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Low chance of terrorists obtaining nukes; But governments must be vigilant, US expert says

(AP) Terrorists have little chance of obtaining enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb, but governments must remain on guard against the possibility, a top U.S. expert said Friday. 

Only about 18 pounds of highly enriched uranium far too little to make a nuclear device is believed to have leaked into the global black market, said Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for nonproliferation at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. 

“This is the classic low-probability, high-consequence danger,” he said. 

Fitzgerald, the State Department’s former deputy assistant secretary for nonproliferation, spoke to reporters ahead of the institute’s annual meeting of defense chiefs and scholars in Singapore. 

A minimum of about 50 pounds of weapons-grade uranium would be needed to make a implosion-type nuclear device, while four times that much would be required to make a much simpler device, he said. 

Most attempts to smuggle uranium involve small amounts, Fitzpatrick said, citing a sting operation on the Russia-Georgia border last year in which 3.5 ounces of the radioactive material was recovered. 

“Probably it’s not so easy to get hold of fissile material, but that doesn’t mean complacency should rule. Maybe it’s only the tip of the iceberg,” Fitzpatrick said. 

Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network has expressed interest in obtaining nuclear weapons while Iran, considered a major sponsor of Islamic terrorist groups by Washington, is in a deadlock with the West over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. 

Fears of nuclear weapons technology falling into terrorist hands were also stirred by investigations into the black market network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. 

A 2004 U.N.resolution requires all members to pass laws preventing terrorists and black marketeers from dealing in weapons of mass destruction, the materials to make them, and the missiles and other systems to deliver them. 

Fitzpatrick called the resolution a “good start,” but said many governments have yet to implement its requirements. 

Still, the public should not be overly anxious about the possibility of a terrorist obtaining a nuclear bomb, he said. 

“Is it a kind of a risk that the public should be worrying about day to day? I would say not,” he said. 

“But is it the kind of risk that governments should spend a great deal of attention trying to prevent? Absolutely,” he said.

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June 1, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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