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Homeland Security

12 February 2007

Ankara Meeting Considers Ways to Confront Nuclear Terrorism

Nations seek expertise to prevent, reduce and respond to terrorist threat

Washington -- A group of partner nations is meeting in Turkey to sketch out an agenda of future counterterrorism and nonproliferation activities to prevent and reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The gathering in Ankara, Turkey, February 12 and 13 will be the second meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. The first was held in Morocco in October 2006. (See related article.)

The United States and Russia have been looking for ways to increase international cooperation on the initiative, which first was unveiled by the leaders of the two countries in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July 2006. (See related article.)

The initiative recognizes the international community must devote more resources to deny terrorists the ability to attack nuclear facilities or acquire nuclear or radiological materials.  In some cases, heading off this threat would require nations to strengthen national laws to deter nuclear smuggling or broader engagement by the private sector to deny terrorists access to nuclear technology.

Thirteen nations endorsed the initiative in Rabat, Morocco, to enhance security for civilian nuclear facilities, agreed to look for ways to account better for the existence of radioactive and nuclear materials, and acknowledged the need to find more sophisticated detection mechanisms for such materials as a hedge against illicit trafficking.

Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy Japan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Turkey, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom agreed then to share information broadly to deny safe haven to terrorists and the financing that terrorists need for access to nuclear bomb-making materials.

Nations agreed to find ways to improve their ability to search for and seize these nuclear materials and investigate and determine the forensic origin of substances that might be used by terrorists to construct crude nuclear explosive devices.

The head of the U.S. delegation to Rabat, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph, observed:  “It is no exaggeration to say that the devastating catastrophic consequences that could result from the use of such a weapon would change the world as we know it.”  The initiative, he said, provides a way to “build our collective and individual capacity to combat nuclear terrorism on a determined and systematic basis.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak told the first meeting of states interested in pursuing the initiative that the nuclear terror threat needs to be countered through cooperation “on a multilateral basis and on a global scale.”

“We must stop terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Joseph told reporters following the initiative’s progress.  And, outreach, at all levels, is clearly an important component of achieving that objective.  (See related article).

State Department official Andrew Grant told a port security conference in Virginia in January that the initiative provides another opportunity “to partner with governments who are committed to protecting the global maritime supply chain from nuclear and radiological threats.”

The initiative also seeks to build on existing international legal frameworks that relate to terrorism including U.N. Security Council resolutions 1373 and 1540, the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and a related 2005 amendment.

Any nation that shares the goals of the initiative may participate voluntarily in supporting its execution. States seeking to participate send a written endorsement of the initiative’s statement of principles to the U.S. and Russian co-chairs of the Implementation and Assessment Group. Participants also agree generally to take steps to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The scope of activities associated with the initiative includes but is not limited to participating in or hosting simulated nuclear counterterrorism exercises and sponsoring or sending representatives to workshops to develop mechanisms for rapid, confidential exchanges of technical and operational information that could stop the illicit transfer of nuclear materials or identify ways to respond should a deadly attack occur.

None of the activities associated with the initiative relate in any way to the military programs of nuclear weapons states that are members of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Additionally, the initiative’s activities are not meant to restrict access to the legitimate use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

A fact sheet on the initiative and the full text of the guidelines for participation are available on the State Department’s Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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