Qatar has called for a strengthening of nuclear security in the Middle East in conjunction with the spread of nuclear power development in the region, the Qatar News Agency reported Wednesday.
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The emirate's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali al-Mansouri, also called for the creation of nuclear weapons-free zones in the Middle East to help reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism, the agency said.
In a statement in Vienna to an international ministerial conference on nuclear safety, Mansouri called on the IAEA to enhance technical assistance to member states on establishing effective nuclear security and safety systems and advise them on the importance of joining relevant international conventions, particularly the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.
He asked the IAEA to establish a regional and international cooperation network to help countries implement their international nuclear obligations and to reassure the international community, especially neighboring countries, about the strength of their nuclear security systems.
Qatar, which has the world's third-largest natural gas reserves and ample gas production to fuel its power plants, is not among the various Middle Eastern countries to have adopted nuclear power programs. However, of the Persian Gulf emirate's close neighbors in the Gulf Cooperation Council, the UAE is building a nuclear power station and Saudi Arabia has announced plans to do the same.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Gulf, an Iranian official said Tuesday that output from Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant was slightly exceeding the plant's 1,000 MW nameplate generating capacity. The announcement followed recent reports of malfunctions at the plant and a strong earthquake in the Bushehr area in April that killed at least 30 people. Those developments have significantly raised concerns about the safety of the Bushehr plant among Iran's Arab neighbors.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Jordan and Egypt are in the early stages of nuclear power development; and Israel, which is not a signatory to the UN Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, is understood to have undeclared nuclear weapons. The US and other Western governments suspect Iran of seeking to develop nuclear arms, but Tehran has repeatedly denied such allegations.
--Tamsin Carlisle, email@example.com
--Edited by James Leech, firstname.lastname@example.org
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