- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

U.S. officials praised Kazakhstan this week for the example it set eight years ago by giving up the world’s fourth-largest nuclear arsenal and called for other countries to follow its example.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn, the champions of U.S. legislation that helped Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics to give up nuclear materials, were among those at the ceremony marking the Central Asian nation’s 12th anniversary of independence on Tuesday.

“Our experience of nonproliferation and disarmament must be … applied to other countries,” said the Kazakh minister of energy and mineral resources, Vladimir Shkolnik, at a symposium co-sponsored by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a privately financed group aiming to reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruction.

“Iran and other nations could learn from Kazakhstan that a nation can grow, modernize, make progress and gain stature not in spite of renouncing nuclear weapons, but because of it,” said Mr. Nunn.

Kazakh Ambassador Kanat Saudabayev pointed out that Kazakhstan was the first country ever to shut down a nuclear-test site and renounce a nuclear arsenal — the world’s fourth-largest at the time.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Kazakhstan inherited 104 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 1,040 nuclear warheads, 40 strategic bombers and the Semipalatinsk nuclear-test site, where the Soviet Union conducted more than 400 nuclear tests between 1949 and 1989.

Through the $100 million committed to Kazakhstan by the U.S. government’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program, all nuclear weapons were removed from Kazakhstan by May 1995. Kazakhstan also destroyed the nuclear-testing infrastructure of Semipalatinsk by July 2000.

Mr. Nunn, Georgia Democrat, and Mr. Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were the primary forces behind the enactment of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program in 1994.

“With help from the Nunn-Lugar program, Kazakhstan has systematically banished the legacy of weapons of mass destruction inherited from the Soviet Union,” President Bush said in a statement read at the symposium.

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