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Egypt admits failing to report nuclear research to UN watchdog agency (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) VIENNA, Austria 01/27/05 1:06 PM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=5&u=/afp/20050127/wl_mideast_afp/iaeanuclearegypt_050127180602 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
VIENNA (AFP) - Egypt admitted to failing to report a "number of research experiments" to the UN atomic energy agency, after diplomats said the agency was investigating an Egyptian lab that could be used to make plutonium, a nuclear weapons material.

But "Egypt is cooperating with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)" and feels the "research experiments and activities ... most of which took place in the distant past are consistent with the NPT," the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Egyptian embassy said in a statement released in Vienna.

The statement said stronger safeguards measures by the IAEA "since the 1990´s have resulted in not reporting to the agency, in an appropriate and timely manner, a number of research experiments and activities."

Egyptian ambassador Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy told AFP it was a case that with "strengthened safeguards, countries sometimes don´t know what they are required to report."

He said news reports of Egyptian safeguards failures were "exaggerated" and that Egypt has a strictly peaceful nuclear program.

The statement said "Egypt understands that the agency is aware of the limited scope of the issue" and feels that the "agency values the level of cooperation Egypt is extending."

Egypt has not however signed an additional protocol to the NPT that allows for tough IAEA inspections.

IAEA officials refused to comment on the investigation.

Diplomats had told AFP last week that UN inspectors investigating undeclared nuclear activity in Egypt that could be related to atomic weapons development are checking out a reprocessing lab for making plutonium.

The reprocessing laboratory is at Egypt´s Inshass center, 35 kilometres (20 miles) northeast of Cairo, where there are two research reactors.

The lab consists of "hot laboratories, procured from France in the early 1980s, which allow for treatment of spent fuel and laboratory- scale plutonium separation," a diplomat said.

Ramzy said: "Hot cells can also be for research and this situation will be clarified within the next few weeks," apparently referring to when the IAEA publishes the results of its investigation.

The diplomat said the IAEA had last October "checked, among other things, the historical records of the nuclear material in the hot cell labs and in the nuclear waste management center," in addition to interviewing people involved in research work.

The lab, which apparently has never been used for reprocessing, raises questions about an Egyptian nuclear program which is peaceful but may also be carefully structured to be able to move towards weapons development if Cairo decided to take this step, diplomats said.

But a diplomat close to the IAEA, who asked not to be named, said Egypt´s undeclared work was small scale and not even comparable to South Korea (news - web sites), a non-atomic-weapons state which has admitted carrying out rogue nuclear experiments.

The IAEA has been intensively investigating Egypt since the middle of 2004 after it was tipped off to possible undeclared nuclear experiments, with much information coming from open-source scientific publications by Egyptian scientists, a diplomat said.

The experiments the IAEA is looking into involve making uranium metal, which could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium, and carrying out the first steps of uranium enrichment by making uranium tetrafluoride (UF4), the diplomat said. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 01/27/05)

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