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Bush makes war on nuclear black market
Updated: 2004-02-12 09:39

U.S. President George W. Bush sought global support for tighter curbs on nuclear know-how, taking aim at the Domocratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran, and black-market sales by Pakistan's former top atomic expert.

"With deadly technology and expertise going on the market, there's the terrible possibility that terrorist groups could obtain the ultimate weapons they desire most," Bush said in an election-year speech.

Though the network run by the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan is "out of business," its once-thriving operations show how easily outlaw regimes and extremist groups might get their hands on atomic weapons, he said.

Bush offered remedies from bans on certain nuclear exports; to overhauling the U.N. watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency; to more aggressive law enforcement and intelligence operations to dismantle illicit sales networks.

"America and the entire civilized world will face this threat for decades to come. We must confront the danger with open eyes and unbending purpose," he told an approving crowd at the National Defense University.

Under fire over flawed pre-war claims about Iraqi weapons, Bush took pains to praise U.S. intelligence officers for their "high risk" efforts to uncover and dismantle Khan's network -- which he publicly accused for the first time of giving Pyongyang centrifuges to enrich uranium for weapons.

And he argued that the Khan case showed how counter-proliferation strategies designed during the Cold War have largely failed to keep pace with the changing threat posed by terrorism, and appealed for an assertive global response.

"There is a consensus among nations that proliferation cannot be tolerated. Yet this consensus means little unless it is translated into action," said the president.

Bush called for a ban on new exports of technology to enrich and reprocess uranium -- a key step towards making weapons -- unless the buyer already possesses "full-scale" facilities to make such fuel.

He also pushed for the creation of a new enforcement committee and a ban on nations like Iran from serving on the IAEA board, saying: "Those actively breaking the rules should not be entrusted with enforcing the rules."

Bush said that, by 2005, only countries that formally agree to intrusive, snap IAEA inspections should be able to import equipment for civilian nuclear programs, which he warned could be cover for efforts to develop weapons.

The president also called for extending to countries like Iraq and Libya the same assistance given former Soviet states under a program that gives jobs to former weapons scientists and decommissions weapons and facilities to keep both arms and expertise off the market.

And Bush said the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which interdicts air and sea shipments of weapons of mass destruction, should be expanded to take "direct action" against would-be proliferators.

PSI nations should use law-enforcement powers, including the international Interpol police agency, to "shut down their labs, seize their materials, ... freeze their assets," he said.

Bush also renewed his September 2003 call for the United Nations to pass a resolution criminalizing proliferation, enacting strict export controls, and requiring nations to secure sensitive materials.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, appearing on PBS television, said those trading in nuclear technologies "should be an international outlaw, outcast, and the international system should not deal with you."

"If, on the other hand, you are prepared to play by the rules, and in the case of a state like Libya, willing to try and reverse decades of bad behavior, then there ought to be an open door to better relations," Rice pointed out.

The emphasis on international cooperation rang hollow to the Democratic frontrunner in the field seeking to oust the president in the November election, who indicated he doubted Bush's resolve.

"The administrations rigid ideology, resistance to multilateralism, and fixation with Iraq stopped the president from addressing them (proliferation problems) in concert with our allies," Senator John Kerry said in a statement.

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