The Straits Times (Singapore)
JUN 13 1997

No secret N-bomb programmes found last year

By R. Senthilnathan
in Vienna

NO NUCLEAR material was diverted to any secret bomb programme last year by non-nuclear weapons states, the International Atomic Energy Agency has declared.

In the IAEA's annual report to its board of governors, the Vienna-based UN agency said that it had found no indication that nuclear material which could be inspected by the agency was used for any military purpose.

All information available to the agency supported the conclusion that the nuclear material placed under agency safeguards remained in peaceful activities or was otherwise accounted for, the IAEA director-general, Mr Hans Blix, told the 35 members of the board during its meeting this week.

However, the agency said it could not give the same assurance regarding North Korea, which has yet to allow full-scale inspections to clarify discrepancies in its inventory of plutonium, which is used for nuclear weapons.

Mr Blix said the agency could not say there had been no diversion of nuclear material in North Korea.

Three more countries left out of the report are India, Israel and Pakistan which are believed to possess either nuclear bombs or the material and know-how to make them.

None is party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which grants the IAEA authority for inspections, although they are allowed at certain facilities under special agreements with the agency.

The annual report, Safeguards Implementation Report (SIR), is a key publication of the agency, whose one task is to ensure that the non-nuclear weapons states do not use their civilian nuclear facilities for weapons programmes.

The SIR, which is not made public, lists the safeguard activities undertaken during the year and any problems encountered by the agency.

The agency concluded there were no diversions of nuclear material after inspecting 916 nuclear facilities and other locations containing nuclear material in 132 countries last year.

There were just under 2,500 inspections.

It still has at least two inspectors in North Korea monitoring the freeze on nuclear activities.

The freeze, which covers a controversial five-megawatt research reactor and two power reactors under construction, is part of an agreement the country signed with the United States in 1994.

The SIR said there had been no progress with Pyongyang towards resolving a number of issues, including IAEA access to monitor waste, since January, when the last round of bilateral talks were held without any result.

Even though the IAEA has declared there was no illicit diversion of nuclear material elsewhere during the year, it refused to say there were no clandestine programmes.

In an effort to increase the thoroughness of the agency's examinations, the board last month granted it additional inspection powers under a new global inspection system dubbed "93 + 2".

The new powers will allow the agency access to more information and sites related to nuclear activities or where its inspectors suspect nuclear activities or material may be found.

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