- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Bush administration said yesterday that its Proliferation Security Initiative has helped decrease missile sales and shipments of weapons of mass destruction materials around the world in the two years of its existence.

Officials declined to share details about specific interdictions or other operations that might have prevented dangerous cargo from reaching rogue states or terrorists, prompting questions from arms control groups about what credit the PSI deserves.

But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told foreign ambassadors to Washington that “the results have been impressive.”

“In the last nine months alone, the United States and 10 of our PSI partners have quietly cooperated on 11 successful efforts,” she said. “For example, PSI cooperation stopped the transshipment of material and equipment bound for ballistic missile programs in countries of concern, including Iran.”

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher later cited two operations that “prevented North Korea from receiving materials used in making chemical weapons” and “blocked the transfer to North Korea of a material useful in its nuclear programs.”

He said he would not be more specific because of intelligence concerns.

President Bush announced the PSI in mid-2003, and the number of participating counties has increased from 11 to more than 60 in all parts of the world.

The only concrete example of a success Miss Rice cited yesterday was the interdiction of centrifuge components bound for Libya on the German-flagged ship BBC China in the fall of 2003, for which she said the PSI “provided the framework.”

“That interdiction played a major role in the unraveling of the A.Q. Khan network and figured in Libya’s wise decision to eliminate its [weapons of mass destruction] and longer-range missile programs,” Miss Rice said.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, questioned Miss Rice’s assertion, saying the BBC China success was a result of an operation already under way to combat Mr. Khan’s network. The PSI was in its very initial stage at the time, he noted.

Mr. Boucher acknowledged “there were other efforts being pursued in case of Libya and A.Q. Khan that contributed to successfully stopping” the shipment.

“So in that case, we didn’t want to say it was solely a matter of Proliferation Security Initiative,” he said.

According to sources familiar with the BBC China operation, the United States informed Germany there might be suspicious materials on board. The Germans then authorized the Italians to search the ship, which was close to their coast.

Conspicuously absent from yesterday’s event to mark the PSI’s second anniversary was John R. Bolton, the outgoing undersecretary of state for arms control and international security who was in charge of the initiative.

Miss Rice did not even mention Mr. Bolton, whose nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations is stalled in the Senate.

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