CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egypt will not sign on to a nuclear non-proliferation agreement which gives the U.N. nuclear watchdog the right to make intrusive short-notice inspections of nuclear facilities, the foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Egypt, which said in late October it would build several civilian nuclear power stations to meet its growing energy needs, ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1981, but has not signed on to the additional protocol.
In a speech delivered on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Egypt would not go beyond its existing commitments on monitoring of its nuclear program. “It’s necessary to adhere to the principal of not linking the provision of nuclear energy with the acceptance of obligations not specified in treaties and agreements,” Aboul Gheit said in the remarks, distributed by his ministry. “Egypt will not accept any additional obligations in this matter.”
Aboul Gheit said developing countries found themselves facing constraints beyond those set down in international treaties, which could make such countries “permanently dependent on developed countries” for nuclear energy needs. “There are attempts by some to make accession to the additional protocol a precondition to supplying nuclear technology,” he said, but emphasised “the protocol remains in reality a voluntary instrument that cannot be imposed.” He added that the Non-Proliferation Treaty did not deny states the right to enrich and reprocess nuclear fuel, so long as such activities were for peaceful purposes.
Egypt already has nuclear cooperation offers from China, Russia and Kazakhstan.
Experts on the issue have suggested that the United States could be willing to help Egypt develop its nuclear program if Egypt gave up its right to enrichment and reprocessing and signed the protocol.
Cairo suspended a peaceful nuclear programme after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, but maintains two research reactors.
The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) probed “failures” in reporting nuclear research in 2004, but concluded that the experiments were not weapons-related.