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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Seeking to Limit Nuclear Fuel Nations

WASHINGTON -- President George W. Bush was scheduled to announce a new U.S. proposal Wednesday to limit the number of nations permitted to produce nuclear fuel, senior administration officials said Tuesday. He will declare that the global network in nuclear goods created by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the creator of Pakistan's bomb, disclosed huge gaps in current agreements to stop the spread of nuclear weapons technology, they added.

In an afternoon speech at the National Defense University, they said, Bush will call for a re-examination of what one official called the "basic bargain" underlying the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: that those states that promise not to pursue nuclear weapons will receive help in developing facilities to produce nuclear power.

The administration officials said that Bush would not call for a reopening of the 1970 treaty, which one senior Bush aide said would be "too hard." Instead, he will appeal to the 40-nation "Nuclear Suppliers Group," made up of the 40 countries that sell most nuclear technology, to refuse to sell nuclear equipment to any country that currently does not have fully operating facilities to enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel into plutonium. Those are the two main paths to building weapons-grade fuel.

The senior official said Tuesday that Iran and North Korea were examples of "regimes which have cynically exploited loopholes in the existing treaty" to build up the capability to obtain nuclear fuel.

While proliferation experts have long agreed that the treaty is flawed, Bush's proposal is bound to raise protests from developing nations that charge that the United States and the other declared nuclear states -- Britain, France, Russia and China -- are simply trying to extend their rights to produce weapons while denying other states that capability. In addition to those five, Israel, India and Pakistan have operative nuclear weapons, and North Korea is believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to have at least two and perhaps several more.

The administration official said that Bush would also discuss for the first time the details of how the Khan network operated, being careful to praise Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and to portray the former head of the Pakistani government's Khan Research Laboratories as a rogue scientist.

Officials say Bush will also name B.S.A. Tahir, a Sri Lankan-born trader who moved to Dubai as a child, as the "other major node" in the Khan network.

It was Tahir, who divides his time between Kuala Lumpur and Dubai, who negotiated with a Malaysian company called Scomi to produce parts for high-speed centrifuges, which enrich uranium, Scomi officials have said.

It was the interception of one such shipment to Libya in October that allowed U.S. intelligence officials to present Pakistan with evidence about Khan.