Russian, U.S. presidents to sign new START treaty in Prague this spring / Iran's uranium feelers continue - expert / Dismay over Iran's rocket engineering achievements / Private company to mine uranium in Russia
Russian, U.S. presidents to sign new START treaty in Prague this spring
Moscow and Washington have found a compromise during talks to finalize a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START).
Russia will submit new ballistic-missile test data in exchange for a U.S. agreement not to monitor mobile missile production. Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko and negotiators claim that while technical discrepancies remain, the document could be signed in March or April.
A White House spokesperson said Russia had agreed to provide telemetry data on new intercontinental ballistic missile tests under the new treaty, and that the START-I Treaty which expired in December 2009 included a similar clause. The United States undertakes not to monitor production of ballistic missiles at the Votkinsk Engineering Plant in the Republic of Udmurtia, Russia. U.S. inspectors were permanently based at the plant under the START-I Treaty.
Last year, Moscow and Washington agreed to limit the number of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles to 1,500-1,675 and 700-800, respectively.
A Russian presidential official said the treaty could be signed in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Analysts close to the U.S. side also said Prague was a possible venue. "Moscow will not reject this choice," a Kremlin source said.
"The venue for the signing is not important," said Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, who is involved in the talks. He added that both sides had made serious progress since December. "The treaty's technicalities have been coordinated. It remains to polish the translations," Kosachyov said.
Moscow and Washington have overcome virtually all of their disagreements, said Alexei Arbatov, Head of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO). He said Russia could expect the document to link strategic offensive arms and missile-defense issues.
"This is a sticking point for Moscow but not for the U.S.," Arbatov said, speculating that Washington would agree to only the most general wording.
"The treaty's ratification will be the main stumbling block," Arbatov predicts.
Yevgeny Myasnikov, an analyst at the Center for Disarmament Studies, said it would not be easy to ratify the document because of weakened Democratic Party's positions in the U.S. Congress.
Congress insists that the White House submit a draft of the START treaty prior to signing. Although international treaties have to be ratified by a two-thirds Senate majority (66 senators out of 100), there are already 41 Republican Senators on board.
Iran's uranium feelers continue - expert
On Tuesday evening, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a statement which became an immediate global sensation. He said Iran was ready to accept the IAEA's plan and send low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for 20% enriched uranium. But in a matter of hours it proved to be just another trick.
Tehran rejected proposals from the International Atomic Energy Agency several times at the Geneva Group of Six consultations last October. They proposed sending three-quarters of the low-enriched uranium from the Natanze plant to Russia to be upgraded to 19.75%. France would then manufacture fuel rods for Tehran's nuclear reactor. The entire cycle was estimated to last one year. The plan would lay to rest suspicions regarding the military nature of Iran's nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad's remarks raised hopes that the deadlock was broken. However, some analysts found his words all too equivocal: it is quite likely that Iran, feeling pressure from Washington, which threatens to raise the issue of additional sanctions with the UN Security Council, decided once again to drag matters on and test the response of the international community.
"Ahmadinejad's statement no doubt is prompted by fears of economic sanctions felt by the Iranian leadership, despite its perky stance," says Vladimir Sazhin, senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Eastern Studies. "It's quite possible that this was some sort of feeler. Besides, the bargaining over delivery dates for fuel rods may last indefinitely. And even if Tehran accepts all IAEA terms, this would not be the end of the issue. It would only stall things for a year or two. All parties are talking in terms of processing 1,200 kilograms of upgraded uranium abroad for the needs of a research reactor in Tehran. This reactor is used for medical purposes only and threatens nobody. The principal objective is to seize low-enriched uranium from the Iranians which they could use to produce weapons-grade material. Iran is currently building up its capacities. The Natanze plant produces 2.5 kilograms to 2.7 kilograms of low-enriched uranium a day. While in February 2008, according to IAEA findings, Iran had 75 kilograms of uranium, in November 2009, it was more than 1,700."
The sensation died in a matter of hours. On Wednesday afternoon, the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, explained the president's words: "We are thinking of a swap formula [to exchange uranium for fuel],' he said. Iran's position on the IAEA plan has not budged an inch.
Dismay over Iran's rocket engineering achievements
The launch of an Iranian satellite has provoked a sharp reaction in Israel, which claims that Tehran's space program is focused on weapons. The calming statements made by Iran's top leadership are unlikely to satisfy its neighbors, including Russia.
Iran's rocket program worries the West as much as its nuclear ambitions. However, the United States has reviewed its stance on Iran in the last few months, saying that Tehran cannot produce long-range missiles and therefore is not a threat to the U.S. or its allies in Europe.
The world should be alarmed by Tehran's latest achievement in rocket engineering, said Vladimir Yevseyev, a senior researcher at the International Security Center of the Moscow Institute of World Economy and International Relations.
"The previous Iranian carrier rocket could orbit a module with a payload of 27 kg, but the latest module would be considerably larger given its live load," the analyst said. This means that Iran has used a more powerful carrier rocket and has therefore taken another step towards creating nuclear delivery vehicles.
This fourth Iranian rocket launched in the last two years shows that Iran has effectively mastered rocket science. Analysts say such a rocket could easily be turned into a nuclear-tipped ICBM.
Israel, India and Pakistan created nuclear weapons as a means of intimidation during periods of confrontation with their neighbors. North Korean and Iranian efforts to create retaliation systems (Libya has abandoned similar aspirations) are evidence that their leaderships still believe in the obsolete concept that says nuclear weapons provide primary security and an inviolability guarantee for any country.
Security based exclusively on weapons of mass destruction has become an unstable policy. The latest wars and conflicts have shown that it is more than the number and yield of weapons that matter. The key elements of military security are precision weapons capable of effectively suppressing the enemy, including its aircraft and missile systems, and the training of military professionals in the use of modern means of warfare.
Russia has recently started pondering, possibly too late, the expediency of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" formula, which has helped Iran to acquire modern technology and possibly weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles. It is important for Russia to wisely choose a defense strategy, as its nuclear arsenal, although powerful, consists of old weapons.
Omid, which means "hope" in Persian, carries experimental control systems, communications equipment, and a small remote sensing payload, Iranian news reports said.
Private company to mine uranium in Russia
En+ has become the first privately owned company in Russia to be granted a permit to mine uranium.
En+ mines raw materials for energy production, has electricity generation assets, and also produces non-ferrous metals (revenue $19.04 billion). It is a division of billionaire Oleg Deripaska's investment vehicle Basic Element (Basel). En+ declared its interest in uranium mining in 2004 and said it was considering several assets two years later, but private companies were not allowed to produce uranium in Russia then. The legislation was amended in 2007.
Russia's only uranium producer is a unit of state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, AtomRedMetZoloto, which was recently renamed ARMZ Uranium Holding Company.
A joint venture between ARMZ and the gold mining company Zoloto Seligdara has a license to mine uranium and is developing the Lunnoye gold and uranium deposit in Yakutia. However, ARMZ takes all the uranium the joint venture produces.
So far, En+ has no uranium assets, said the company's spokesman, adding that it could cooperate with ARMZ. The two companies are in talks on establishing a joint venture for uranium exploration and mining, said Vladislav Solovyov, general director of En+. An ARMZ representative confirmed that they are holding talks but refused to specify.
The two companies are considering developing areas near Khiagda, an asset of ARMZ, two sources with close ties to the companies said. Khiagda is developing the Khiagdinskoye uranium deposit located on the border of Buryatia and the Trans-Baikal Territory.
The Khiagdinskoye group of fields includes seven other deposits. ARMZ is conducting exploration at five of them, with their uranium reserves estimated at 17,700 metric tons.
It also needs a partner to develop the huge Elkonskoye deposit in Yakutia, with estimated uranium reserves of 600,000 metric tons. However, the state holding will most likely choose a stronger partner for this project, for example in China or Japan, said Mikhail Stiskin, an analyst with investment company Troika Dialog.
Viktor Vekselberg's Renova group of asset management companies and direct and portfolio investment funds has also expressed interest in uranium mining in Russia.
Renova has a uranium asset in Kyrgyzstan and is considering projects in Russia's Trans-Baikal Territory or "somewhere nearby," a company spokesman said.
MOSCOW, February 04 (RIA Novosti)
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