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Critics attack US plan for more N-tests 21 Mar 98

The US department of energy plans to start a series of underground explosive tests on radioactive plutonium next week. Washington said the tests did not violate the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty but opponents said they undermined the spirit and could provide other countries with a pretext for conducting similar experiments at their own test sites. A spokesman for the Department of Energy's Nevada test site, Derek Scammell, said the Los Alamos National Laboratory would carry out the first experiment, codenamed Stagecoach, at the site next week. Three similar experimes would be conducted by October 31. All these experiments are part of the subcritical programme to ensure the stockpile," Mr Scammell said. "The primary objection is to take crucial information ... so that the scientists can tell how the plutonium reacts to different temperatures and pressures. "It's all to ensure that they will be safe and reliable and that, if God-forbid we had to use them, those nuclear weapons we decide to keep would work." In Stagecoach, 102kg of high explosives.would be detonated in a sealed chamber 290m underground, fragmenting five packages of plutonium weighing a total of 970g, Mr Scammell said. The entrance to the chamber is blocked with a concrete plug 6.5m thick to keep the contamination inside. The explosion will not set up a nuclear chain-reaction. That's why they call them subcritical. They are allowable within the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," Mr Scammell said. But the lobby group Peace Action condemned the decision to ahead with the round of tests. "It's a misguided policy that will come back to haunt us in the long run," said spokesman Bruce Hall. "We're raising contempt about our compliance with that longsought treaty. It will make it more difficult to convince hold-out countries such as India to sign on." Mr Hall said the subcritical experiments were just another example of how the Clinton Administration remained stuck in a Cold War mentality. The next test, named Bagpipe, will be carried out at the Nevada site by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. REUTERS

US Experts Count Down on Missiles July 98

by JIM WOLF

Washington North Korea, Iran and Iraq will be able to hit the United States and its allies with missiles tipped with deadly weapons sooner than previously projected, according to. a bipartisan congressional panel The blue-ribbon panel also found that the United States "might well lave little or no warning" before foes deployed ballistic missiles that could change the dynamics of global power. "The threat to the US" is broader, more mature and evolving more rapidly than has been reported by the intelligence conirnunity," the nine-member panel concluded. . The Commission to Assess the Balistic Threat to the United States did not spell out precisely how close North Korea and Iran might be to fielding missiles that could hit the Usited States. But it said they would be able to cause "major destruction" in United States cities within about five years of a decision to acquire such a capability," 10 years in the case of Iraq. Arguing that Washington may be in the dark about covert missile programmes, the panel left open the question of how far along North Korea and Iran might be now. The commission, chaired by former Defence Secretary Donald Runisfeld, spent six months studying the threat based on what Mr Rumsfeld called 'unprecedented access to the most sensitive and highly classified' United States intelligence data. The commission said China and Russia each posed a threat to United States national security. as big exporters of ballistic missile technologies. The panel's timelines for an intercontinental ballistic threat from a country other than Russia, China and North Korea were shorter than those reported to Congress in March by the Central Intelligence Agency, said CIA Director George Tenet in a letter to key lawmakers. But Mr Tenet embraced the panel's findings, saying they would inspire 'healthy debate" about foreign technology transfer. The commission found North Korea had deployed its No Dong medium-range ballistic missile, capable of flying 1300 km and threatening Japan and South Korea. "The commission judges that the No Dong was operationally deployed long before the US Government recognised that fact," the report said. The panel said North Korea's current effort to develop a longer- range missile called the Taepo Dong 2 could put at risk targets in the western United States. Once United Nations sanctions end, Iraq could pose an intercontinental ballistic missile threat to the United States "within 10 years," the commission said. It added that Iraq could develop a shorter-range, covert, ship-launched missile that could threaten the United States "in a very short time." House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich said the panel's conclusions dictated a thorough review of intelligence and defence capabilities. But he stopped short of saying it proved a need to deploy a multi-billion-dollar missile defence shield favoured by many Repub- licans but deemed not cost-effective by many Democrats. REUTERS


Shimon Peres

Israel Comes Clean on Nuclear Capabilities July 98

ABRAHAM RABINOVIC Herald correspondent

JERUSALEM - In the first clear admission ever made by an Israeli leader of his country's nuclear capability, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres said in Amman that Israel had gone nuclear in order to dissuade the Arab states from attempting to destroy it. "We built a nuclear option not in order to have a Hiroshima but an Oslo," he said, referring to the peace process between Israel and the PalestiDians launched in the Norwegian capital five years ago. Mr Peres made his remarks during a visit to the Jordanian capital where he addressed a seminar on leadership attended by Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian youth and met King Hussein. Israel has before refrained from any admission that it possessed nuclear weapons. Foreign military experts have asserted that Israel possesses 100 to 200 nuclear warheads which could be delivered by plane or ground-to-ground missile. It was Mr Peres himself, as a deputy defence minister serving under Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who brought Israel mto the atomic age through a secret-deal with France in the late 1950s to establish a nuclear reactor in Israel's Negev desert. "We thought the reason Israel was attacked five times without any provocation was because some of our neighbours thought they could overpower us," said Mr Peres. 'We wanted to create it situation in which this temptation would no longer exist." 'Mr Peres said that without Israel's nuclear option the Oslo accords would probably have not come to pass. King Hussein told Mr Peres that the window of opportunity for peace was closing. 'I fear that if the process continues we will find ourselves in a dangerous situation."

Israeli experts expressed puzzlement over Mr Peres' remarks. "The question isn't the substance'of his statement but why he said it now and in Amman," said Dr Mark Heller, a strategic analyst at the Jaffa Centre for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. Dr Heller said that while Israel had never admitted to having a nuclear option, possession of such an option was implied by its refusal to sign a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. "I haven't the foggiest idea why he did it."