The UAE has a "strong commitment to non-proliferation" and will join 46 other countries in an effort to lock down the world's loose nuclear materials. That was the message Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, gave the US president Barack Obama during the opening dinner of the Nuclear Security Summit on Tuesday.
Mr Obama said at the end of the summit in Washington that the global initiative would make the world "more secure". "Loose" material is any nuclear material not secured enough to prevent it being acquired by terrorists. The two leaders also spoke of Iran's need to adhere to international resolutions with regard to non-proliferation, including those issued by the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
They discussed the US-UAE Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy Agreement, which was signed in the final days of George W Bush's presidency and approved by Mr Obama last May. According to the statement released by the White House, the two leaders also touched on the "close co-operation on port security" between the two nations. On the Arab-Israeli conflict, they spoke about the need for both the Israelis and the Palestinians to immediately begin "proximity talks" which amount to indirect negotiations, leading to direct negotiations.
US efforts to bring the two sides together were undermined last month when the Israelis announced plans to build 1,600 Jewish homes in East Jerusalem. Also on Tuesday, Sheikh Mohammed met with the French president Nicholas Sarkozy and the prime minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong. He discussed with the French president the summit's agenda, including the need for international co-operation to ensure nuclear security, combat illicit trade in nuclear material and prevent terrorist organisations from obtaining nuclear weapons.
UAE officials participating in the summit's closed meetings warned that "effective and unceasing vigilance" is the only measure that states can adopt in the face of threats of nuclear terrorism, because terrorist groups are immune to the effects of conventional and nuclear deterrent capabilities of states. They underscored the UAE's commitment to the summit's overall goal, the securing of loose nuclear materials, stressing that combating the threat of nuclear terrorism was high on the Emirates' security agenda.
They also said reaching a consensus on nuclear security was vital given the increasing number of nations developing peaceful nuclear energy programmes, a result of the need to secure energy supplies and address concerns about climate change. 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. The consortium, led by Korea Electric Power Corp, includes Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan Heavy Industries from Korea and the US firm Westinghouse as well as Japan's Toshiba.
Officials say that the UAE's plans to build a peaceful nuclear energy programme stemmed from the country's need to develop additional sources of electricity to meet future demands and ensure sustained and rapid economic development. In a nuclear policy document released in April 2008, the Government outlined its commitment to operational transparency; highest standards of non-proliferation; highest standards of safety and security; working directly with IAEA and conforming to its standards; and working in partnership with the governments and firms of responsible nations.
The document, titled "Policy of the United Arab Emirates on the Evaluation and Potential Development of Peaceful Nuclear Energy", stated that the UAE's national annual peak demand for electricity would to rise to more than 40,000 MWs by 2020, reflecting a cumulative annual growth rate of roughly nine per cent from 2007 onward.