IAEA team heads to Saudi Arabia late May to discuss gulf nuclear program


Vienna : Director of the Asia Division of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Dr. Manase Peter Salema said experts would head to the Saudi capital Riyadh in late May to hold talks at the GCC secretariat general headquarters on possible creation of a gulf nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

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The IAEA team will discuss the general outline of a joint study to establish a nuclear program with member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Salema told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

He said the four-day visit is a completion of previous meetings held in Vienna and Riyadh to draw out the study and set its conditions.

On the main issues to be discussed during the visit, Salema told KUNA the GCC states wish to discuss a joint civil nuclear program which will be implemented in cooperation with the IAEA.

He said the agency expressed readiness to offer all technical facilities to carry out the initial feasibility study and to offer its expertise in this field.

Salema noted that among the agency’s objectives is to encourage research in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

He also confirmed every country’s right to use nuclear energy in peaceful means on condition that it is monitored by the agency.

All member states must sign and approve the additional protocol of complementary inspection authority to that provided in underlying safeguards agreements, he added.

On the worry of GCC states in general and Kuwait in particular of any direct damage as a result of the Iranian nuclear program, he said he understands such fears but in the report of the IAEA General Director there is no evidence that Iran possesses nuclear weapons in the present time or that it poses a threat to neighboring countries.

On the Iranian nuclear program and the constriction of the agency’s technical assistance to Iran, the official refused to comment on this question since he has no authority on this issue and the decision was made by the Council of Governors.

He said the Iranian nuclear file is a sensitive issue and that IAEA Director General Mohammed El-Baradei touched on the possibility of reaching a solution to remove all doubts and worries through dialogue and cooperation.

On the IAEA’s relations with Kuwait, Salema praised the level of cooperation between both sides as well as Kuwait’s cooperation with GCC states. He said there are many joint projects between the agency and Kuwait in the field of technical cooperation.

On cooperation with Afghanistan and Iraq, he said the agency is facing a number of challenges in these countries, topped by the security situation which hinders the efforts of the Agency to carry out any technical projects.

In this respect, he said lately the technical division paid a visit to Kabul and carried out a number of vital projects which Afghanistan is in dire need of, but such projects are not enough and the country requires further cooperation between both sides.

He concluded by highlighting the importance of the media, research centers, and non-governmental organizations in raising awareness over the dangers of the spread of nuclear weapons and the importance of implementing peaceful nuclear technologies in various fields such as agriculture, health, industries and many others to promote the individual’s life and society as a whole.

GCC Secretary General Abdulrahman Al-Attiyah had urged Arab countries to carry out a joint Arab nuclear cooperation to allow Arab countries to face scientific challenges and become an additional source of energy along with oil and gas.

On September 10th 2006 at the Summit on the dangers of nuclear energy in the GCC, Al-Attiyah said that the time has come to find an area free of weapons of mass destruction and called for making the Middle East and the Gulf an area free of weapons of mass destruction.