operates by consensus, a single state could block the group from cutting off trade with India for any alleged transgression.

Unless the president intervenes, U.S. law mandates that U.S. trade with India cease in the event of a nuclear test. The Bush administration also told lawmakers that pledged U.S. nuclear fuel supply assurances to India “are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test or a violation of nonproliferation commitments.”

The Bush administration delivered that statement in January to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as part of a series of responses to October 2007 questions posed by the panel. The administration asked the committee to closely hold the answers, but the panel’s chairman, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), ordered their release Sept. 2. Publication of the answers touched off a fresh round of incriminations by Singh’s domestic opponents, who charged his government had falsely conveyed that the fuel assurances would help India maintain foreign nuclear supplies even if it tested again.

Although President George W. Bush and Singh committed to pursuing “full civil nuclear energy cooperation,” the NSG waiver cites existing group guidelines that members “should exercise restraint” in enrichment and reprocessing exports. Moreover, NSG members are negotiating criteria to limit all future enrichment and reprocessing transfers; and one of the draft criteria requires recipients to be NPT states-parties, which would disqualify India. (See ACT, June 2008.) Expectations that such a criterion eventually will be adopted helped the United States dissuade other countries from insisting that a specific enrichment and reprocessing transfer ban be included as part of the India waiver. In its Sept. 6 statement, Ireland asserted its understanding, based on consultations with other governments, that “no [participating NSG member] currently intends to transfer to India any facilities, equipment, materials or technology related to the enrichment of uranium, or the reprocessing of spent fuel.”

The waiver commits each NSG member to regularly inform the group of certain “approved transfers” to India and invites each country to share information on their bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with India. France and Russia have negotiated preliminary agreements with India and are expected to formally sign them within weeks. Singh said in a Sept. 22 statement that he was “confident” that a trip to France before the end of the month would lead to “further consolidation” of Indian-French civil nuclear cooperation.

Transfers of nuclear materials or technologies to India by France, Russia, or others, however, cannot legally occur until India brings into force its IAEA safeguards agreement that was approved Aug. 1 by that agency’s 35-member Board of Governors. (See ACT, September 2008.) India has informally stated which facilities it intends to put under safeguards but is not obligated to follow that plan.

In the wake of the NSG move, the Bush administration urged Congress to rapidly approve a July 2007 U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement (see ACT, September 2007) so U.S. companies can take advantage of the rule change and compete for future nuclear deals with India. Bush submitted the bilateral agreement Sept. 10 to lawmakers and certified that India had filed a safeguards declaration with the IAEA. But Melissa Fleming, an agency spokesperson, e-mailed Arms Control Today Sept. 18 that India had “not yet” done so. The congressional resolution of approval sidestepped the issue by requiring that the list of facilities placed under safeguards not be “materially inconsistent” with the list of facilities described in a plan presented by the Indian government to its parliament in May 2006.

Passed by legislators and signed into law in December 2006, the Henry J. Hyde Act requires that Congress wait 30 continuous days before voting on the U.S.-Indian cooperation agreement. Yet, key lawmakers agreed to expedite the process. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held one hearing on Sept. 18 and on Sept. 23 passed 19-2 a resolution of approval. The committee rejected by a margin of 15-4 a proposed amendment from Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) that would have made the agreement’s implementation contingent on the NSG amending its guidelines to ban enrichment and reprocessing exports to states outside the NPT.

Shortly thereafter, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) agreed to introduce a resolution identical to the Senate version and allow quick House approval of the India agreement, in exchange for a commitment from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the United States will make its “highest priority” winning an NSG commitment at a November meeting to prohibit the export of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to states that are not party to the NPT.

After nearly an hour of debate, on Sept. 27 the House approved the agreement 298-117. For a few days, some senators blocked similar action in the Senate , but finally relented after Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) threatened to reconvene the Senate for a vote on the matter later in the month. On Oct. 1 the Senate approved the agreement 86-13 after voting down by voice vote a proposed amendment by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) that sought to clarify that it is the policy of the United States to terminate nuclear trade with India if it resumes testing. Citing various Bush administration statements and the Hyde Act, the bill managers argued the amendment was unnecessary. As Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) put it: “if India resumes testing, the 123 agreement is over.” The vote opens the way for Bush to sign the bill and for the United States and India to finalize the nuclear cooperation agreement.

The Bush administration succeeded Sept. 6 in its three-year campaign to secure a waiver for India from long-standing international nuclear trade restrictions. Three days of U.S. prodding and an Indian reiteration of its current nuclear testing moratorium pledge helped the United States overcome the last resistance of some nuclear suppliers to the sweeping policy reversal. With international trade restrictions on India removed, the U.S. Congress heeded Bush administration exhortations to bypass existing U.S. law to approve a bilateral U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement on an expedited basis. (Continue)

Libya Adds New Pieces to Its Nuclear History

Peter Crail

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report Sept. 12 indicating that Libya did not provide a full picture of its past nuclear fuel cycle procurement efforts following its renunciation of nonconventional weapons in December 2003. The omissions, however, did not point to any attempt to maintain a weapons-related capability and were only important for uncovering the timeline of Libya’s contacts with the nuclear smuggling network led by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan and other avenues Tripoli pursued to obtain nuclear weapons.

Indeed, the agency has concluded its investigations into Libya’s former nuclear weapons programs. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei stated in a Sept. 22 statement to the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors on the status of verification efforts that the IAEA “is now able to implement safeguards in Libya in a routine manner.”

Heralding Libya’s reversal on its nonconventional weapons programs as a model to be followed by other countries, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi Sept. 5. She told reporters the same day that the shift in U.S.-Libyan relations “demonstrates that when countries are prepared to make strategic changes in direction, the United States is prepared to respond.” She was the first secretary of state to visit Tripoli since 1953.

Libya Provides New Information on Procurement

The Sept. 12 report suggests that Libya initially did not fully disclose to the agency all of its procurement efforts for technology needed to develop nuclear weapons. It states that, since the agency’s last report on Libya’s nuclear programs in August 2004, the IAEA received “additional information” regarding Libya’s efforts to acquire fuel cycle technology. Specifically, this additional information related to efforts by Libya to obtain gas centrifuge technology for uranium enrichment earlier than it had previously admitted and design information it received related to nuclear fuel fabrication and plutonium reprocessing.

Uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing are the two paths that might be taken to develop a nuclear weapon. Uranium enrichment increases the concentration of the fissile isotope uranium-235 in uranium hexafluoride gas to low levels to power a nuclear reactor or high levels for potential weapons purposes. Reprocessing allows the separation of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for use in nuclear weapons or reactors.

Although the remaining elements of Tripoli’s nuclear program were dismantled and removed by the United Kingdom and the United States in 2004, the IAEA has continued its efforts to piece together the history of Libya’s clandestine nuclear acquisition efforts.

Earlier Contacts With Khan Network

In regard to Tripoli’s centrifuge procurement efforts, the agency highlights that Libya’s contact with the Khan nuclear smuggling network began about a decade earlier than previously admitted. According to a February 2004 IAEA report, Libya initially told the agency that it made a decision in 1995 to “reinvigorate” its nuclear activities and pursue a uranium-enrichment program with Khan’s assistance.

After the agency received information from members of the Khan network that did not coincide with Libya’s explanations, Libya provided an updated timeline in 2007 and 2008 of its uranium-enrichment procurement efforts. Tripoli admitted that it established contact with Khan in 1984, who offered to sell Libya gas centrifuge technology. Libya told the agency that, at that time, Tripoli felt that it did not have the scientific and industrial capacity to pursue a uranium-enrichment program and did not pursue a deal with Khan.

Libya held discussions with Khan again between 1989 and 1991, which led to an agreement for the transfer of P-1 centrifuge technology from Pakistan. The P-1 centrifuge design developed by Khan was based on a design by the European nuclear conglomerate URENCO, where Khan was once employed during the 1970s. According to the report, Libya ultimately decided to opt out of a deal for the delivery of complete centrifuges, believing that “the information provided by Mr. Khan was not commensurate with what Libya paid for it.” Khan also sold the P-1 centrifuge to Iran for its uranium-enrichment program (see page 33).

It was not until 1995, the original date Libya cited as its contacts with Khan, that Libya concluded deals with Khan that resulted in the delivery of centrifuge technology.

Libya Received Reprocessing Plant Designs

In addition to discussing Libya’s earlier contacts with the Khan network, the report notes that during the mid-1980s Tripoli acquired German-origin microfiche documents providing “a substantial amount of design information” regarding a fuel fabrication lab, reprocessing facilities, and a nuclear waste treatment plant.

The documents referenced the engineering companies that carried out the design work. Staff from the companies involved told the IAEA that the engineers on the design projects were told that their work was secret and that the facilities were intended for a “hot and dry climate.” A senior official close to the IAEA confirmed during a Sept. 15 background briefing that the companies involved were German.

Libya claimed that it never received any equipment in connection with the facility designs. The agency’s findings were consistent with Libya’s claim.

However, the IAEA did express concern that some related documentation was missing. The agency assessed that the documentation in the microfiches left out information “related to core and sensitive parts of the projects,” stating that it will continue to investigate the matter “in Libya and elsewhere in a more routine manner.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report Sept. 12 indicating that Libya did not provide a full picture of its past nuclear fuel cycle procurement efforts following its renunciation of nonconventional weapons in December 2003. The omissions, however, did not point to any attempt to maintain a weapons-related capability and were only important for uncovering the timeline of Libya’s contacts with the nuclear smuggling network led by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan and other avenues Tripoli pursued to obtain nuclear weapons. (Continue)

U.S.-Russian Strategic Dialogue in Limbo

Wade Boese

Several weeks after the Russian-Georgian military conflict and several weeks before the United States elects a new president, formal U.S.-Russian talks on nuclear weapons and anti-missile systems are languishing. Neither Moscow nor Washington seem eager to change the pace, suggesting the two capitals might be content simply to let the dialogue linger until the next U.S. administration takes power.

U.S. and Russian government experts apparently last met a few months ago to talk about their strategic nuclear weapons. John Herzberg, a Department of State spokesperson, told Arms Control Today Sept. 10 that the U.S.-Russian process is “under review.” The talks have been stalemated for some time, and President George W. Bush and then-President Vladimir Putin failed in April to make any breakthroughs at their last summit in Sochi, Russia. (See ACT, May 2008.)

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations Sept. 29, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov offered a glum assessment of the talks. “Negotiations between us and Washington to make sure that after START I treaty expires in December 2009 we have some meaningful strategic arms control regime, these negotiations are not so far heading anywhere,” Lavrov said.

Still, Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the two major parties’ presidential nominees, say they would pursue negotiations to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear force levels. The U.S. strategic stockpile is estimated to be about 5,400 warheads; a little more than half of those weapons, 2,871, are reported by the Bush administration to be operationally deployed. Meanwhile, Russia reports some 4,100 strategic warheads as deployed under the terms of the 1991 START agreement.

The Kremlin has taken notice of the candidates’ statements. In a Sept. 15 article published in NG-Dipkuryer, Lavrov wrote that, “during the current U.S. presidential campaign, sensible voices have begun to be heard, particularly about the need to maintain real control over strategic offensive arms.”

Russia has been pressing the Bush administration to agree to lower force limits on strategic warheads and long-range delivery vehicles, including those that might carry non-nuclear warheads in accordance with U.S. plans to develop a so-called prompt global strike capability. (See ACT, June 2008.) Those plans, coupled with the Bush administration’s efforts to deploy 10 long-range missile interceptors in Poland, have roiled Russia. Lavrov charged in a Sept. 11 interview with the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that the Bush administration is pursuing a path of “upsetting…parity and gaining a unilateral advantage in the strategic domain.”

The U.S.-Russian relationship has been further aggravated by Russia’s August military invasion and continuing occupation of Georgia, a former Soviet republic whose leadership is striving to pull free from Moscow’s orbit. Russia at the end of August recognized the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions, and Lavrov said Sept. 18 that Russia is setting up “military bases…and military contingents” in the disputed territories.

In his prepared remarks to a Sept. 17 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, William Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, declared that “Russia’s behavior raises serious questions about the future of our relations with a resurgent, nuclear-armed energy-rich great power.” Formerly a U.S. ambassador to Russia, Burns added that the United States does “not have the luxury of ignoring” Russia and said the two countries need to set a “good example for the rest of the world in managing and reducing our own nuclear arsenals.”

Russia and the United States are currently committed through the May 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads apiece by Dec. 31, 2012, which is the same day that the limits lapse. SORT contains no measures to verify that progress is being made toward the treaty’s goal, so the two sides rely on the START verification regime to share information on and permit inspections of their nuclear forces. START, however, is scheduled to expire Dec. 5, 2009, three years before SORT is supposed to be fulfilled.

U.S. and Russian negotiations to explore a post-START arrangement, including possibly extending certain verification elements of the treaty, got underway in March 2007 but have stalled. Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, told reporters Sept. 3 that “the post-START effort is very important to us and we’ll try to continue forward.” Russian sources contend that the United States has not supplied promised working papers necessary to move the process forward.

Similarly, Lavrov said Sept. 11 in Poland that Russia is “still awaiting concrete proposals from our U.S. colleagues” on easing tensions surrounding the planned anti-missile deployment, which Russia charges is aimed at it rather than Iran, as claimed by the United States. U.S. officials have at various times floated measures, such as permitting Russia inspection privileges at proposed U.S. bases, but apparently Russia is waiting on more formal proposals and answers to a set of questions it submitted to the United States on the anti-missile system.

Meanwhile, the United States and the Czech Republic Sept. 19 signed an agreement establishing the future legal status of U.S. personnel that will operate a Czech-based radar intended to provide missile tracking information to any future Polish-based interceptors. A week earlier in Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev explained that “Russia cannot feel comfortable in a situation where military bases are increasingly being built around it, and there are more and more missiles and anti-missile defense systems.”

Several weeks after the Russian-Georgian military conflict and several weeks before the United States elects a new president, formal U.S.-Russian talks on nuclear weapons and anti-missile systems are languishing. Neither Moscow nor Washington seem eager to change the pace, suggesting the two capitals might be content simply to let the dialogue linger until the next U.S. administration takes power. (Continue)

ElBaradei Says Iran Stalls IAEA Inquiry

Peter Crail

Iran has failed to cooperate with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) probe into suspected nuclear weapons-related studies, according to a Sept. 15 report by agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. He said in the report that unless Iran provides sufficient transparency and answers questions regarding the suspected studies, the agency will not be able to provide “credible assurance” that there are no undeclared nuclear activities in Iran. Meanwhile, Iran has continued to expand its uranium-enrichment operations, installing more than 800 new centrifuges since February at its commercial-scale uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz.

Following the IAEA report, the UN Security Council Sept. 27 unanimously adopted a brief resolution reiterating its previous calls that Iran suspend sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities. The council adopted the resolution after China and Russia rebuffed calls by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States for additional UN sanctions.

IAEA Stonewalled on Weaponization Questions

Since August 2007, the agency has pressed Tehran for answers regarding a series of Iranian activities suspected by the West of being related to acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. The agency’s Sept. 15 report stated that Iran “has not been able to make any substantive progress on the alleged studies and associated key issues.”

Iran provided the agency with two written replies to questions regarding these activities in May, including a 117-slide presentation. The IAEA report stated that Iran’s replies confirmed that some of the information contained in the studies was true but insisted that others were “forged” documents and “fabricated” data.

A senior UN official stated Sept. 15 that Iran’s explanations were too limited to “form and format, rather than in substance.” The IAEA held two separate meetings with Iranian officials in August to explain where additional information was needed. However, according to the senior official, Iran told the agency that its written responses were its “final answer.”

The alleged weaponization studies entail a number of efforts that the IAEA characterized as “a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear program.” (See ACT, March 2008.) These activities included work on the conversion of uranium dioxide into uranium tetrafluoride, high-explosives testing similar to that of a nuclear weapons trigger, and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle that might be capable of accommodating a nuclear warhead. Uranium tetrafluoride is the precursor to uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock used in centrifuges to enrich uranium to low levels for nuclear power reactors or high levels for nuclear weapons. The IAEA also sought information regarding procurement efforts and individuals related to these studies.

Adding to concerns about these suspected activities, the agency’s report also stated that the IAEA obtained information indicating that Iran’s experimentation with uranium metal fashioned into forms suitable for a nuclear weapon may have benefited from foreign assistance. A senior UN official indicated Sept. 15 that such assistance pointed neither to a state nor to known elements of the nuclear smuggling network led by Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan. Khan’s network provided Iran with the centrifuge technology in use at Iran’s uranium-enrichment facility.

The official noted that, in addition to the lack of substantive answers from Iran, the agency faces two constraints in its investigation into the alleged studies. The first is that it has not been allowed to share copies of documentation associated with the alleged studies with Iran.

In August 2005, Western intelligence agencies began providing the IAEA with documentation of suspected Iranian nuclear weapons-related activities but have not permitted the agency to share this documentation with Iran. (See ACT, March 2008.) Reflecting on the credibility of the intelligence information it received, the agency assessed in its Sept. 15 report that this documentation “was sufficiently comprehensive and detailed that it needed to be taken seriously,” particularly considering that Iran acknowledged that some facets of the documentation were accurate.

The second constraint the official noted was the need to ensure that sensitive military information is protected while the agency investigates the involvement of military organizations in aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran maintains that its experiments with high explosives and work on its ballistic missile program are solely related to its conventional military capabilities and claims that investigating these issues would jeopardize military secrets.

For example, one of the issues the agency seeks to address related to Iran’s military programs is documentation describing the redesign of the payload chamber for Iran’s Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle. The IAEA indicated in a Feb. 22 report that the layout of the payload chamber described in this documentation would likely “be able to accommodate a nuclear device.” (See ACT, March 2008.) The Shahab-3 is one of Iran’s longest-ranged ballistic missiles, with an anticipated range of up to 2,000 kilometers.

The IAEA showed new photographs and documents depicting the redesigned re-entry vehicle during a Sept. 16 closed briefing to members of the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors. U.S. Permanent Representative to the IAEA Gregory Schulte stated during a Sept. 18 interview with Radio Farda that the documentation shows that Iran “engaged in studies, engineering work, testing, procurement, all related to the design of a nuclear weapon and the integration into a delivery system like the Shahab-3 missile.”

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, claimed Sept. 16 that the documentation regarding the re-entry vehicle was “fabricated” and dismissed the possibility of cooperating with the agency to clarify the issue, asserting that “no country would give information about its conventional military activities.”

In its report, the IAEA describes a number of proposed steps Iran should take in order to overcome the difficulties posed during the investigation. These proposals include clarifying the portions of the documentation that Tehran claims are true and which are “fabricated” and providing access to original documents and individuals related to dual-use activities carried out by Iranian entities. There is no indication that Iran has accepted any of these proposals thus far.

Iran Shows Greater Enrichment Proficiency

While the IAEA’s investigations into the alleged studies continue, Iran has both increased the number of gas centrifuges operating at its commercial-scale enrichment facility and improved its efficiency at running these machines.

Gas centrifuges run at high speeds to increase the concentration of the fissile isotope uranium-235 in the feedstock uranium hexafluoride gas. They can increase the concentration to low levels to power nuclear reactors or high levels for potential use in nuclear weapons. The report notes that, based on operating records, Iran has produced about 480 kilograms of low-enriched uranium hexafluoride.

Iran’s Natanz facility is intended to accommodate about 54,000 centrifuges divided into 18 units of nearly 3,000 centrifuges each. The Sept. 15 report says that, in addition to a 3,000-centrifuge unit completed in the fall of 2007, Iran has begun running another 820 centrifuges in a second unit. At that same unit, an additional 164 machines have been installed for testing, and work is being carried out to install the remaining 2,000 centrifuges.

A senior UN official told Arms Control Today Sept. 15 that the current safeguards mechanism for the Natanz plant covers the first 3,000-centrifuge unit and that the agency is holding discussions with Iran for a new safeguards approach to cover the unit where centrifuges are currently being installed. The official noted, however, that cameras and other monitoring mechanisms have been established in that unit in order to ensure that work is still safeguarded.

As Iran expanded its centrifuge installation efforts beyond the initial 3,000-machine unit, Iran has also increased the rate in which it has introduced the uranium hexafluoride feedstock into its centrifuges. Between December 2007 and Aug. 30, Iran has fed a total of 5,930 kilograms of uranium hexafluoride into its operating centrifuges. Although the IAEA noted in reports in February 2008 and November 2007 that Iran was feeding its centrifuges at rates far below their designed capacity, a senior UN official stated Sept. 15 that Iran is currently feeding its centrifuges at a rate “very close to 70 grams [of uranium hexafluoride gas] per hour.” Iran declared in 2006 that its centrifuges were designed to operate at a feed rate of 70 grams per hour. (See ACT, November 2007.)

Security Council Repeats Demands

In response to the IAEA report the Security Council adopted Resolution 1835, which “calls upon Iran to comply fully and without delay” with the council’s demands that Tehran suspend its uranium enrichment program, as well as the construction of a heavy-water reactor. The council first imposed these obligations on Iran with the adoption of Resolution 1696 in July 2006. Since then the council adopted three sanctions resolutions penalizing Iran for refusing to suspend these sensitive nuclear activities.

Unlike the four prior council resolutions on Iran, Resolution 1835 was not adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Chapter 7 provides for the council to identify threats to international peace and security and to respond to them with punitive measures, which potentially includes sanctions or the use of force.

The council adopted Resolution 1835 as the result of a compromise between Western governments, which wanted to pursue additional sanctions against Iran, and China and Russia, which insisted that they would oppose new sanctions.

A Russian diplomat told Arms Control Today Sept. 24 that Moscow wished to focus on implementing the sanctions already imposed on Iran rather than pursue new penalties. The diplomat also noted that Russia wanted to focus on the negotiating track pursued by the five permanent members of the council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Germany with Iran. The six countries have offered Iran a proposal for long-term negotiations over the nuclear issue along with incentives for Tehran’s agreement to suspend its sensitive nuclear activities.

In addition to calling on Iran to comply with its suspension obligations, Resolution 1835 “reaffirms” the council’s commitment “to an early negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of the Treasury took actions Sept. 10 and Sept. 17 to levy sanctions against Iranian firms Washington alleges are engaged in nuclear and missile proliferation. Both actions were pursued under Executive Order 13382, issued in June 2005, which imposes assets freezes on designated entities and persons and prevents them from accessing the U.S. financial system (see page 50).

On Sept. 10, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and 18 of its affiliates for allegedly facilitating the transport of nonconventional weapons-related items to entities suspected of being engaged in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey stated in a Sept. 10 press release that the IRISL not only transported cargo for UN designated proliferators, “it also falsifies documents and uses deceptive schemes” to cover its illicit transfers.

UN Security Council Resolution 1803, adopted March 3, called on all states to inspect the cargoes of aircraft and vessels owned or operated by the IRISL and another Iranian cargo firm, Iran Air Cargo, if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the vessels are carrying goods prohibited under prior UN sanctions resolutions against Iran.

The Sept. 17 Treasury sanctions were aimed at six entities owned or controlled by Iranian firms previously listed under Executive Order 13382.

U.S. Launches New Safeguards Initiative

Peter Crail

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Sept. 11 launched an initiative aimed at bolstering international safeguards over civilian nuclear programs. According to a Sept. 11 NNSA fact sheet, the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative is based on a conclusion by the agency that a comprehensive effort to “revitalize safeguards technology and [the] human resource base” was necessary to address “emerging safeguards challenges” faced by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In particular, the initiative is geared toward further developing U.S. technical capacities and expertise, which would then be used to enhance the international safeguards system carried out by the IAEA. The initiative is also intended to form international partnerships to bolster safeguards. Representatives from 11 countries and the IAEA took part in a Sept. 11-12 conference kicking off the initiative.

In a Sept. 12 conference summary NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator Adam Scheinman indicated that some of the technologies needed to meet safeguards challenges included environmental monitoring, sampling analysis, and improvements to the IAEA Safeguards Analytical Laboratory. He also noted the potential for regional and international training programs to develop safeguards expertise.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) asserted in a Sept. 11 keynote speech during the conference that the United States needs to improve its assistance to international safeguards by reinvesting in domestic safeguards expertise. He stated that the United States should work with universities to train “the next generation of American safeguards professionals” and create incentives for federal employees to pursue safeguards work.

The initiative joins a number of efforts to adapt the international safeguards process to developments in the use of nuclear energy and the risks of proliferation.

In June 2005, following a call by President George W. Bush the year before, the IAEA Board of Governors established the Advisory Committee on Safeguards and Verification in order to advise the board on methods for improving the agency’s safeguards in the face of increasing proliferation challenges. The committee had a two-year term and concluded its work in June 2007 without reaching consensus on any recommendations. (See ACT, July/August 2007.)

In May, a high-level panel of 18 international leaders delivered a report to the agency providing recommendations on how it would address a number of global developments. (See ACT, July/August 2008.) IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei established the panel in the fall of 2007 to advise the agency on ways to meet future challenges. The panel’s recommendations addressed several avenues for improving the effectiveness of safeguards, including promoting the adoption of country-specific versions of the 1997 Model Additional Protocol by limiting the IAEA’s nuclear cooperation only to states that have agreed to it. Countries that agree to the protocol grant the agency more intrusive verification measures that improve its ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities.

Scheinman said Sept. 12 that the growing safeguards challenges included “expanding interest in nuclear power, high profile investigations, and limitations on available safeguards technology and expertise.”

A number of countries, including Finland, Japan, and South Korea, have announced plans to expand their nuclear power programs. Many countries currently without nuclear power programs, including states in the developing world, also have expressed interest in a nuclear power sector as well. (See ACT, May 2008.) In addition, the agency Aug. 1 approved a revised safeguards agreement with India that will permit inspectors access to more of India’s designated civilian nuclear facilities. (See ACT, September 2008.) India pledged in March 2006 to place 14 existing facilities under safeguards.

Beyond the IAEA’s routine monitoring, the agency has been carrying out a more intrusive investigation into Iran’s nuclear program since late 2002. Since July 2007, the agency has also maintained monitors in North Korea through extrabudgetary funds provided by the European Union, Japan, and the United States.

In addition to facing challenges from increasing demands in the number of countries requiring safeguards and the requirements of additional protocols, the IAEA has been facing structural difficulties as well.

A particular problem relates to the agency’s funding. Acting under a “zero real-growth” budget mandate since the 1980s, the agency has faced budget constraints that senior agency officials state jeopardize key IAEA functions. (See ACT, July/August 2007.) ElBaradei told the agency’s board June 2 that the agency has had to use its regular budget to support extrabudgetary activities “at the expense of its ability to effectively implement the regular budget activities and core projects.”

Moreover, just as Lugar noted the need to develop safeguards expertise, the IAEA is poised to lose much of its own expertise in several years. The May report by the high-level panel indicated that, in the next five years, more than half of its senior management and inspectors are due to retire. It notes that this problem is compounded by the difficulty in recruiting and retaining experts with skills in high demand in the private sector.

Hill Pushes Russian Weapons Uranium Elimination

Miles A. Pomper

Congress approved legislation Sept. 27 intended to pressure Russia to continue and expand a program that down-blends Russian weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel for U.S. nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Sept. 8 that President George W. Bush was withdrawing from congressional consideration a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia.

The uranium legislation, drafted by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and included as part of a bill temporarily funding government operations until next year, would effectively alter an agreement that U.S. and Russian negotiators signed Feb. 1. That agreement was intended to govern Russia’s ability, particularly after 2013, to export LEU to the United States for use in U.S. nuclear power plants. If enacted, the United States would eventually concede about 20 percent of the U.S. LEU market to Russia, but the legislation would not dictate whether this fuel originated as natural uranium or from weapons. (See ACT, April 2008.)

Since 1993, the United States has restricted imports of Russian LEU to those that came from uranium down-blended from weapons-grade HEU. That Megatons to Megawatts program has down-blended more than 337 tons of HEU and is slated to down-blend another 163 tons before it expires in 2013. But Russia, which would prefer to take the more lucrative path of enriching natural uranium in its underused enrichment facilities, has successfully challenged the U.S. restrictions at the U.S. Court of International Trade, threatening both the current and future accords. In doing so, Russia has followed a precedent set by the European enrichment consortium Eurodif. The Eurodif case was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in September 2007, but the Bush administration has appealed that case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear it in November.

Domenici’s amendment would provide Russia with incentives to down-blend another 300 metric tons of HEU after 2013, enough for more than 10,000 nuclear weapons. According to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, an independent experts group, Russia has well more than 600 metric tons of HEU in its weapons stockpile not subject to the current agreement, compared to about 250 metric tons for the United States.

Domenici’s amendment would limit Russia’s export of enriched natural uranium after 2013 to 17 percent of the U.S. market until it had reached the 300-metric-ton goal. But if Russia continued to down-blend uranium at its current rate, it would grant Russian exporters as much as 25 percent of the U.S. market. The measure also seeks to cut off Russian access to the U.S. market if Russia abandons the February agreement.

The congressional action followed only a few weeks after Rice’s announcement. Her decision was not surprising given the lack of congressional support for the pact in the wake of Russia’s August military confrontation with Georgia and amid concern from many lawmakers about Russia’s nuclear ties to Iran. (See ACT, September 2008.)

“Unfortunately, given the current environment, the time is not right for this agreement,” Rice said in a statement. “We will reevaluate the situation at a later date as we follow developments closely.” Effectively, however, a decision on whether and when to proceed with the agreement will be left to the next president.

The Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), has generally adopted a very tough stand on Russia. The Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), has said that Russia’s decision to recognize the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia “makes it impossible for Congress to enact the civil nuclear agreement.”

In a Sept. 9 statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the U.S. action, saying that “[w]e see the decision of President George W. Bush…to pull the agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy as mistaken and politicized.”

Russian officials did, however, leave the door open to future cooperation. “Whatever the decisions at the current time, we consider that it is a promising area for mutual cooperation and Russia and America will definitely cooperate, if not now then in the future,” said First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

In a related matter, a nuclear cooperation agreement between Russia and Australia is also foundering after the Russian-Georgian conflict. Russia and Australia in September 2007 signed the pact, which could provide Russia with additional uranium for nuclear power programs worth as much as $1 billion per year. (See ACT, October 2007.) Russia has the world’s largest share of uranium-enrichment capacity but far more limited uranium-mining capabilities.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said last year that Russia has “a sufficient” and even “excessive supply of weapons-grade uranium, but plans to build 30 nuclear power stations in the next 15 years and needs…Australian uranium to ensure their operation.” Russian officials have said the agreement could lead to the importation of as much as 4,000 tons of Australian uranium (more than Russia currently produces) each year. Australia has the world’s largest uranium reserves.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told the Australian parliament on Sept. 1 that the future of the agreement would be affected by Russia’s relations with Georgia. “When the government comes to consider ratification of the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the Russian Federation, we will take into account not just the merits of the agreement, but events which have occurred in Georgia and ongoing events in Georgia and the state of Australia’s bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation,” Smith said.

Prodding the government, the Australian parliament’s Treaties Committee urged Sept. 18 that uranium sales not move forward until Moscow clearly separates civilian and nuclear facilities and until the International Atomic Energy Agency can carry out inspections in Russia. Such inspections are not required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in nuclear-weapon states such as Russia.

Congress approved legislation Sept. 27 intended to pressure Russia to continue and expand a program that down-blends Russian weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel for U.S. nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Sept. 8 that President George W. Bush was withdrawing from congressional consideration a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia. (Continue)

BWC Experts Discuss Biosecurity, Awareness

Meredith Lugo

Member states of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) convened their annual Meeting of Experts in Geneva Aug. 18-22. Aimed at strengthening the implementation and improving the effectiveness of the convention, the meeting is part of a four-year program that was mandated by the 2006 Sixth Review Conference of the BWC.

Chaired by Ambassador Georgi Avramchev of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, this year’s meeting focused on two broad themes relating to BWC effectiveness and implementation. According to the official BWC Implementation Unit, the beginning of the week emphasized “national, regional and international measures to improve biosafety and biosecurity,” while the latter half of the sessions focused on “oversight, education, awareness raising and…codes of conduct” to prevent the misuse of scientific and biological research. Similar topics were discussed at the 2003 and 2005 meetings.

Attendees of the meeting included state scientists; experts from international and regional organizations, academies of science, professional organizations, and academic institutions; and private sector experts.

Commencing the week’s session, state representatives and experts discussed the safety and security of laboratories and pathogens. Several member states made remarks on their domestic and regional efforts to increase biosecurity and biosafety, and select international organizations and scientific bodies, including the World Health Organization, the UN Environment Program/Global Environment Facility, and the American Biological Safety Association, made educational presentations. The private BioWeapons Prevention Project reported Aug. 20 that the amount of detail in the statements and presentations was “substantially greater than in previous years.”

Meetings later in the week focused on education and awareness among scientists and students in order to elucidate the danger of harnessing scientific research in ways prohibited by the convention. Presentations and proposals included establishing codes of conduct for scientists and vetting scientists involved in sensitive research.

One hundred and one states participated in this year’s meeting, including states-parties, signatories, and three observer states. The overall participation in the meeting has increased from 2007, when 99 states attended, and 2005, when 86 states participated.

Richard Lennane, head of the BWC Implementation Support Unit, said in an interview with Arms Control Today Sept. 23 that he observed unprecedented participation among Nonaligned Movement (NAM) countries. Formed during the Cold War, NAM is an organization of states who did not ally with either power bloc. More than 50 percent of participating states were from NAM, which was an increase from 2007 and 2005. Of the 55 participating NAM countries, 21 sent technical experts; and 20 NAM states made detailed presentations during the week, which was more than double the number in 2007.

The 2008 meeting marked the first time “poster sessions” were organized during the event. Focusing on the two themes of the week, the sessions created a forum for experts to display posters on their research, allowing other participants to speak with experts in an informal, one-on-one format. In his Aug. 19 remarks for the opening of the session, Avramchev explained that these sessions were set up in response to feedback that delegates had provided during previous meetings. Experts had “[traveled] long distances to participate…but had found themselves trapped in a big conference room…listening to diplomats making speeches.” The new poster sessions, Avramchev said, would provide an organized forum for attendees to meet and communicate so that the meeting is able to make the “most of the valuable opportunity of having so many knowledgeable experts in the same place.”

To conclude the meeting, Avramchev prepared a compilation of “Considerations, Lessons, Perspectives, Recommendations, Conclusions and Proposals” from the statements, presentations, working papers, and panels throughout the week. Although the paper was drafted solely by Avramchev and was not officially agreed on by delegations, it contained suggestions focused on biosecurity and biosafety and education, awareness, and oversight of biological research. During its December meeting in Geneva, the meeting of states-parties to the BWC will likely consider the compilation.

The BWC currently has 162 member states, and 13 states have signed the convention but not ratified it. Since the last Meeting of Experts in 2007, Madagascar and Zambia have acceded to the convention, and the United Arab Emirates has ratified the BWC. Avramchev noted during the meeting that Cameroon and Mozambique were preparing to become states-parties to the BWC and that Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Myanmar, and Nepal were making progress in their preparations to accede to the convention.

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