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Georgia: IAEA Spokesman Gives Possible Motive For Uranium Deal

By Esther Pan

Prague, 22 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said today that the Georgian parliament's delay in ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty could be one reason the Georgian government made a secret deal with the United States and Great Britain to get almost 5 kg of uranium out of the country.

IAEA spokesman Hans Frederich Meyer told RFE/RL that while Georgia has signed the non-proliferation treaty, it has not yet been ratified by Georgia's parliament and so is not being enforced. Meyer said that IAEA members have made technical visits to Georgia and have seen the stockpiles, but did not inspect them according to the provisions of the treaty.

Meyer says this delay in inspections could be one reason the U.S., U.K. and Georgia decided to reach their own agreement to remove weapons-grade uranium from the reach of potential extremist or terrorist groups.

Meyer says the agreement announced yesterday between the three countries was only the second such arrangement ever. Under the agreement, code-named Auburn Endeavor, U.S. Air Force transport planes will fly the nuclear fuel from the Georgian Physics Institute to the Dounreay nuclear complex in Scotland, where it will be reprocessed.

Meyer says that as far as he knows the only other similar agreement occurred in 1994, when the U.S. removed 600 kg of enriched weapons-grade uranium from Kazakhstan.