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Kuwait Seeks NATO Aid On Nuke Threat

File photo of Iran's Bushehr reactor.

Kuwait City (UPI) Dec 12, 2005
Kuwait has asked NATO to help it prepare for a possible nuclear emergency in the event of some future Chernobyl-type accident to Iran's Bushehr reactor, the head of the Kuwaiti armed forces said Sunday.

And he also said Kuwait planned to increase the number of Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptors it deployed to protect against possible future attacks.

"If there is another Chernobyl on the other side of the Gulf that would be the problem: If their Russian-type technology (in the reactor) explodes from the inside," Lt. Gen. Fahad Al-Amir, chief of staff of the Kuwaiti army, told a visiting group of American journalists at Kuwaiti armed forces headquarters.

Kuwait has already asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for advice and training based on the experience of European nations in dealing with the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster in the western Ukraine in 1986, Gen. Al-Amir said.

"We are (already) talking to NATO about cooperation and training for nuclear defense," Gen. Al-Amir said. "We have suggested we want to learn from their experience and capabilities in dealing with Chernobyl. That request has been given to NATO and we are hoping they will approve it at their next meeting."

He said the problem of the possible use of nuclear weapons or of catastrophic accidents occurring from the operation of nuclear reactors was the most dangerous defense threat facing the tiny oil-rich emirate has among the largest proven oil reserves in the world.

"The future problem is not going to be missiles or tanks or aircraft. This (nuclear danger) is going to be the future," the general said. "We have indicated where NATO can help rather than the United States and Britain. One of the areas which is very important is (dealing with) disaster and developing our capability to manage it.

"We have civil defense (forces) under the Interior Ministry that are very capable," Gen. Al-Amir said. "We have missile warning capabilities. (But) this will be a good chance to see how the Europeans collectively develop that knowledge and capability (that they already have for dealing with nuclear fall-out emergencies.)

"We are eager to learn what the Europeans can provide for us," he said.

"There might be a preemptive (U.S. or Israeli) strike against Iran: I don't know." If either Israel or the United States ever took such action, there was a danger that Iran might retaliate against U.S. allies in the Gulf region including Kuwait, he said.

"If the Iranians (ever) use their missile capability against us we have to defend ourselves," he said.

Gen. Al-Amir's comments followed an appeal to NATO Friday by the head of the Gulf Cooperation Council to launch an initiative to eliminate all nuclear weapons in the Gulf region so that it did not become a 'sandwich' caught in the middle of a possible future nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran.

"I call on NATO to exercise direct pressure to eliminate WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) from our region, without exception," said GCC Secretary-General Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah. He made the call while attending a conference in Qatar on NATO's role in Gulf regional security.

"We do not want our region to be sandwiched by arms here and arms there," he said. He said Iran's nuclear program had "become worrisome for the region and a fundamental concern for all the countries of the world ... but we also ask that Israel's arsenal be controlled."

When asked if he believed Iran's statements that it was developing its nuclear program for peaceful purposes only, Al-Attiyah said: "We hope so, because that is exactly what we want ... a secure and non-nuclear zone.

Gen. Al-Amir also said that Kuwait planned to increase the number of U.S.-built Patriot PAC-3 anti-ballistic missile interceptor batteries that it was deploying for defense against possible future attacks.

"We are going to increase the number of Patriots," he said.

The Kuwaiti armed forces were also studying what additional advanced radar systems they might need to purchase in the near future to upgrade the Patriots' capabilities, the general said.

"To fight ballistic missiles, you need more than missiles," he said. "The Patriots need a warning given to them almost in seconds. Sometimes you need a satellite (reconnaissance capability) or infra-red (heat sensors that can detect missile launchings.)

"This is very complex stuff. We are still studying the technology to see what can achieve," the general said.

Gen. Al-Amir said the Kuwaiti air force was pleased with the F-18 combat aircraft it had bought from the United States and while it had some upgrades planned for its combat force of them, it was not currently planning to buy any additional ones.

"We're not going to make much changes to the F-18s," he said. "The F-18 will be developed to accept the very advanced AMRAM missile battle system. Then the F-18 can combat any aircraft in the region."

Source: United Press International

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Vienna (AFP) Dec 12, 2005
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