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North Korea Shuts its Nuclear Reactor

The first, big step towards North Korean disarmament was confirmed by IAEA inspectors today. The plutonium producing facility in Yongbyon is now closed—the result of a diplomatic breakthrough acheived through the Six Party talks in February.So what does this mean? For one, it shows just how impractical refusing to negotiate with one's enemies can be. From December 2002 to February 2007 -- when direct diplomacy was shunned -- the North Korean government is estimated to have produced enough plutonium for ten nuclear weapons (and of course, actually detonated a nuclear weapon last October.) But more to the point, the recent progress shows that Security Council unanimity, combined with focused regional diplomacy and direct bilateral engagement with the United States can achieve desirable non-proliferation outcomes.
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Iran agrees to new UN nuclear inspections

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced that it's reached an agreement with Iranian authorities to allow new inspections and safeguards.
...[I]nspectors will visit the heavy water research reactor at Arak by the end of this month and will also finalize the safeguards approach at the fuel enrichment plant in Natanz early next month, the IAEA said in a press statement issued at its headquarters in Vienna.
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A ‘North Korean Model’ for Nuclear Disarmament

Without much fanfare, there has been a recent flury of progress toward actual, verifiable North Korean nuclear disarmament. In the latest development, the IAEA announced this morning that a team should be on the ground by Saturday, July 14 to oversee the shutdown of the plutonium producing Yongbyon facility.So what does this mean for the wider non-proliferation debate? It would seem that Security Council sanctions, backed by regional diplomacy and direct bi-lateral engagement with the United States can coax a country away from its nuclear ambitions.
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The UN and Counterterrorism

Writing in the Washington Post, Column Lynch exposes the conundrum raised by Abdul Hakim Monib, an Afghan provincial governor who is at once a key American ally and on a UN list of suspected international terrorists. Monib, you see, was a former Taliban leader who broke ranks in 2002 and joined the government of Hamid Kharzai. But the sanctions list hasn't been updated to reflect Monib's reconciliation with Kharzai, so dealing with him can be somewhat legally troubling.
"This is a perfect case where time has passed, things have changed, but the committee hasn't and the list hasn't," [Eric Rosand of the Center on Global Counter-Terrorism Cooperation said.] "The list is so poorly managed that no one has confidence in it anymore, and nobody puts forward names."
The committee to which Rosand refers is the U.N. Security Council's Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctions panel, which was formed in 1999. In last month's installment of UNF Insights, Rosand explains why, exactly, the Al Qaeda sanctions list is stale, and what can be done to enhance the UN's counter-terrorism work.
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Budget Crunch at IAEA = Scary

The International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors met two weeks ago for budget negotiations, but could not agree to a funding increase for the agency. To make matters worse, donors have not yet delivered over $35 million dollars in promised contributions. That may not seem like a tremendous amount, but the IAEA's total budget is only $379 million.In a rare move, IAEA Director Mohammed elBaredei appealed directly to the Board of Governors, which is composed of thirty-five IAEA member states, to urge them to consider the consequences of an IAEA budget that provides for zero-growth. A summary of his remarks (which were only made public last week) is below the jump -- and is well worth reading in full.elBaredei's plea makes me wonder if we are living on borrowed time. Accidents are bound to happen, particularly as more and more countries seek nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuel. But, as he points out, the agency's ability to respond to a Chernobyl style incident is severely diminished by an overstretched budget. Also, some of the important verification work the agency does in places like North Korea and Iran may be called into question by the ageing environmental sampling technology the agency is forced to use. elBaredei even says that the IAEA must outsource some of its lab work, calling into question the whole principal of neutrality that gives the IAEA its credibility.The board has until September to finalize the budget, so there is a chance that they may reconsider. The alternative -- an IAEA without the resources to counter, say, nuclear smuggling -- is truly frightening.
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IAEA in North Korea

Some welcome non-proliferation news: IAEA inspectors are on the ground in North Korea. Five years ago, you may recall, the DPRK booted all inspectors from their country following allegations by the United States that DPRK had a secret uranium enrichment program in violation of the Agreed Framework. Since then, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon.According to news reports, the IAEA team is currently in Pyongyang and will visit the country's main nuclear facility in Yongbyon tomorrow.
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New IAEA Report on Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency released a new report detailing Iranian non-compliance with Security Council demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program. American officials are not pleased. From the Washington Post:
Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns called the IAEA report "disturbing, because it shows that Iran is effectively thumbing its nose at the U.N. and the entire international community. If Iran does not agree to sit down and negotiate, which we would prefer they do, then I'm quite sure there will be united and strong international pressure for a third resolution.""The purpose would be to demonstrate to Iran that it is isolated and will pay an increasingly heavy cost for this outrageous behavior," Burns said.
In today's press conference, President Bush responded to the report by expressing his desire to pursue a tougher set of sanctions against Iran in the Security Council. Given the low expectations for a planned meeting next week between Iranian negotiator Ali Larjani and Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, we may soon see new action at the Security Council to step up the pressure on Iran.
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ICC probes into Central African Republic

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced an investigation into alleged crimes, most notably widespread rape, committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003."My Office has carefully reviewed information from a range of sources. We believe that grave crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the Court were committed in the Central African Republic," said ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.Moreno-Ocampo continued, "We will conduct our own independent investigation, gather evidence, and prosecute the individuals who are most responsible."More
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UNIFIL 2

Remember back to summer 2006. Hezbollah rockets rained down in northern Israel and Israeli retaliatory air strikes left hundreds of thousands internally displaced in Lebanon. For weeks, the situation remained hopelessly stuck. The Security Council had discussed ways to stop the fighting, and on August 14 authorized a peacekeeping force. But until the peacekeeping force actually asserted itself in northern Lebanon, Israel would not withdraw its forces and neither would Israel lift its sea and air blockade until other parts of the resolution were implemented.In late summer Kofi Annan traveled to the region to address these outstanding issues and shore up the Security Council resolution. During a frantic bout of shuttle diplomacy that took the then Secretary General to 12 countries in 11 days, Annan was able to win the right set of concessions from both parties and convince member states to rapidly deploy peacekeepers to southern Lebanon.Now, six months later, the new Secretary General has set foot in southern Lebanon where the ceasefire is holding.