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    Siberian uranium enrichment center open to all - Russian UN envoy

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    Russia will grant any country in the world the use of an international uranium enrichment center currently being constructed in east Siberia, Russia's ambassador to the UN has said.

    UNITED NATIONS, October 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will grant any country in the world the use of an international uranium enrichment center currently being constructed in east Siberia, Russia's ambassador to the UN has said.

    The center, part of Moscow's non-proliferation initiative to create a network of enrichment centers under the UN nuclear watchdog's supervision, will be based at a chemical plant in Angarsk. The center will also be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste.

    "The center, co-founded by Russia and Kazakhstan, will be open to third countries without any political preconditions," Vitaly Churkin said on Monday.

    He said the center would be able to play an important role in nuclear nonproliferation by ensuring access to peaceful nuclear energy for all countries complying with their obligations in that realm.

    Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbor Kazakhstan, which holds 15% of the world's uranium reserves, signed documents in October 2006 to establish their first joint venture to enrich uranium, intended to begin in 2013.

    Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said last Thursday that other countries have shown interest in the Angarsk project.

    Ivanov also said fuel for nuclear power plants was a market product and any country represented in the International Atomic Energy Agency that was also signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty had the right to buy it.

    "But this is only in theory," Ivanov said. "Due to a variety of political reasons, a country may be denied access to uranium."

    Ukraine's Fuel and Energy Ministry said in June that the country intended to join the project in the near future.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin first raised the idea of joint nuclear enrichment centers early last year, in a bid to defuse tension over Iran's controversial nuclear program. The president said the centers would give countries transparent access to civilian nuclear technology without provoking international fears that enriched uranium could be used for covert weapons programs.

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