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U.S. Renews Atomic Trade Talks With Jordan

The United States last week carried out a fresh round of civilian atomic trade talks with Jordan, the Jordan Times reported (see GSN, Feb. 17).

Bilateral negotiations on a pact that would permit U.S. firms to export atomic materials and technology to Jordan were hobbled in 2008 when Amman refused to agree to the U.S. condition that it surrender the right as a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty member state to enrich uranium, according to previous reporting. The Arab nation possesses large reserves of natural uranium, which can be refined for use as nuclear reactor fuel or nuclear-weapon material (see GSN, Sept. 29, 2010).

On Thursday, U.S. representatives headed by State Department special envoy Ellen Tauscher discussed the terms of a civilian accord with Jordanian officials. A trade deal between the two nations is said to be close to completion (see GSN, Jan. 12).

The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission characterized the meeting as a "positive step forward" and predicted that Amman and Washington would begin advanced trade negotiations that would result in an accord "within months."

Nonproliferation advocates and U.S. lawmakers have expressed hope that future U.S. atomic trade deals would incorporate agreements by the recipient nation not to conduct uranium enrichment and fuel reprocessing, which can also generate fissile material. The Obama administration, though, has said it would consider the matter on a "case by case" basis rather than pushing for the concession in all agreements (see GSN, Jan. 23).

"It seems the U.S. is viewing each country on a case-by-case basis, and we are confident that with this change in policy and the desire of both sides to reach an agreement, we will sign an agreement soon," JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan said (Taylor Luck, Jordan Times/Zawya.com, Feb. 17).


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