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Monday, October 16, 2006

More countries could develop nuclear bombs: IAEA

By Karin Strohecker from Reuters

"VIENNA (Reuters) - As many as 30 countries may develop the capacity to produce nuclear weapons swiftly unless more is done to tackle the spread of the technology, the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said on Monday.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), issued the warning a week after North Korea said it had tested a nuclear bomb.

"We are dealing with almost as I call them virtual nuclear weapons states," ElBaradei said in an opening speech to a nuclear safeguards conference in Vienna.

He added a new approach was needed "so not to end up with nine weapons states but another 20 or 30 who have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in a very short time span."

Five countries -- the U.S., Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom -- have formally declared their nuclear weapons and signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The four other nations known or suspected to have an atomic bomb are India, Pakistan, Israel, and now North Korea.

ElBaradei said new challenges had emerged as the nuclear technology was available for both peaceful and non peaceful purposes.(...)"

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