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U.S. - United Arab Emirates Sign Nuclear Deal
From Elise Labott January 16, 2009
CNN State Department Producer
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States signed an agreement Thursday on civil nuclear cooperation with the United Arab Emirates.
Calling the agreement "a powerful and timely model for the world and the region," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed the deal, along with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.
"We applaud the UAE's commission -- commitment to the highest standards of safety, security and nonproliferation in its pursuit of nuclear power," Rice said.
[Article Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the agreement with the UAE marked the first of its type between the United States and a Middle Eastern country. In fact, similar agreements are already in place with Egypt and Morocco.]
Congress has to ratify the agreement before it can take effect, and congressional critics fear it could spark an arms race and proliferation in the region. The UAE's ties to Iran also have caused concern.
Under the "1-2-3 deal," similar to one the United States signed last year with India, Washington would share nuclear technology, expertise and fuel. In exchange, the UAE commits to abide by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
The small oil-rich Gulf nation promises not to enrich uranium or to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear bombs.
The deal is part of a major UAE investment in nuclear energy. It has already signed deals to build several nuclear power plants.
Rice hails approval of India nuclear deal
"We are a country that is very rich in its oil and gas, but we do look forward that we have a program, a nuclear, peaceful program that could sustain our future needs," said bin Zayed.
Rice said she hoped existing work by U.S. companies on the UAE nuclear program would be expanded under the agreement.
"We believe our technology is the best in the world, and we hope that the UAE will give that technology strong consideration," she said.
The United States has stressed its role in global nonproliferation initiatives and has donated $10 million to establish an International Atomic Energy Agency international fuel bank.
The U.S. has held up the UAE's development of nuclear energy in stark contrast to Iran, which is suspected of enriching uranium for a nuclear bomb.
Rep. Howard Berman, a Democrat from California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the safeguards in the agreement "encouraging" but voiced concerns that Iran could take advantage of the agreement.
"This could be a significant advance in nonproliferation policy, and a model for future nuclear cooperation agreements," Berman said in a statement.
"However, I and many other members of Congress place a very high priority on the international effort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and will be analyzing this and any other nuclear cooperation agreement in the context of how it implicates the attainment of that goal."
Iran is the among the UAE's largest trading partners. In the past, the port city of Dubai, one of the UAE's seven emirates, has been used as a transit point for sensitive technology bound for Iran.
Dubai was also one of the major hubs for the nuclear trafficking network run by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. But U.S. officials said the UAE has taken major steps to improve export controls and prevent money laundering.
Still, such ties contributed to stiff opposition in Congress to the failed deal for Dubai Ports World to manage U.S. ports.
The U.S. already has similar agreements with Egypt and Morocco, and U.S. officials said Washington is working on similar pacts with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan.
UAE and US Sign Nuclear Deal
The Financial Times Limited 2009
By Robin Wigglesworth in Abu Dhabi
Published: January 18 2009 14:06 | Last updated: January 18 2009 14:06
The United Arab Emirates has signed a nuclear energy co-operation agreement with the US, putting it on the path to become the first Arab state to develop nuclear power.
Despite international concern over Iran’s controversial nuclear power programme and uranium enrichment, many Arab states – particularly in the hydrocarbon-rich Gulf – have expressed a desire to develop nuclear power for civilian purposes.
In an important statement of US approval of the UAE’s atomic power ambitions, Condoleezza Rice, the outgoing secretary of state, and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE foreign minister, on Friday signed a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear co-operation
“Under the terms of this agreement, the UAE will gain access to significant capabilities and experience in the peaceful use of nuclear energy,” Sheikh Abdullah said in a statement. “This will allow the UAE to develop its civilian nuclear program to the highest standards of safety, security and non-proliferation.”
Ms Rice said the key to the deal is the UAE’s willingness to import, rather than produce, fuel that would be used in its proposed reactors. The UAE would also return all spent nuclear fuel rather than attain the technical capability to reprocess it.
“That really does minimise – matter of fact, almost eliminates – the proliferation risks,” Ms Rice said, according to Associated Press.
The deal could still run into difficulties. Barack Obama, the incoming president, will have to decide whether to ratify the deal, and some members of the US House of Representatives oppose the deal over concern it would lead to a nuclear energy race in the region.
“In the Middle East, a nuclear energy race could be as perilous as a nuclear arms race,” Ed Markey, a Democrat congressman, said on Thursday. ”I hope that President-elect Obama will seize the opportunity to put the brakes on the Bush administration’s policy of placing nuclear commerce above common sense.”
Despite an abundance of oil and gas in the region, many Gulf states are plagued by power shortages after the break-neck speed of economic growth in recent years. Electricity demand has soared in the UAE in particular due to energy-intensive water desalination and air-conditioning needed for much of the year.
Several emirates of the seven that make up the UAE suffer from periodic black-outs, as gas imported from neighbouring Qatar is mostly used for power generation in Abu Dhabi, the capital, and the commercial hub of Dubai.
The Opec member estimates that peak demand for electricity will double to 40,000 megawatts by 2020, but current capacity is only roughly half of this. The country also hopes that nuclear power will lessen its “environmental footprint”, among the worst in the world.
In 2007 six Arab Gulf states, including the UAE, asked the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, to study the feasibility of a joint nuclear programme.
The six states have even called on Iran to co-operate in a joint development plan to defuse tensions over the Islamic republic’s continuing nuclear programme, which many fear could lead to Tehran developing nuclear weapons.
The US and the UAE first signed a memorandum of understanding on nuclear power cooperation in April 2008, which led to Friday’s so-called “123 Agreement”, known after Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, which establishes a legal framework for commerce in civilian nuclear energy technology and material.
The UAE signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with France last year, and several French firms have submitted proposals to the authorities in Abu Dhabi to develop two reactors. The UAE’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation last year awarded US engineering and construction company CH2M Hill a contract to manage its atomic investment programme.
“The agreement will also open opportunities for US firms to be active participants in the UAE nuclear energy program,” Sheikh Abdullah added in the statement.