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Outside View: Russia Fights Nuclear Terror

Moscow (UPI) Aug 19, 2005
The recent series of terrorist attacks have shown the terrorist threat has not diminished and victory over this evil is not within our grasp.

Worse still, the terrorists are using increasingly aggressive and treacherous tactics. Their goal is to claim as many civilian lives and do as much moral and psychological damage as possible in a bid to sow fear and panic in society.

Although we do not want to believe it, common sense says that terrorists will try to gain access to the world's most destructive instruments - weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Politicians, the military, diplomats, scientists and the law enforcement agencies and intelligence services know this. Like the general public, they all agree that terrorists and other criminals must be stopped from gaining access to WMD or their components (for example, components for creating a dirty bomb).

This danger must not become a sword of Damocles hanging over mankind. We must preclude the use of WMD as means of blackmailing the international community or individual countries.

This calls for erecting an insurmountable barrier to prevent terrorists accessing WMD, which should rest on effective legislation and cooperation between all members of the broad counter-terrorism coalition.

It is evident that nuclear terrorism presents the biggest threat to security. Russia has always advocated comprehensive measures to strengthen the non-proliferation regime and efforts against nuclear terrorism.

Important steps have recently been taken toward this goal. In 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1540 designed to prevent "non-state actors" from acquiring WMD or their components. Russia was one of the initiators of the resolution.

Moscow also suggested that an International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism be drafted. The issues involved are so serious that negotiations over the draft convention lasted nearly eight years.

An Ad Hoc Committee of the U.N. General Assembly completed work on the draft in April 2005. Russia is advocating early enforcement of the convention and has appealed to all states to sign it without delay.

This convention aims to improve the legal framework for the effective suppression and prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism and for relief work in the event of an attack.

It aims to ensure the protection of civilian and military nuclear projects against terrorism and to preclude terrorist attacks using improvised nuclear devices. The convention stipulates that persons who commit acts of nuclear terrorism will be brought to justice on the basis of the "extradite or try" principle.

It is the first international anti-terrorist convention that is intended as a pro-active instrument to prevent terrorist attacks using nuclear materials or other radioactive substances.

It is the first universal agreement aimed at preventing massively destructive terrorist attacks, and it increases scope for counter-terrorism cooperation within the framework of the United Nations, including an early harmonization of the draft Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism. To date, 13 counter-terrorism conventions have been adopted.

The world wants a better global nuclear safety regime. One of the cornerstones of the regime is the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, which was adopted in 1979.

In order that states can realize their inalienable right to develop and use nuclear energy for civilian purposes, in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Charter of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there must be an effective mechanism to deter the unlawful possession and use of nuclear material for criminal purposes. This is the objective of this particular convention.

A diplomatic conference was held in July this year to approve amendments to the Nuclear Materials Convention, which were designed to enhance the physical protection of nuclear material during storage, use and transportation within a state and to protect nuclear devices against subversive acts.

Russia played an active role in the conference, during which considerable progress was made toward improved nuclear safety.

It was primarily thanks to a Chinese suggestion aimed at removing ambiguity from the key issue of the inadmissibility of the use of force against nuclear facilities that the participants agreed to the amendments.

The international community is determined to prevent acts of nuclear terrorism. This is evident from the involvement of not only the United Nations and its specialized agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) but also other organizations, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), in efforts to tackle the problem.

In early July the main regular decision-making body of the OSCE, the Permanent Council, adopted Decision No. 683 Countering the Threat of Radioactive Sources, which was initiated and drafted by Russia and the United States.

It obliges the 55 OSCE member states to make a political commitment to comply with the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and the Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources supplementary to it.

Thanks to the OSCE decision, the IAEA Code of Conduct will be extended to all of the organization's member states and, hopefully, this will reduce the potential threat of terrorists gaining access to radioactive sources. The decision also highlights constructive counter-terrorism cooperation between Russia and the United States.

Cooperation by members of the counter-terrorism coalition on the basis of the above conventions and other agreements will help prevent terrorist access to nuclear weapons and materials. Cooperation in this field has become a reality, as evidenced by the international Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) set up two years ago. Russia joined this initiative last year.

The international community, including the United States and Russia, have joined forces to reduce the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists, illegal arms dealers or other persons acting in violation of non-proliferation regimes.

Over 60 countries have announced their support for the PSI, and the more members it has, the more effective it will be. The number of member states is growing, and 16 training exercises have been held under the initiative in the past two years. The PSI promotes compliance with the letter and spirit of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540, which calls on all states to unite to prevent the illicit trafficking of WMD.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in a joint article "Russia and the U.S. Against Nuclear Terrorism" that their countries had seen what dreadful atrocities terrorists could commit and that they must ensure that terrorists and their supporters would never gain access to WMD.

The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism will be opened for signing on the first day of the UN Millennium + 5 Summit, which will begin in New York on September 14. Russia will be among the first to sign it.

(Alexander Yakovenko is deputy foreign minister of the Russian Federation. This article is reprinted by permission of the RIA Novosti news agency)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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