Wednesday, 31 March 2004

Ceisteanna (10)

John Perry

Ceist:

10 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has had contact with the Government in Pakistan with regard to the reported leaking from that country of information relating to the development of nuclear weaponry to Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10040/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

The recent revelations about a secret network illicitly trading in highly sensitive nuclear equipment and technology, organised by the former Pakistani chief scientific adviser A.Q. Khan, are of serious concern. This issue was on the agenda of the recent EU Troika meeting with Pakistan, held at foreign minister level, in Islamabad on 18 February 2004. The EU side, which was led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, expressed our serious concern at recent developments in Pakistan regarding proliferation activities. We also urged Pakistan to ensure a full investigation of these activities and to offer all assistance and co-operation required or requested by the International Atomic Energy Agency, particularly regarding its ongoing verification activities in Iran and Libya. The EU Troika was assured by Pakistan, at both foreign minister and presidential level, that there was no government knowledge or sanction for Dr. Khan's activities and that new controls have been put in place to prevent proliferation. Pakistan also indicated that it was willing to share information with the IAEA.

The issue of a black market in nuclear technology was addressed by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohammed El Baradei, in his statement to this month's IAEA board of governors meeting. Dr. El Baradei underlined the necessity of full co-operation on the part of those countries from which nuclear technology and equipment originated. The IAEA board of governors adopted, by consensus, a resolution concerning Iran on 13 March. This resolution notes with appreciation that the agency is investigating the supply routes and sources of technology and related equipment, and nuclear and non-nuclear materials, found in Iran. It also reiterates that the urgent, full and close co-operation with the agency by all third countries is essential in the clarification of outstanding questions concerning Iran's nuclear programme, including the acquisition of nuclear technology from foreign sources.

Ireland and our EU partners supported the terms of this resolution, the adoption of which was welcomed by the March meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. We urge all third countries to co-operate with the agency in accordance with the resolution. EU Ministers have agreed to continue their discussions on all aspects of the Iranian nuclear programme in light of IAEA director general El Baradei's next report, due in May. This report is scheduled for consideration at the meeting of the IAEA board of governors in June. Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to closely monitor developments.

I am grateful to the Minister of State for his reply. The Minister of State will be aware that Dr. Khan is, or certainly has been, something of a hero in his native country. The Pakistani government has dismissed his activities as the actions of a greedy person and has denied involvement in them. This may be the most extraordinary development of all time. Dr. Khan has got a slap on the wrists, is apparently able to keep his acquired property, and is swanning around the place like a hero.

We have just dealt with a question on Croatia. Croatia will not be admitted to the EU until it hands over a general for trial before the International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia. This case refers to people dealing in atomic bombs. The reaction of the US Administration, which is apparently concerned about terrorism, has been feeble. The reaction of the EU has been even more feeble. This issue has huge implications for regional and global safety. Will this matter be discussed at the EU-US summit? Will the IAEA be given new powers? Will those who trade in nuclear weapons be hauled before an international court or tribunal and made an example of so that others will not follow in this outrageous trade of nuclear weapons?

I agree with the Deputy's description of the seriousness of this matter. I will certainly convey his views at the EU-US summit and I agree that the issue warrants discussion at this level. At its recent meeting in Pakistan, the Troika indicated EU concerns about proliferation activities. We urged Pakistan to fully co-operate in the dismantling of the international black market network, as well as offering all assistance and co-operation required or requested by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The EU acknowledged the work on dismantling this network and indicated that it would co-operate with Pakistan in this matter. The Pakistani side emphasised that there had been no official knowledge or sanction of Dr. Khan's activities and that there were now new controls in the system to prevent proliferation. The troika emphasised to both India and Pakistan the Union's commitment to universalisation and strengthening of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — the NPT.

We have concerns over the controls in third countries and we must use political avenues to impress upon these countries the urgency of improving their export control system to ensure that proliferation does not occur. I met the head of the IAEA in the course of my work and was impressed with his work. We must support him in his efforts. I agree with the Deputy in suggesting that this matter be on the agenda for the EU-US dialogue.

A number of matters arise from the Minister of State's reply. For some time the Irish foreign policy was opposed not only to black market proliferation but also to proliferation as stated in the UN Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. In addition, it was in favour of disarmament. The Minister of State's reply could suggest that it is accepted that Pakistan and, I presume, India remain as nuclear powers, which would be abhorrent in a way. One would have hoped that the thrust of foreign policy was that this should be eliminated and would assist in creating better relations between the two countries.

The Minister of State also mentioned Dr. El Baradei. A war over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist has taken place. We now have a case of weapons of mass destruction that exist and the technology has been transmitted to another country, Iran. Does the Minister suggest that separate standards exist? For example, I understand that Libya, which has recently deconstructed its capacity, has moved its equipment and uranium to the United States. Does the Minister of State agree that existing nuclear powers have no discipline? Some nuclear powers, such as Israel, do not allow Dr. El Baradei assess their capacity. Is the Minister of State only opposed to black market activity in nuclear technology capacity?

As one who strongly supports the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, I consider this instrument to be the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. Historically Ireland has played a strong role in this area and will continue to do so.

That was some time ago.

In our Presidency capacity, we further stated that the EU would continue to underline the importance of this issue in all relevant fora. We will endeavour to be consistent as President of the European Union and at national level on this issue.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.