- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

From combined dispatches

VIENNA, Austria — The head of the United Nations nuclear agency as well as China and India yesterday supported President Bush’s call to tighten controls on nuclear materials and stem the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

“I have the same concern and sense of urgency expressed by President Bush to shore up the nonproliferation regime and global security system,” Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a brief statement released by his headquarters in Vienna.

Mr. Bush argued in a speech Wednesday that international efforts to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction have been neither broad nor effective enough and require tougher action from all nations.

“The greatest threat before humanity today is the possibility of secret and sudden attack with chemical or biological or radiological or nuclear weapons,” Mr. Bush said.

His remarks came after reports surfaced of a black market apparently organized by Abdul Qadeer Khan, who once led the nuclear program in Pakistan.

Mr. Bush singled out the IAEA for criticism, calling for the creation of an agency committee to focus on safeguards and verification and to ensure that nations comply with international obligations. He also complained that nations such as Iran, which has been under investigation for proliferation, have been allowed to sit on the IAEA board of governors.

The agency refused to comment directly on Mr. Bush’s criticism and referred instead to an article by Mr. ElBaradei in the New York Times yesterday.

In the article, Mr. ElBaradei called on the United States and the other declared nuclear powers to relinquish their nuclear weapons as part of a global effort to make it impossible for such weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists.

“If the world does not change course, we risk self-destruction,” he wrote.

China said yesterday that it has a “common interest” with Washington in fighting the spread of weapons of mass destruction and promised to take “effective measures” to enforce recently issued rules against exports of arms technology by Chinese companies.

Beijing is under pressure to stop what U.S. officials say is the transfer of missile and weapons technology by Chinese companies to Iran, Pakistan and other countries. The United States has sanctioned several Chinese companies accused of spreading weapons technology, including a major state-owned conglomerate.

India hailed Mr. Bush’s call for tighter curbs and said its own nuclear arsenal should not raise concerns.

“We welcome his emphasis on the imperative of collective action to check proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is clear that the existing nonproliferation order is inadequate,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Japan said Mr. Bush’s call was a step in the “right direction.”

Mr. Bush’s speech, however, drew criticism in Kuala Lumpur, where Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi denied that his country played any role in the nuclear-trafficking network.

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