Saudi Arabia reiterates rejection of nuke arms race, urges Iran to come up with guarantees

Gulf nations say want briefed on outcome of contacts over Iran file, warn of risks of international silence over Israeli nuke arsenal

West pushes for fresh Iran sanctions as Ahmadinejad calls for scrapping them to guarantee negotiations success

International nuclear fuel bank draft approved

Prince Dr. Turki bin Mohammed bin Saud Al-Kabeer, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for International Relations, opened a workshop organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the theme 'Introduction to UN Security Council Resolution 1540 Regarding the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction'.

The workshop was held in cooperation with the 1540 Committee of the UN Security Council and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. A large number of experts and specialists from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and abroad participated in the workshop.

Prince Dr. Al-Kabeer delivered a speech in which he stressed the keenness of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on spreading international peace and security in the Middle East and the rest of the world, based on the Kingdom's leading role in achieving stability and prosperity for the region's states.

He also said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports various actions to make the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, pointing out that the Kingdom's efforts in this field have been appreciated by the international community.

Prince Dr. Al-Kabeer added that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia views the efforts by some countries to develop their nuclear capabilities as a source of threat and instability, urging the international community to seriously address this phenomenon.

'The Middle East is exposed to a risk by Israel and some other countries because of their possession of nuclear weapons as well as the expansion of their nuclear capabilities. However, consultation and cooperation are the best way to achieve stability, security and peace based on mutual trust, goodwill and non-interference in the affairs of other states,' he said.

He also stressed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has emphasized in several occasions the need for the international community to exert more efforts to create a world of security, stability, and happiness of human beings, adding that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports all actions that prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region.

'Holding the Counter Terrorism International Conference in Riyadh in 2005 is a strong evidence for the Kingdom's participation with the international community in addressing phenomena that threaten the world.

Iran and six world powers concluded talks with an agreement to reconvene early next year, indicating Tehran may be willing to address concerns about its nuclear program.

But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that unless they lift U.N. sanctions the six face failure in the next round.

Diplomats from delegations at the table with Iran said Tehran made no commitments to talking about U.N. Security Council demands that Tehran freeze uranium enrichment — which has both civilian and military uses.

"We didn't get anywhere on substance," said one of the officials. "It was an exchange of views."

A senior U.S. administration official, in a similarly sober assessment, said: "Our expectations for these talks were low, and they were never exceeded."

Iran's chief negotiator, Saed Jalili, also sought to dampen expectations.

"I am telling you clearly and openly that halting uranium enrichment will not be discussed at the Istanbul meeting," he told reporters.

But the diplomats said Jalili did not object when the six powers, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, brought up concern over enrichment during two days of talks that ended this week. The fact that the Iranians did not dismiss such international worries led to the decision to agree to a second round, said the three officials, who asked for anonymity because the information was confidential.

"As expected the talks were not a breakthrough but a beginning was achieved," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin.

The senior U.S. administration official said "an increasing amount of international isolation" might be contributing to possible Iranian willingness to engage. He also asked not to be named in exchange for talking about the closed meeting.

Ahmadinejad set the bar high for the success of the Istanbul talks, saying it hinged on whether the U.N. Security Council agreed to lift five resolutions and four sets of sanctions against his country, imposed over its refusal to freeze enrichment.

That is something the five permanent Security Council members are unlikely to even consider, suggesting his comments were meant for domestic consumption.

"If you come to talks with sincerity, loyalty to the law, friendship and respect ... and cancel resolutions, sanctions and some restrictions that you imposed, it will definitely be helpful," state TV's website quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"But if you again come with deception and animosity, not respecting the rights of the Iranian nation ... the response of the Iranian nation will be the same as you've received until today. This response will be very regretful."

He also scoffed at the suggestion that United States with its huge nuclear arsenal and its allies were afraid that Iran could develop nuclear arms, saying "this claim is a lie and deception," in comments quoted by state TV.

But comments by a former Iranian diplomat who defected to the West added to concerns.

Mohammad Reza Heydari, who resigned in January from his post as Iranian consul in Norway said that during his contacts with Iran's revolutionary guards "it was clearly said that Iran was concentrating on two objectives ... the first was to build the range of surface-to-surface missiles, the second was to get a nuclear weapon with North Korea's help."

The comments at a Paris think tank conference come amid rising international concerns that North Korea, which has already staged atomic tests, is cooperating with Iran on its nuclear program.

Heydari said that from 2002 to 2007, when he headed the Iranian Foreign Ministry's office for airports, he saw many technicians from North Korea travel to Iran.

"I witnessed repeated round-trips of North Korean specialists and technicians — given that I was right there at the border — who came to collaborate on the Iranian nuclear program," he said through a translator.

Based on information from "friends and contacts" still in the know about the visits by North Korean technicians, Heydari said he is "100 percent certain" they are continuing.

A U.S. intelligence assessment — published among the flood of classified State Department memos obtained by WikiLeaks — concluded that Iran received advanced North Korean missiles capable of targeting Western European capitals and giving Iran's arsenal a significantly farther reach than previously disclosed.

In Geneva, Jalili denied reports of cooperation between Iran and North Korea, telling reporters they were "totally fabricated."

In separate comments to journalists, the European's Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said agreement on a new meeting was reached after "substantive talks."

"We and Iran agree to a continuation of these talks in late January in Istanbul," said Ashton, speaking on behalf of six.

Ashton had previously rejected Tehran's preference for a meeting in Istanbul, where Iran would have Turkish allies on the sidelines, and agreement on that venue appeared to be a concession to the Islamic Republic.

She declined to go into details saying only: "We recognize Iran's rights but insist it fulfills its obligations." While the six powers accept Iran's right to develop nuclear power they insist that Tehran meet U.N. Security Council demands.

At the Istanbul meeting "we plan to discuss practical ideas and ways of cooperating toward the resolution of our full concerns about the nuclear issue," Ashton told reporters shortly after the second day of talks ended around noon.

Jalili confirmed the timing and venue of the planned talks, while serving notice that his country would not deviate from its insistence that it has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.

"We reject the idea of talks under pressure," he told reporters.

While avoiding the mention of international concerns over Iran's nuclear program he said his country was ready to "sit down and talk about common concerns over important international issues, security concerns, economic concerns and so forth."

International worries are great because Tehran developed its enrichment program clandestinely and because it refuses to cooperate with an IAEA probe meant to follow up on suspicions that it experimented with components of a nuclear weapons program — something Iran denies.

Officials from the six powers said Jalili declined to address their worries on enrichment and related issues, focusing instead on generalities and perceived mistakes made by the West in its treatment of Iran over the nuclear issue.

Still, "the vast majority of the talks was about the nuclear issue," said one of the officials.

"Jalili gave sense he understands international concerns," he said. "It's clear he's heard our concerns."

Meanwhile, Russia has successfully completed the creation of the world's first international nuclear fuel bank under an agreement with the IAEA, the Rosatom state atomic energy corporation said.

The fuel bank now stores 120 tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU) in the Siberian city of Angarsk, the Russian agency said in a statement.

'This is enough to complete two refuels of the world's most commonly-used light-water reactors with a capacity of 1,000 MW,' the Rosatom statement said.

The fuel has been enriched to between two and 4.95 per cent and is being kept under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA approved the reserve's creation at a two-day meeting in November.

It is meant to ensure stable fuel supplies to partner nations in case of disruptions of the international uranium enrichment services market.

The 35-nation board of the nuclear watchdog approved an IAEA-run repository for nuclear fuel, in a move meant to limit proliferation by reducing the incentive for starting domestic uranium enrichment programs.

The new fuel bank, and one run by Russia that recently went into operation, are meant to strengthen the rationale for nations to seek fuel from outside sources instead of producing it domestically for civilian nuclear reactors. Kazakhstan is the most likely candidate, but the location of the new facility has not yet been formally decided.

Because enrichment can also make fissile warhead material, the fuel banks are considered a way to reduce possible nuclear weapons proliferation by providing guaranteed supply should normal outside sources dry up.

Iran is under four sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to scrap its enrichment activities.

Nations have a right to enrich domestically and Iran insists it is doing so only to make fuel for an envisaged network of reactors. But international concerns are strong because Tehran developed its enrichment program clandestinely and because it refuses to cooperate with an IAEA probe meant to follow up on suspicions that it experimented with components of a nuclear weapons program — something Iran denies.

Both facilities are meant to ensure a reliable supply of nuclear fuel in case commercial deliveries are interrupted and both were approved by the IAEA board. But because the repository approved will be IAEA-run, it is meant to provide additional assurances of impartiality to nations worried about access to nuclear fuel in case they are denied commercial supplies for political reasons.

Glyn Davies, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, described approval as "an important step that will protect the rights of all states to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy (while) ... moving the world toward a world without nuclear weapons.”

Still, while 28 nations voted for establishment of the facility, six of those present abstained. That reflected some concerns among developing nations that such fuel banks could impinge on nations' rights to fully develop civilian nuclear programs.

And Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the chief delegate to the IAEA of non-board member Iran, called the still to be stocked and operated facility "a new problem, creating obstacles and political tensions among member states."

That was an allusion to Tehran's exclusion because of doubts about the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program. A copy of the restricted fuel bank document obtained by the AP says that "the rights of Member States, including establishing or expanding their own production capacity in the nuclear fuel cycle, shall remain intact and shall not in any way be compromised or diminished by the establishment of international assurance of supply mechanisms."

Abstaining were Venezuela, Tunisia, South Africa, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina. Pakistan, meanwhile formally announced it would not take part in the voting.

Like rival India, nuclear-armed Pakistan has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty but unlike New Delhi it has no access to foreign nuclear technology — a status that in part appeared to dictate its decision not to vote.

The U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative and investor Warren Buffett — who together provided the $50 million (38 million euro) seed money to start up the IAEA facility — welcomed this week’s vote on the plan, sponsored by Washington and co-sponsored by 13 other nations.

An NTI statement described it as a "breakthrough in global cooperation to enable peaceful uses of nuclear energy while reducing the risks of proliferation." Buffett called it "an investment in a safer world."