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Belarus halts plan to give up uranium

Associated Press / August 20, 2011

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MINSK - Belarus said yesterday that it has suspended an effort to give up fully its Soviet-era stockpile of highly enriched uranium with US assistance, in response to new US sanctions.

The Foreign Ministry said Belarus will make sure the material is stored securely in line with its international commitments.

The United States has conducted a longtime effort to secure nuclear materials in former Soviet nations to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

Last December, Belarus committed to eliminating its stockpile of highly enriched uranium by year’s end. Prior to the agreement, Belarus, Russia, the United States, and the International Atomic Energy Agency moved two shipments of the material into secure facilities in Russia.

President Alexander Lukashenko said Belarus still has “hundreds of kilograms’’ of highly enriched uranium, but his government has refused to disclose the exact amount.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh said the decision to freeze the stockpile’s elimination was made because of “unfounded and illegitimate US sanctions.’’

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