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Germany proposes the creation of UN-monitored uranium enrichment facilities

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, Sep 17: Germany has proposed the creation of shared, UN-monitored uranium enrichment facilities as an alternative to individual countries acquiring their own enrichment technology, which could be misused for bomb-making.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the Handelsblatt newspaper that such facilities could be supervised by the United Nation's nuclear monitoring organisation, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Countries such as Iran could then source fuel rods to be used in nuclear power stations from a shared enrichment facility located outside their borders and operated under strict monitoring by the UN's non-proliferation watchdog.

''A third-party state could make an exterritorial area available for an enrichment facility -- that would have a similar status to the UN in New York,'' Steinmeier was quoted as saying in comments from an interview released ahead of publication tomorrow.

''The facility could be financed by states, who would in return have the right to take delivery of atomic fuel.'' IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei had been informed of the suggestions this weekend, the newspaper said, adding that the legal framework already existed for the IAEA to create such ''extraterritorial'' facilities.

Steinmeier's backing for such facilities comes on the eve of the atomic agency's 50th General Conference in Vienna.

Many other countries were considering the use of nuclear energy and contemplating whether to build their own enrichment plants in order to fuel power generation, he said.

''In order to prevent similar developments as in Iran in other developing countries and to reinforce the non-proliferation treaty then a multilateralisation of the means of circulating nuclear fuel is required,'' he said.

There had to be international delivery guarantees for nuclear fuel, he said, in order to limit the need for individual countries to have their own means of production.

Iran denies western accusations that its nuclear programme is a cover for acquiring nuclear weapons, saying it aims only to produce electricity. It says it has a sovereign right to run its own nuclear programme, including uranium enrichment.

Germany, which has played a leading role in calling for a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis, will take on the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2007 and also of the Group of Eight nations.

Steinmeier stressed that diplomacy was the only channel to solve the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme and that the chances of success were best before proceeds got underway against Tehran at the Security Council.

Asked if there was a deadline before which the Security Council would take action, Steinmeier that there was not but the situation would not ''drag on for weeks if Iran does not move.''


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