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World: Atomic Agency Celebrates Anniversary

By Nigel Glass

Vienna, 29 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) celebrates its fortieth anniversary, with the opening today of the organisation's 1997 Conference at Vienna headquarters. The session will be chaired by the President of Poland's Atomic Energy Commission, Jerzy Niewodniczanski, after the opening address by Austria's Chancellor Victor Klima.

During the week, the IAEA will admit Malta as its 126th member state, and ratify the appointment of Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei of Egypt as the next Director General.

His immediate predecessor, Dr. Hans Blix of Sweden, can look back on a successful year. In May, the United Nations agency completed a five-year test of surveillance techniques for an improved protocol to monitor nuclear materials under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Chairman of the program, Ambassador Peter Walker of Canada, described it as the agency's crowning achievement.

And, in August, 80 members agreed on a draft convention covering handling, storing and disposing of nuclear waste.

During this week's meeting, there will be some realignment of the countries within the nine geographical nuclear groupings into which members are divided. Uzbekistan, currently listed in Eastern Europe, and Israel in the Western Europe zone, are both expected to be transfered to the Middle East/South Asia group.

And, the conference is expected to implement an agreement between the IAEA and North Korea on dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.