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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Algeria Special Weapons

The first French nuclear weapons tests were conducted in Algeria between 1960 and 1965. The first test took place on February 13, 1960 at Reggan. A total of 14 nuclear weapons tests, four atmospheric and 10 underground, were conducted at two Algerian locations. Algeria has uranium deposits west of Tamanrasset in southeast Algeria.

Algeria operates two nuclear reactors: one in the capital of Algiers, supplied by Argentina, and a second at Ain Oussera, supplied by the Chinese. By 1991 the Algerian research reactor operating at Draria was already under safeguards and the Algerian Government had given a public guarantee that the nuclear reactor under construction at Ain Oussera would be subject to IAEA inspection. Aspects of Algeria's nuclear development program caused concern in the West despite claims by Algeria that its two reactors were being used for civilian purposes. Algerian scientists could apply the experience gained in running both reactors to a possible future weapons program.

The Algerian government established the Commissariat for New Energy (Commissariat aux Énergies Nouvelles) in 1982 to develop nuclear energy, solar energy, and other potential sources of power. Whereas solar power proved to have considerable potential, particularly in desert locations, nuclear power became a casualty of international concerns and allegations that it could be used for military purposes. The Haut Commissariat à la Recherché of Algeria was later replaced by the Centre de Dévéloppement des Techniques Nucléaires of the Ministry for Scientific Research.

Algeria was thought to want nuclear weapons to counter a perceived threat from the radical regime of Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi. It is reported that secret agreements were signed by Algeria with China and Argentina at the beginning of the 1980s to produce weapons grade plutonium. Under a secret 1983 agreement, the Chinese government provided a nuclear reactor to Algeria, which along with a related research facility could form the central components of a weapons program. In 1984, Algeria purchased 150 tons of uranium concentrate from Niger. It was reported that Iraq had sent scientists and some uranium to Algeria. Discussions were held with Argentina about supplying Algeria with a larger reactor and hot cells. The reactor could produce significant quantities of plutonium and hot cells could be used to separate plutonium from irradiated fuel or targets. But these these discussions between Argentina and Algeria ultimately led nowhere.

Algeria's efforts to reform one of the most centrally planned economies in the Arab world began after the 1986 collapse of world oil prices plunged the country into a severe recession. In 1989, the government launched a comprehensive program to introduce market mechanisms into the economy. Despite substantial progress toward economic adjustment, the reform drive stalled as Algiers became embroiled in political turmoil.

Algeria's leaders were stunned in December 1991 when the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut-- FIS) candidates won absolute majorities in 188 of 430 electoral districts, far ahead of the Front de Libération Nationale's [FLN] fifteen seats. Some members of Bendjedid's cabinet, fearing a complete FIS takeover, forced the president to dissolve parliament and to resign on January 11, 1992. Leaders of the takeover included Ghozali, and generals Khaled Nezzar (minister of defense) and Larbi Belkheir (minister of interior). After they declared the elections void, the takeover leaders and Mohamed Boudiaf formed the High Council of State to rule the country. The FIS, as well as the FLN, clamored for a return of the electoral process, but police and troops countered with massive arrests. In February 1992, violent demonstrations broke out in many cities, and on 09 February 1992 the government declared a one-year state of emergency and the next month banned the FIS.

The end of FLN rule over Algeria opened a period of uncertain transition. Widespread discontent with the party stemmed from many roots. People were frustrated and angry because they had no voice in their own affairs, had few or no prospects for employment, and had a deteriorating standard of living. In addition, the poor and the middle class grew outraged over the privileges enjoyed by party members, and many Algerians became alienated by what they felt was the unwelcome encroachment of secular, or Western, values. Algeria's brief democratic interlude unleashed these pent-up feelings, and, as in earlier periods of the country's history, the language of Islam served many as the preferred medium of social and political protest.

Under pressure from the United States, Algeria accepted IAEA safeguards in February 1992. Algeria joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in January 1995, and agreed to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:37:03 ZULU