x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ships' weapons cargo seized

Several vessels carried potentially deadly materials and equipment, says official at nuclear safety conference.

ABU DHABI // UAE security forces have intercepted scores of ships and confiscated materials that could be used to manufacture weapons systems, a nuclear security official revealed last night. The vessels were carrying specialised aluminium sheets, titanium, and sophisticated computers and equipment that could have been used to make weapons, said Hamad al Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Speaking after the annual meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), Mr al Kaabi declined to reveal any further details of the seizures. Delegates at the meeting had earlier agreed to focus on nuclear detection and forensics in the coming year. This would include "how to collect nuclear evidence, where would you take it, and how you know where it comes from," said Thomas Lowe, of the US State Department's Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism.

Mr al Kaabi refused to discuss whether the meeting had addressed potential threats from Iran and North Korea, saying members of the initiative did not discuss specific states, but worked together to share training and expertise. "The UAE has implemented many resolutions with the UN security  council, and they have banned certain goods going to certain countries," he said. An Implementation and Assessment Group was formed to co-ordinate future activities, with Spain as the first coordinator.  

"The nuclear threat is large and global, and includes many scenarios which require collective action and cannot be faced by one nation alone," said Mr al Kaabi. "It involves materials and sources that are widely used in industrial or other peaceful applications." He said the UAE had learned from the experience of other member nations, and had taken steps to guarantee nuclear security. These included training port officials in the detection of nuclear and radioactive materials, and setting up bodies such as the National Counter Terrorism Committee.

"As a result, thousands of cases have been reviewed and investigated, and hundreds of freezing orders are in the prosecution process," he said. The GICNT was established by the US and Russia in 2006 and includes 81 nations who work together to combat nuclear terrorism and bolster security. The next GICNT meeting will be in South Korea, and will once more be co-chaired by the US and Russia. @Email:hdajani@thenational.ae