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By Samuel R. Avro on Dec 16, 2008 with no responses

U.S. Reaches Nuclear Agreement With UAE


While nuclear tensions build in the Persian Gulf with Iran, the US is in the midst of finalizing an agreement to share nuclear technology with the United Arab Emirates.

The United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have hammered out an agreement on what may become the first instance of the U.S. sharing nuclear know-how with an Arab country.

President George W. Bush welcomes Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008 in Camp David. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

The agreement with the UAE, which is less than a hundred miles from Iran, is meant to dissuade Arab countries that are interested in nuclear technology from obtaining it on their own and enriching uranium in a dual-use manner which can be reconfigured to produce nuclear weapons.

“We are confident that the agreement highlights the transparency of the civilian nuclear energy program the UAE is embarking on and should be lauded as the gold standard of nuclear cooperation agreements,” said Yousef Otaiba, the Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S. He said the agreement set “a new standard in ensuring the highest standards of safety, security and nonproliferation.”

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a memorandum of understanding with the UAE in April pledging to cooperate on a peaceful nuclear energy program, with the UAE promising to be a “responsible partner.”

The Bush administration is holding back on signing the deal after coming under pressure from lawmakers who have voiced their concern that the UAE is too cozy with Iran and that it is not doing enough to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lethinen, the ranking Republican on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced legislation this week blocking the deal unless stringent conditions were met.

The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed U.S. officials that were critical of the deal because the UAE acts as a transit point for billions of dollars in goods that make their way from the West and Asia to Iran.

Arms control expert David Albright of the Institute for International Science and International Security likened the UAE to a “nuclear smugglers’ hub.”

According to the AFP, the so-called P5-plus-1 — Germany and permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — will join Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Gulf Cooperation Council members for a meeting Tuesday for talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran’s nuclear weapons program is increasingly recognized as a threat to the whole region of the Middle East,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters.

Officials from the UAE have acknowledged the potential congressional snag over proliferation worries, and they say the government is “working closely” with lawmakers to solidify the pact.