Pakistan Joins 50 Nations in Efforts To Prevent Nuclear Terror

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Pakistan is the most recent nation joining 50 others in a partnership to head off the potential of terrorists exploiting nuclear materials to sow chaos.

The United States and Russia welcomed Pakistan to the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism June 11 just as the group of like-minded nations was meeting for the third time to build on existing counterterrorism efforts.

The initiative was launched in June 2006 by President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to guard against the global threat from nuclear terrorism.  Participation is open to any nation that shares that goal and is willing to be active in the effort.

Pakistan’s decision is significant given its role in the global war against terrorism as well as its continued holding of Abdul Qadeer Khan under house arrest.  Khan – known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program – was linked to leaking nuclear technology to countries pursuing weapons programs including Iran, North Korea and Libya.  (See Today's Nuclear Equation.)

Following a meeting in Turkey in February, Kazakhstan hosted the most recent gathering in Astana, June 11-12.  In addition to observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Union, nearly 40 nations sent representatives.  (See related article.)

The U.S. and Russian chairmen of the meeting said in a statement that the growing expansion of nations that have endorsed the statement of principles for the initiative “demonstrates the strong desire of the international community to combat nuclear terrorism” as well as its readiness to strengthen the “capacity to prevent the acquisition of nuclear materials and know-how by terrorists.”

The attendees focused on fleshing out a plan of work extending into 2008.  The identified priorities include improving participating nations’ ability to detect, search for and prevent trafficking in nuclear materials needed for bomb making and denying safe haven for terrorists or the financial resources they need to explode a low-yield weapon, known as a “dirty” bomb.

Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey said June 15 in Washington, for example, that even those associated actively with Iran’s nuclear program will be held accountable for their efforts “and isolated by the international community” under a presidential order to freeze assets of those who proliferate or support proliferators of deadly weapons.

Participants in the Astana meeting also discussed how to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in civilian nuclear facilities and on ways to develop appropriate national laws to snare and prosecute illegal traffickers.  Another focus is on timely sharing of intelligence information and expanded law enforcement cooperation, especially along borders.


The Astana meeting coincided and at times interacted with a related conference in Miami that drew 500 U.S. and international law enforcement and technical experts to the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Conference, June 11-15.

Russian security bureau official Vladimir Bulavin at that conference said nuclear terrorism poses a threat to all nations and his country has taken steps to secure and account for nuclear materials that could be used to construct a nuclear device.

Representatives from Egypt, Morocco, France, Israel, Germany, Canada, China, Russia and elsewhere also had an opportunity to examine a range of relevant products.  More than 40 exhibitors were present to offer detection technology and tools.

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told attendees that private-public partnerships are crucial “if we hope to get advanced warnings of proliferation plots.”  Private business and the scientific communities “are often our eyes and ears on these matters,” he added.

He also call attention to the administration’s intent to send to the Senate for consideration the Nuclear Terrorism Convention.  The pact requires signatories to criminalize the misuse of radioactive materials or a nuclear explosive device.  Gonzales said the Senate soon will receive new proposed amendments to the Convention of Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

The conference also gave participants an opportunity to examine relevant case studies and work through a hypothetical desktop exercise designed to head off nuclear disaster or mitigate its effects in the event of catastrophic failure.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told attendees prevention must be the goal because the prospect exists that a terrorist network “will steal, smuggle or build a nuclear weapon.”  Every nation must safeguard its nuclear material, he said.  If those materials travel beyond the source, everyone must be ready with “a quick and coordinated response,” the director added.

Effective training forms the basis for such a response. Mueller cited joint efforts by his bureau and the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to train more than 5,000 individuals in nearly two dozen nations in fields such as nuclear forensics and crisis management.

Unity of purpose is the best weapon against this threat, Mueller said.

The full text of the U.S.-Russian joint statement on the Astana meeting is available on the State Department Web site, as is a fact sheet on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

The full text of Mueller’s prepared remarks for the Miami conference is available on the FBI Web site. The full text of Gonzales’ prepared remarks is available on the Department of Justice Web site.

The full text of a Treasury Department press release on the designation of Iranians working on that country’s nuclear program is available on the Treasury Department Web site.

For more information, see Limiting Nuclear Weapons and Response to Terrorism.