July 17, 2006

G8 hits N.Korea tests, backs Russia atom fuel plan

By Louis Charbonneau

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - The Group of Eight
industrial nations condemned North Korea's recent missile tests
and endorsed a Russian plan to create international atomic fuel
centres to prevent countries from developing nuclear bombs.

The strongest language in the group's "Statement on
Non-Proliferation," approved late on Sunday by the leaders of
Russia, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy,
Canada and Japan, was directed at North Korea.

"We condemn the launching ... of multiple ballistic
missiles on July 5 ... and express serious concerns as this
jeopardises peace, stability and security in the region and
beyond," said the G8 statement, issued at a summit in St
Petersburg, Russia.

"These missile launches intensify our deep concern over
(North Korea's) nuclear weapons programmes."

The group also welcomed a U.N. Security Council resolution
imposing arms sanctions on Pyongyang adopted over the weekend.

In somewhat softer language, the G8 also expressed "serious
concern" about Iran, which has refused Western demands to
suspend its uranium enrichment programme. Enrichment purifies
uranium for use in atomic power stations or weapons.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is aimed solely at
peaceful power generation, but the United States and its allies
suspect it is aiming to construct a nuclear weapon.

The G8 endorsed last week's decision by six world powers --
Germany, the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia
-- to return Iran's nuclear file to the Security Council.


The group backed the right of all countries to a peaceful
nuclear energy programme, but said states should not pursue
independent enrichment and fuel reprocessing programmes.

It strongly endorsed Moscow's plan to set up nuclear fuel
centres in Russia under U.N. supervision so countries like Iran
would be guaranteed access to fuel for power plants and would
have no need for national enrichment programmes.

It also backed a U.S. proposal to set up an international
fuel bank, also to be overseen by the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

"This emphasis complements, in a very positive way, the
agreement to return the Iran issue to the Security Council,"
said Mark Fitzpatrick, an ex-U.S. State Department official now
at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"The emphasis on (nuclear) fuel cycle services is a natural
way for Russia to draw on its strengths in contributing to
non-proliferation goals."

The statement repeated a call from previous summits not to
allow countries that do not have enrichment programmes to join
the select group of enriching nations -- wording G8 diplomats
said would not be endorsed at next year's summit.

"Canada in particular doesn't like this and wants it out
next year," a G8 diplomat said.

Sandra Buckler, spokeswoman for Canadian Prime Minister
Stephen Harper said the world's no. 1 supplier of raw uranium
may eventually want to join the enrichment club.

"We have made very clear to the U.S. and other G8 partners
that in future Canada may well be interested in acquiring
enrichment technologies to support the next generation of CANDU
(nuclear reactors)," the official said.

The G8 gave tacit approval to a much-criticised U.S.-India
nuclear accord, in a boost for a deal yet to be approved by the
U.S. Congress.

"We look forward to reinforcing our partnership with India
(and) note the commitments India has made," the G8 said, adding
that future nuclear cooperation with India could be possible if
New Delhi took further steps on non-proliferation.

Fitzpatrick said this "isn't what Washington would have
wanted, but the nod about nuclear cooperation is good enough."

The deal would give India, a nuclear power, access to
civilian U.S. atomic technology.

(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer)