Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

U.S. to ink nuclear pact deal with Gulf ally

U.S. to ink nuclear pact deal with Gulf ally

In one of her final diplomatic acts, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was set Thursday to sign a nuclear cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. ally who some in Congress say has done too little to help stem the illicit flow of nuclear supplies to its Gulf neighbor, Iran.
The first such deal with a Mideast nation, it lays the legal groundwork for U.S. commercial nuclear trade with the UAE, which has foresworn nuclear arms as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
The Bush administration, backed by a leading nuclear-control advocacy group, calls the deal an important expression of U.S. interest in cooperating with countries that want to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses.
President-elect Barack Obama's national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, declined to say whether he supports the deal. It was not raised during Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday but is central to debate about international nuclear controls.
During the presidential transition Obama has explicitly banned direct contacts with foreign interests. Once he takes office, however, his administration will face the decision on whether and when to submit the agreement to Congress, where it has thus far drawn relatively little reaction, pro or con.
A vocal opponent has been Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She has introduced legislation to block the agreement unless the UAE meets certain requirements to stop shipments of equipment and technologies to Iran in violation of U.S. laws and U.N. sanctions.
"Serious concerns remain regarding the UAEs efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as the effectiveness of their export control system" Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement Wednesday.
The UAE supports U.S. anti-terror goals, although it has a long and deep commercial relationship with Iran. The UAE has large oil reserves but it has pushed nuclear development as a way to meet future energy needs. Explosive development in recent years has put its electrical supplies under increasing strain.
Rep. Howard L. Berman, a Democrat and the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, said Wednesday that his panel will examine the deal.
"I'm encouraged that this agreement incorporates the UAE's public commitment not to enrich uranium or to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium, which can be used for nuclear bombs," Berman said.
Once the Congress is notified of the agreement it will have 90 days to act. It can choose to do nothing, in which case the deal would go into effect; it can vote to kill it, or it can explicitly approve it with conditions attached.
Laura Holgate, head of nuclear programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-profit group that seeks to reduce the threat from nuclear weapons and the spread of nuclear arms technology, said Thursday that the UAE deal is helpful because it enshrines the UAE's public pledge not to develop nuclear arms.
"It's really an important breakthrough," she said in a telephone interview.
The UAE, a nation of seven independent city-states including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, has been a loyal ally in America's war on terror. It has allowed the U.S. military to operate at an airbase in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, and U.S. warships regularly dock in Dubai's ports. But the UAE also triggered a political storm in 2006 that compelled it to cancel plans to buy a British outfit that helped run six major U.S. ports.
Rice's spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters Tuesday before the signing ceremony that he was not aware of the incoming Obama administration's position on the UAE deal, which has been months in the making.
"We think that this is good for the United States, it's good for the UAE, it's good for the global non-proliferation regime," he said, referring to international efforts to enable the development of nuclear power for commercial power purposes while minimizing the risk of it being used to make weaponry.
"This is an agreement that channels energies, if you will, in the direction of peaceful uses of nuclear energy within prescribed limits. And that's a good thing, especially given the volatility of the region as well a lot of the questions that surround Iran's nuclear program," McCormack said.
Iran, a long-time U.S. nemesis which stands across the Strait of Hormuz from the UAE, insists that its nuclear program is meant entirely for energy production, but the Bush administration and others are convinced that Iran is secretly aiming to develop uranium enrichment technology to build nuclear weapons.
Anthony Cordesman, a Mideast expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he supports the UAE deal as a model arrangement with a country that has a track record of honoring its commitments to Washington. He dismissed concerns about the UAE facilitating Iran's nuclear supply network.
"There is no risk because Iran already has all the technologies it needs to make nuclear weapons," he said.


Updated : 2021-05-18 11:14 GMT+08:00