Crawford (AFP) Dec 27, 2001
US President George W. Bush, who has warned that chief terror suspect Osama bin Laden seeks nuclear arms, wants to enhance US aid aimed at keeping Russian weapons and know-how from unfriendly hands, the White House said Thursday.
Bush "is committed to strong, effective cooperation with Russia and the other states of the Former Soviet Union to reduce weapons of mass destruction and prevent their proliferation," the White House said in a statement.
The move came after an official review that gave generally good marks to over 30 bilateral nonproliferation programs totaling 750 million dollars in the 2002 US federal budget, according to the statement.
"The review is now complete. It found that most US programs to assist Russia in threat reduction and non-proliferation work well, are focused on priority tasks and are well managed," the White House said.
Since the end of the Cold War, Washington has worked to help Moscow dismantle nuclear weapons, safeguard weapons-grade plutonium, and prevent terrorists and so-called "rogue states" like Iraq or North Korea from getting arms and related technology or aid from former Soviet weapons scientists.
Bush now wants to enhance programs that aim to keep such researchers from going to work for US foes and other initiatives that oversee the conversion of fissile materials from Russian weapons into commercial atomic fuel.
Another measure marked for expansion helps Moscow secure and consolidate weapons-grade nuclear material, according to the White House, which said the United States would also seek to accelerate completion of a chemical weapons destruction facility in Russia.
The White House also said other programs would be "adjusted, refocused or reexamined," including an effort to make the Plutonium Disposition program in Russia "less costly and more effective."
"The Administration remains committed to the agreement with Russia to dispose of excess plutonium," the White House said in this flyspeck Texas town as Bush relaxed on his nearby ranch.
The White House statement also said the project to end Russian production of weapons-grade plutonium would be transferred to the US Department of Energy from the US Department of Defense.
Other efforts include merging the US Department of Energy's Second Line of Defense Program with its Material Protection, Control and Accounting Program "to help accelerate cooperation with Russia to install nuclear detection equipment at border posts," the White House said.
Since the September 11 terror strikes Bush blames on bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network, the US leader has repeatedly warned that the Saudi-born militant wants weapons of mass destruction and will not shy from using them.
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Protection and Control of Nuclear Materials
Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and International Security
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