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Iran nuclear plans could trigger Mideast arms race: study

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) May 20, 2008
Iran's nuclear programme could trigger a race to develop atomic weapons in the Middle East, a study warned Tuesday, highlighting a recent surge of nuclear activity in countries in the region.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) noted that 13 countries had announced new or revived plans to pursue or explore civilian nuclear energy over an 11-month period between February 2006 and January 2007.

"This upsurge of interest is remarkable, given both the abundance of traditional energy sources in the region and the low standing to date of nuclear energy there," said the London-based group's chief executive John Chipman.

"If Tehran's nuclear programme is unchecked, there is reason for concern that it could in time prompt a regional cascade of proliferation among Iran's neighbours," he added.

The IISS study assesses the nuclear activities of Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Algeria, Israel, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

Israel is widely assumed to have a nuclear arsenal, although it has never admitted to joining the club of self-declared nuclear states including the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India and Pakistan.

"A proliferation cascade would become more likely if Israel felt obliged to relinquish its long-standing doctrine of nuclear 'opacity,' or ambiguity, whereby it refuses to confirm or deny any aspect of its nuclear activities, as this would increase the pressure on Egypt and perhaps other Arab states to seek their own nuclear deterrents," said Chipman.

Iran's refusal to stop enriching uranium, in defiance of UN sanctions, has fuelled western suspicions that it is covertly developing an atomic bomb. The Islamic republic insists it wants only peaceful nuclear energy.

Washington has spearheaded efforts at the United Nations to rein in Iran's ambitions to master the nuclear fuel cycle, by imposing a series of sanctions, of which more are threatened.

US President George W. Bush has repeatedly refused to rule out military action against Iran as a last resort.

Mark Fitzpatrick, an IISS expert on non-proliferation and editor of the study, added: "We take it for granted that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon," adding that Iran could theoretically produce enough uranium for one by 2009.

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Bush says allowing Iran nuclear arms would be 'unforgivable'
Jerusalem (AFP) May 15, 2008
US President George W. Bush warned on Thursday that allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons would be "an unforgivable betrayal of future generations."







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