x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Nuclear pact is on track

The civilian nuclear co-operation agreement between the UAE and the US has been "well received" by the Obama administration.

WASHINGTON // The civilian nuclear co-operation agreement between the UAE and the US has been "well received" by the Obama administration and may be submitted soon to Congress for review, a senior UAE official has said. Yousef al Otaiba, the UAE Ambassador to the US, and Sheikh Abdullah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, have been holding talks with top-level government officials here this week, which have touched on the so-called 123 agreement that provides for the sharing of nuclear technologies.

"We are pleased that the 123 agreement has been well received by the Obama administration," Mr al Otaiba said in a statement on Wednesday. "In this week's meetings with senior US officials, we encouraged timely congressional notification of the agreement and are hopeful to see it move within the next few weeks." A spokeswoman for the US State Department, Laura Tischler, did not say when the 123 agreement would be sent to Congress but yesterday called its signing in January a "tangible expression of the UAE's commitment to develop peaceful nuclear power in a transparent manner consistent with the highest safety, security and non-proliferation standards".

She said it also highlighted "the desire of the United States to co-operate with states in the Middle East and elsewhere that make such commitments". "This approach stands in direct contrast to Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability." The 123 agreement was negotiated during the Bush administration and signed during George W Bush's last week in office. But it could not move forward for its required congressional review without the stamp of approval of the Obama administration, which is responsible for submitting, or notifying, it to Capitol Hill.

The new administration has been conducting its own inter-agency review of the pact. US officials did seek - and the UAE agreed to - some language changes designed to strengthen the agreement. The UAE and the US have both held up the 123 agreement as a "gold standard" model for the peaceful use of nuclear energy in the region. The UAE has renounced domestic enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel.