ABU DHABI // States taking part in next month's review of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) should take a harder line on the enrichment of nuclear material and treatment of nuclear waste, the Foreign Minister said yesterday.
"The UAE has committed itself to avoid enrichment and re-enrichment, and the NPT does not [strictly] handle the states' rights on this issue," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed told members of the FNC. "There is no clear language in the NPT treaty that places severe restrictions on enrichment and treatment of nuclear waste." In December, a consortium of South Korean companies was awarded a contract worth US$20 billion (Dh73bn) to build four nuclear power plants in the UAE.
Officials say the UAE's plans to build a nuclear energy programme stemmed from the need to develop additional sources of electricity to meet future demand and smooth the path to sustained economic development. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, earlier this month headed the UAE's delegation to the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
"The UAE's peaceful nuclear programme sends a clear message that there is a clear way to benefit from peaceful nuclear energy and that countries around the world are ready to help," Sheikh Abdullah, who also took part in the nuclear summit, said yesterday. "The Emirates programme presents itself as a model for other countries that have non-transparent and unclear projects and are faced with criticism by other countries as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency."
Sheikh Abdullah's comments were a clear reference to Iran, which is under the threat of sanctions because of its refusal to give up a uranium enrichment programme that could lead to the production of weapons. Iran claims its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. The Foreign Minster said the UAE's programme was a model of transparency and commitment to international treaties, including those that states are not required to sign.
"Many countries around the world view our nuclear project with huge interest because of its presence in an oil-producing country and a sensitive area," he said. The UAE's nuclear policy is based on foregoing domestic enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. The UAE has also made a decision to rely solely on third-generation light-water reactors, which ensures the UAE nuclear industry is free of the handling of highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium.
During a nearly four-hour debate, Sheikh Abdullah discussed the policies of his ministry on issues including the assassination of the Hamas leader in Dubai, food security, the state of diplomatic missions, human trafficking and human rights. On the assassination of the Hamas leader Mahmoud al Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel in February, Sheikh Abdullah warned other states against interfering in the UAE's internal affairs.
"The UAE respects the principle of non-interference in internal affairs and the UAE will not allow any country to conduct any chaotic, criminal, and illegal action on its lands," he said. "Such a country shouldn't expect to benefit from the results from its action without being pursued." A number of FNC members complained that UAE citizens had been interrogated at airports of some of the 34 countries whose nationals have visa waivers from the UAE.
Sheikh Abdullah said it was difficult for an Arab and Islamic country to ask for easing visa procedures after the September 11 attacks while in Europe individual countries are not allowed to issue visa waivers on their own as part of the Schengen visa scheme, which allows travellers to access all members of the EU with exception of Britain. "We have managed recently to obtain some commitments by some countries for reciprocal treatment but undoubtedly there are several countries that still place obstacles," said Sheikh Abdullah. "There are some countries that cause more problems than others, namely Canada, where some citizens suffer some difficulty on entering the country."
On human trafficking and human rights, he said: "We were keen to issue a law to prevents human trafficking and today courts are looking such cases." He added: "We take problems seriously in the Emirates and the fact that there are cases in courts means that we have a problem. "The Government looks at this issue with deep interest. We don't accept that such crimes are committed on Emirati land whether to transit victims or exploit them in the Emirates."