- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Algeria: 'No nukes'

Algerian Ambassador Idriss Jazairy yesterday dismissed a report by The Washington Times that his country may soon have the potential to develop a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Jazairy told editors and reporters at The Times that a June 3 story with a "dramatic headline" was "unfounded but implied that Algeria is the next threat to world peace."

He insisted that Algeria, which has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, is not building a nuclear bomb, and that its nuclear energy program is regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"We have no such intentions," he said. "We are an open society. People are free to come in and conduct inspections."

The Times' story was based on the concerns expressed by Arab diplomats who are worried that Algeria could soon be producing plutonium of a quality suitable for use in nuclear weapons. The story also said the diplomats suspected Algeria has concealed some of its nuclear material from IAEA inspectors, possibly in its vast desert regions.

The article noted that Algeria has been fighting a long war against Muslim fundamentalist guerrillas, but the ambassador said the conflict is winding down.

The war is claiming about 150 lives a month, compared with 2,000 a month last year, he said.

"We are not in the throes of a relentless terrorist war," Mr. Jazairy said. "Besides, you do not deal with guerrillas with nuclear weapons. Violence has been reduced considerably. There is very little in the cities… . People are starting to live again in the cities. They go out at night. There is music."

The Times first reported in 1991 on Algeria's efforts to develop a nuclear energy program with the help of China.

That report was based on a secret CIA briefing to members of Congress, who were concerned the Chinese-built reactor could be used to produce weapons.

"This is clearly a military nuclear reactor for weapons production," one official said.

The Bush administration, which sent protests to the Chinese government, believed Algeria wanted to build nuclear weapons because of a perceived threat from neighboring Libya.

Bosnian diversity

Bosnia made a mark on Embassy Row when, in the midst of conflict among Bosnians, Serbs, Croats and Muslims, it sent a Jew to be ambassador to the United States.

Sven Alkalaj, who served from 1994 until February of this year, used to emphasize that fact to show that Bosnia wanted to be a multiethnic state despite the war inspired by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. He represented a Muslim-led government.

Now, five years after the war but with ethnic tensions still high, the country has sent a Serb to Washington.

Ambassador Igor Davidovic last week presented his diplomatic credentials to President Clinton.

"The fact that the ambassadorship is transferring from one ethnic group to another is a small but significant symbol of my country's commitment to building a multiethnic society," Mr. Davidovic said.

Mr. Clinton replied, "As the second ambassador to the United States for a sovereign Bosnia, you will hold a special place in the history of your country in light of the strong ties between our countries."

He also urged the Bosnian government to proceed more quickly on reforming the economy and resettling refugees.

Before his appointment as ambassador, Mr. Davidovic was chief of staff to Prime Minister Milorad Dodik of the Republic of Srpska, the Serbian half of the Bosnian federation that was cobbled together by the 1995 Dayton peace accords.

Mr. Davidovic, 40, is a lawyer and is married with two children.

As for Mr. Alkalaj, he is still at the embassy. He is serving as one of two deputy ambassadors. Mr. Alkalaj is still representing the Muslim faction of the Muslim-Croat federation.

A second deputy prime minister is expected soon. He will be a Croat.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide