Obama Approves Nuclear Energy Program for UAE
By Mary Beth Sheridan
The White House said today that President Obama has approved an agreement to help build a nuclear-energy program in the United Arab Emirates, setting up a congressional review of the controversial accord.
The agreement was reached at the end of the administration of President George W. Bush, and left for Obama to shepherd through Congress. The new president's team sees it as a way to prevent Middle Eastern countries from building nuclear weapons under the guise of energy programs.
Under the accord, the UAE agrees not to enrich uranium to run its nuclear plants, or reprocess spent fuel. Those steps could be used to create weapons-grade fuel. In exchange, the UAE can buy fuel and other materials for its nuclear-energy plants from U.S. businesses.
The UAE has also agreed to intensive international inspections to show its nuclear-energy plants aren't cheating. American officials have described the pact as a model for the region, where several countries have announced ambitions to develop nuclear energy.
But a number of lawmakers and non-proliferation experts worry the agreement doesn't have strict enough safeguards. While they don't believe the UAE might try to build a bomb, they do worry about other nations in the area.
In a memo released today by the White House, Obama said he had determined the agreement will "promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security."
The agreement goes to Congress for a 90-day review period. It goes into effect unless both chambers pass resolutions of disapproval.
The accord has been sitting at the White House for weeks as a scandal unfolded over a video smuggled out of the UAE that showed a member of the royal family brutally beating an Afghan businessman with a cattle prod, wooden planks and a cigarette lighter, reportedly over a business feud. The five-year-old tape was shown in the House Human-Rights Commission last week. The royal sheikh was detained this month pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, according to the UAE government.
Posted at 5:57 PM ET on May 20, 2009
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