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« Rare Earth Investment Update | Main | Iran warns of a pre-emptive strike if interests threatened »

Civilian and peaceful nuclear energy an 'unalienable right'

This is the second of a series of interviews with ambassadors from countries participating in the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit slated for March 26-27. — ED.

By Philip Iglauer

Egypt believes the international community should make “no obstacle whatsoever that would hamper the inalienable right of a country to use nuclear materials for peaceful purposes” at next month’s Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

“It is the inalienable right of a country in the international community to use nuclear energy and nuclear materials for peaceful purposes. The Nuclear Security Summit, or any forum for that matter, should not be an obstacle to do that,” Egyptian Ambassador to Korea Mohamed El Zorkany said in an interview with The Korea Times on Tuesday at the Egyptian Embassy in Seoul.

Leaders from more than 50 nations worldwide will convene March 26-27 for the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit, a follow up meeting to a summit held in Washington, D.C. in 2010.

El Zorkany said that ultimate nuclear security means eliminating all nuclear materials used for nuclear weapons, and to obtain that security, “We need to eliminate nuclear weapons completely.”

One of the principal agenda items of the Seoul Summit is to better secure the world’s nuclear material to prevent it from ever falling into the hands of terrorists.

“The concept itself of the conference is an acceptable one, because no one wants nuclear material to fall into the hands of criminals, or terrorists, or the like,” he said.

“The role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is crucial, in this regard. Everything should be within the domain, within the competence of the IAEA, whether it is nuclear safety or nuclear security.”

Egypt is planning to develop nuclear power for the first time. It was about to start bidding for construction of a power plant before the Arab Spring swept across North Africa, toppling the Hosni Mubarak regime on Feb. 11, 2011.

“This was the last step, the site was chosen and agreed upon and the bidding was about to start.”

He said that Korea was very interested in the project, but El Zorkany, who has been his country’s chief representative in Korea since March 2099 said, “The plan is there. The site is there. The will is also there, but maybe the timing is not now, because of the political situation in Egypt.”

He said that the project could be worth a minimum $4 to $5 billion for each plant and that Egypt is looking to build three or four plants.

“We are having presidential elections in June. So, hopefully after the presidential elections and the transfer of power from the (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) to the new ruler of the country we can pursue this project again.”

He said that nuclear power was preferable to alternative sources of energy.

“We are choosing nuclear energy because of our economic growth, our growing population, and because of the higher demand for clean energy,” he said.

“If we want to achieve our development plans, we need nuclear power electricity generation,” he said.

“We are working on solar, but we do not have full access to the technology to make it practicable, he said. “We are working on it on a limited scale, but solar is not cost effective compared to nuclear.”

El Zorkany said that nuclear power is the worldwide trend.

“The United Arab Emirates made a contract with Korea to build new power plants, and Nigeria, Turkey and the Philippines are talking about it, too. It is a trend, and one that will continue,” he said.

El Zorkany said that on nuclear security Egypt and Korea are on “the same wave length.”

“What Korea is demanding here on the Korean Peninsula is precisely what we have been demanding in the Middle East, a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, a Middle East as a nuclear free zone, a Middle East with no dangers or risks from nuclear weapons,” he said.

He said that as early as 1974 Egypt pushed for the Middle East to become a nuclear weapons free zone presenting a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly.

There are nine nuclear weapons free zones today, covering all of Africa and Latin America and international areas including Antarctica, the sea floor and outer space.

“This was a resolution co-sponsored by Egypt and Iran, for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.”

The United States made the unprecedented move in supporting a 2010 UN resolution for a nuclear weapons zone, which Iran backed and Israel vehemently opposed.

El Zorkany said he cannot “freely prejudge” what is going to happen concerning speculation that Iran will be included in the language of a Seoul Declaration resulting from the Summit, but said, “Iran is an issue, but we are talking here about nuclear security without pinpointing one country or another.”

“This is a general discussion of the issue. If we pinpoint Iran, then maybe some other countries will want to start pinpointing another country. Some people might start talking about India or Pakistan,” he said.

“I think pinpointing and mentioning countries by name or finger pointing at one country, I don’t know if the Summit in its wisdom will find this useful,” he said.

Strengthening the role of the IAEA and Non-proliferation Treaty is of paramount importance for Egypt.

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