A Model for Curtailing Nuclear Proliferation; Kazakhstan Gave Up Its Nuclear-Weapons Program Years Ago
Byline: Nursultan Nazarbayev, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
In February, Kazakhstan hosted a fresh round of talks between Iran and the group of six countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany) on IranAAEs nuclear program. The next round of high-level talks start Friday, again in Almaty, amid signs that progress is possibly being made on this complicated and dangerous issue.
I offered Almaty as a venue for negotiations in the hope that the experience of our young country would be useful. Iran is our neighbor across the Caspian Sea. We respect the people of Iran and its great history and culture. We conduct continuous dialogue with Tehran on many aspects of regional security, including the nuclear issue, and we understand IranAAEs concerns. We are convinced that a fair and long-term resolution to all issues related to IranAAEs nuclear program is achievable only by peaceful and diplomatic means.
As the worldAAEs largest uranium producer, we support the peaceful use of nuclear power. No other country can match our achievement of voluntary denuclearization after we inherited the worldAAEs fourth-largest nuclear arsenal in 1991, when the USSR was dissolved.
More than 20 years ago, the people of Kazakhstan made a principled choice in favor of a non-nuclear-weapons world. That process began in Almaty in 1991 when I signed a decree to close the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. It put an end to 40 years of nuclear tests. The power of these explosions was equal to 2,500 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima. More than 1.5 million people suffered from those nuclear tests, and the radiation polluted an area roughly the size of todayAAEs Germany.
As an independent state, our position was clear: Kazakhstan should become a state free of nuclear weapons. We, therefore, signed agreements for the withdrawal of those nuclear weapons and their means of delivery from our country.
In exchange, Kazakhstan gained the status of a non-nuclear-weapon state and international guarantees of security and territorial integrity from the leading nuclear powers Au the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China. With the assistance of Russia and the United States, we eliminated the nuclear-weapons infrastructure on our territory.
In the following years, Kazakhstan became a leading participant in the global process of strengthening the non-proliferation regime. In 1994, I sanctioned the transfer of about 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, which would have been sufficient for the production of 20 atomic bombs, from Kazakhstan to the United States.
In 2005, with U.S. participation, we completed a project to blend down three tons of highly enriched uranium to a level of low enrichment for peaceful use.
Kazakhstan also became one of the initiators of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia that was formed in September 2006. …