Siberian uranium enrichment centre open to all countries:Russia

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Moscow, Oct 30 (UNI) Russia will grant any country in the world the use of an international uranium enrichment centre currently being constructed in east Siberia, Russia's permanent ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin has said.

The centre, part of non-proliferation initiative to create a network of enrichment centres here under the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA's supervision, will be based at a chemical plant in Angarsk. It will also be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste. ''The centre, co-founded by Russia and Kazakhstan, will be open to third countries without any political preconditions,'' RIA Novosti news agency quoted Mr Churkin as saying.

He said the centre would be able to play an important role in nuclear non-proliferation by ensuring access to peaceful nuclear energy for all countries complying with their obligations in that realm.

Russia and its former Soviet neighbour Kazakhstan, which holds 15 per cent of the world's uranium reserves, signed documents in October 2006 to establish their first joint venture to enrich uranium, intended to begin in 2013.

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said last week that other countries have shown interest in the Angarsk project.

Mr Ivanov also said fuel for nuclear power plants was a market product and any country represented in the IAEA that was also signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty had the right to buy it.

''But this is only in theory. Due to a variety of political reasons, a country may be denied access to uranium,'' he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin first proposed the idea of joint nuclear enrichment centres early last year, in a bid to defuse tension over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

Mr Putin said the centres would give countries transparent access to civilian nuclear technology without provoking international fears that enriched uranium could be used for covert weapons programmes.

UNI

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