The Straits Times (Singapore)
APR 11 1997

New pact on N-controls may turn out to be a dud

By R. Senthilnathan in Vienna

A NEW global control system to prevent nuclear proliferation has finally been agreed here, but its universal effectiveness is doubted as the nuclear-weapons countries and the so-called "threshold countries" are yet to agree to comply with it.

After a year of intense negotiations, a special committee of the governing body of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) accepted by a majority vote the protocol of the new nuclear non-proliferation mechanism, dubbed 93+2, a spokesman for the agency said on Tuesday.

The protocol, which grants the Vienna-based IAEA additional authority to prevent Iraq-type clandestine nuclear bomb-making programmes, now goes to the special session of the 35-member board of governors, in the middle of next month.

Diplomats here said the board was set to accept it.

While the five nuclear-weapons countries are not under any obligation to accept the new system, the threshold countries -- India, Israel and Pakistan -- consider it does not apply to them.

"We feel it does not apply to us," said a senior diplomat from a South Asian country.

During the final sessions of the special-committee meeting, India and Pakistan, along with Cuba, objected to a sentence urging them to comply with the 93+2. The three countries were outvoted, but their objections will remain on the record.

Pressured by the non-nuclear-weapons states, the nuclear five have agreed to inform the May meeting of the provisions they are willing to accept.

The US is expected to allow the 93+2 to be applied to nuclear installations already under IAEA monitoring, one Western diplomat said.

As it grants additional authority to the agency, the protocol has to be ratified by national parliaments, and each country is then expected to begin negotiations with the IAEA to redefine their safeguards agreements, which list their nuclear inventory.

Based on this list, the agency then sends its inspectors at agreed intervals to ensure there is no diversion from the civilian to a military nuclear programme.

The origins of the 93+2 dates to 1991, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein made the world realise the present nuclear non-proliferation system is ineffective.

Iraq is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and, as such, was obliged not to seek any nuclear bombs, and the agency inspectors found no discrepancy during their periodic visits. However, Mr Saddam had simultaneously been working on a clandestine nuclear programme.

Following the debacle, the board of governors asked the IAEA secretariat to work on a new safeguards system.

The result of the IAEA work was the 93+2. Among its major components is access to more sites and information.

Another important aspect of the system is the use of water and soil samples to detect nuclear activities.

Using modern technology, the agency's scientists could trace nuclear material found in the samples to a particular time and place.

Besides, the agency wanted to be informed of exports of nuclear or dual-purpose sensitive material.

However, the programme soon ran into trouble, with most countries save the nuclear five opposing parts of it. Developing countries like India and Pakistan worried that the agency is emphasising too much on the so-called "nuclear policing" as part of its role, rather than promoting technology transfer on civilian uses of nuclear technology.

Countries like Japan and Germany, on the other hand, had other problems. The two countries have very extensive nuclear activities and German diplomats have been quite outspoken about their problems.

One Vienna-based German diplomat said: "In our country there are nuclear activities carried out by private companies and they felt this programme would cost just too much work and money."

Besides, the industries in both countries also expressed opposition, saying that the agency inspectors could simply pry into their industrial secrets.

The German diplomat pointed out that the 93+2 covers not only normal nuclear activities, but also research activities.

Copyright © 1997 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.