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8.36 pm

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): I beg to move that this House should not adjourn until it has considered a clear and present danger: nuclear terrorism.

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    would be an alarming headline, but not one without precedent. If we knew that those terrorists were armed with a primitive nuclear device stolen from a loosely guarded Russian stockpile, it would be the stuff of nightmares. Yet, unknown to most people, that was a genuine threat investigated by the CIA and the FBI only months after the bombing of the World Trade Centre.

The collapse of the Soviet Union has made nuclear terrorism more likely. We rightly fear that terrorists and rogue states might gain access to Russian nuclear weapons and use them, or threaten to use them, against us. Despite Chechnya, it is in our enlightened self-interest to provide generous international financial assistance to Russia in order to reduce that threat.

Incidents of nuclear terrorism have already occurred, though they have received little publicity. In November 1995, the Chechen guerrilla leader, Shamil Basayev, informed Russian television that his group had placed a container of radioactive caesium 137 in the Ismailovo park in Moscow. Although Russian officials subsequently dismissed the threat, the fact that teams were sent around the city with Geiger counters underlines the seriousness with which it was taken at the time.

Another incident occurred in spring 1997, when a blackmailer telephoned the president's office threatening to sabotage a nuclear power plant. According to Russian security services, the threat was not an empty one and there was great relief when the blackmailer was arrested.

Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the threat of nuclear terrorism was virtually non-existent. What the Soviet Union called the

was one of the state's top funding priorities and was protected from the "Imperialist West" by one of the most efficient police states in the world. Internal security was never seen as a potential threat. Therefore no investment was made in alarm systems, closed circuit television cameras and radiation detectors. It is only in today's Russia of severe budgetary difficulties and widespread corruption that the unthinkable has suddenly become possible.

At times, the lack of concern shown by Russian authorities over nuclear security issues in Russia would be risible if it were not so serious. The northern fleet had its electricity cut off by the local power company for not paying its bills. That action posed a severe risk of a meltdown in one of the fleet's nuclear-powered submarines. In November last year, 20 soldiers of the strategic missile force--the body responsible for guarding nuclear weapons--were discharged as mentally unfit.

With the collapse of the economy, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Russian Government to fund security measures for civil and military nuclear establishments. Military personnel have been withdrawn from most civilian research and weapons production centres. Those civilian centres must now provide their own security, despite dramatically reduced budgets.

Thousands of former employees who are currently unemployed retain their security passes. Military sites are guarded by soldiers whose pay is often erratic and who must often operate out-dated, if not dangerous, facilities. The results of an official Russian inquiry into conditions at nuclear storage facilities are horrifying.

The 12th main directorate of the Defence Ministry, responsible for security at military nuclear sites, reported that, at one facility, officers and men had not been paid

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for three months and had thus suffered malnutrition that was severe enough to cause fainting fits. The officers were forced to borrow money to pay for the protective slippers used when working close to nuclear warheads.

All over Russia there are inadequately guarded facilities. In some places, nuclear materials are stored in no more than glass jars protected only by padlocks. The lack of proper inventories aids potential nuclear proliferation, for, if no one is aware exactly how much uranium or plutonium is stored, it is easy to make unauthorised withdrawals.

Such a scenario prompted President Clinton to authorise what is known as Project Sapphire. That was the covert removal of 600 kg of highly enriched uranium from the Kazak storage facility near the Iranian border. The laxity of the Kazak accounting was underlined by the fact that when the shipment arrived in the United States, it was found to contain 4 per cent. more uranium than that for which the US had paid.

It is not just a matter of future dangers if nothing is done--there is already a small but growing trade in radioactive material. The largest seizure came in August 1994, when 580 g of MOX--mixed oxide, used as fuel in light water reactors--was discovered at Munich airport on a Russian airliner. Of that 580 g, 300 to 350 g was plutonium close to weapons grade. The following year,8 g of plutonium-239 was discovered on the Swiss border. As the plutonium was more highly enriched than is usually found in nuclear weapons, it is believed to have been smuggled out of the Arzamas-16 research centre.

Nuclear proliferation has three major components: plant, fissile material and personnel. Russia is witnessing a haemorrhage of experienced personnel from the formerly closed nuclear weaponry design and production centres. During the Soviet era, personnel in those secret establishments were some of the best paid and most highly respected members of society. However, since 1991, they have been periodically unpaid for months on end, their salaries have failed to keep pace with inflation even when they have been paid, and they have lost their status.

The situation worsened in April 1998 when the Russian Parliament stopped closed cities, where most of those facilities are located, retaining all taxes collected within their borders, and returned them to dependence on uncertain central Government funding. In such circumstances, it is not surprising that some Russian scientists are tempted to offer their services elsewhere. The average wage for a scientist in one of the closed cities is about $70 a month. Iran is offering up to $5,000 a month to the same people.

The scale of the problem is huge. In 1992, the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy estimated that up to 3,000 former Soviet scientists had a detailed knowledge of nuclear weapon construction. That does not take into account the thousands of other specialists whose knowledge, although not directly related to weapon construction, could still be of use to a state or group looking to produce a nuclear device.

What can be done? The United States has taken the lead. Since its inception in 1991, Congress has appropriated more than $2.2 billion to the Nunn-Lugar co-operative threat reduction programme. The programme has been a success and has made a vital contribution to United States and global security. Under its auspices,

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3,300 strategic nuclear warheads were removed from Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine, which are now free of nuclear weapons, and 4,700 former Soviet warheads have been removed from strategic weapon systems that used to point west. Hundreds of launchers, missiles and nuclear test tunnels have been destroyed.

It is clear, however, that the scale of the problem is so great that the programme does not go far enough. Russia needs western financial help to assist it to ratify the START 2 treaty. One of the major reasons for Russian delay, apart from nationalist opposition, is the $7.5 billion estimated cost of implementing START 2 for Russia. I suggest that self-interest should prompt the international community to assist with funds for this purpose. If the treaty is not ratified, the United States alone will have to spend $4 billion maintaining weapons that eventually will have to be destroyed.

Secondly, the west must provide money to improve Russia's nuclear safety and security infrastructure. According to General Maskin, head of the Defence Ministry's 12th main directorate, "reliability of personnel" is still a key. Physical security must also be addressed. The co-operative threat reduction programme will provide the Russian military with an automated system to track its nuclear materials. This system should be offered to non-military research establishments and the nuclear power station network. Investment funds must be made available to improve the physical security at nuclear facilities.

Links must be forged between Russian nuclear scientists and their counterparts in the west so that the Russians feel that they are fully integrated into the international scientific community. Russian research facilities should be twinned with American and European centres so that their work can be directed towards civilian research. The United States agreement to buy at least 500 tonnes of highly enriched uranium is an important non-proliferation measure and provides research centres with funds for conversion. Can we not go further? Could we not pay Russia to destroy an increasing part of its nuclear stockpile?

The United States and the international community are facing a huge potential proliferation problem, but one that can be brought under control with sufficient funding. Without further funding, the Russian nuclear weapons complex faces almost certain collapse. That will usher in a free for all among rogue states and terrorist groups, which will then pick up the radioactive pieces.

8.48 pm

Dr. Rudi Vis (Finchley and Golders Green): I return to the issue of Cyprus, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). I am a member of the various groups that are associated with Cyprus and I have been to Cyprus three times. I have declared this information.

As my hon. Friend said, the United Kingdom has a grave responsibility for the future of Cyprus as a guarantor power. As he also said, a recent decision was made in Helsinki to allow Turkey to become an aspirant member of the European Union. I understand that that was due to the enormous pressure that the United States put on the leadership of the EU. I am concerned about the issue and, in the next two or three minutes, I shall attempt to explain why that is.

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I shall mention five issues that count against the Turkish state. The first is Cyprus, an issue which my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting presented so well; I shall not repeat his points. The second, which is known to us all, is the unacceptable discrimination of the Turkish state against the Kurdish people. Thirdly, there is the Loizidou case. Hon. Members may ask, "What is the Loizidou case compared with Cyprus and the Kurdish question?" It does not seem as important, yet it is crucial. A Greek Cypriot woman overwhelmingly won her case against the Turkish state in the European Court of Human Rights. She cannot go to her home, and is thus deprived of enjoying her home. She was offered a huge sum of money, but, a year and a half later, Turkey has not abided by the Court's decision. A nation cannot remain a member of the Council of Europe if it does not observe the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

The fourth issue is vital, and it was raised by a British Conservative delegate at the Council of Europe. Western European nations and other countries all over the world are overwhelmed by refugees and asylum seekers from Turkey. How can that be if Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe? It should uphold the human rights that are laid down by that organisation. The fifth issue is the death penalty, which will be meted out to Mr. Ocalan by the Turkish state. Again, that is against the Council of Europe's rules. If the Council of Europe has one achievement, it is speaking out against the death penalty. That is admirable.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting said earlier, Turkey has not adhered to many United Nations resolutions on Cyprus. We may be in a conflicting position, in which Turkey is thrown out of the Council of Europe while simultaneously being accepted as an aspirant member of the European Union. That would be most embarrassing. Those five issues should be raised repeatedly with Turkey before we progress further with relations between the Turkish state and the European Union. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to pass on those comments to the Foreign Office.

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