A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Qatar and the US related to nuclear energy could be signed as early as next month, Jackie Wolcott, US Special Envoy for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, said here yesterday.
She met with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Qatar Foundation (QF) during her visit here, with the latter expressing interest in scientific research. “We have a draft MoU that has been given to Qatar but has not been formalised yet. Hopefully, it will be formalised next month,” she said.
Qatar, along with other GCC states like Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have expressed interest in developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. “The (Bush) administration is very supportive of nuclear energy. If countries comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), we want to help them do it the right way."
However it is yet to be decided, at least formally, on whether the GCC states will proceed with nuclear development en bloc or individually. It could well be a combination of both as some countries are better off than others financially. “Our talks have been positive and we have talked to others in the region. There has been talk of a GCC-wide approach to nuclear energy and we listen to what they say,” said Wolcott.
An MoU would not be the be all and end all of cooperation between the two countries, as further agreements and papers would have to be signed. Moreover, to get a nuclear power plant up and running could take up to 12 years. However, an MoU would be a definite start.
Countries like Qatar are looking to the long-term as they seek to move away from finite oil and gas reserves for their energy needs. Wolcott emphasised matters are at a very early stage of consideration on the part of countries in the region but the US is delighted the GCC is looking at the possibilities in a responsible way. “We have a lot to offer on nuclear energy development. The GCC countries want to do it in the right way and be transparent," she said.
On Iran, she said moves are on to tighten sanctions against the country and the US is working with various partners to ensure this takes place. "What we have seen from Iran is non-compliance with its international obligations to the NPT. It is clear to the international community it is not developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes only," said Wolcott.
This led to a question being asked on why no action is being taken against a country like Israel, which unofficially has around 150 or so nuclear warheads. “Israel is not a signatory to NPT as are two or three other states. It is their sovereign right not to join,” she said. The US is also concerned with the possibility of rogue elements peddling nuclear technology. "There are a lot of activities in that area. However, the shutting down of the A Q Khan (the Pakistani scientist) network was important," said Wolcott.
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