Sunday

23rd Jul 2017

US to EU: Middle East and Africa pose risk of 'dirty bomb'

Countries in Africa and the Middle East are a greater threat than old nuclear facilities in former Soviet republics as sources of material for a "dirty bomb," US officials say.

"In north Africa and the Middle East you have terrorist organisations, unstable governments, in some cases actual civil conflict and lack of control over sovereign territory. In the former Soviet Union we still have remaining challenges, but we are dealing with relatively stable governments with which we have a history of engagement," Simon Limage, a non-proliferation specialist at the US state department, told EUobserver.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Weapons from Libya have already spread to Mali and Syria, the US says (Photo: BRC)

His colleague in the US department of energy, Anne Harrington, added: "All of these issues you could also apply to Pakistan."

She noted: "The risk of using these things [nuclear, chemical and biological materials] in a dirty bomb or a radiological dispersal device is of great concern to us."

Limage and Harrington were in Brussels this week to launch talks with EU countries on how to stop weapons of mass destruction [WMDs] being smuggled into Western allies, such as Jordan and Turkey, or into Europe and the US.

The dialogue comes amid mounting evidence of use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Harrington gave some examples of past US projects for the kind of work the US now wants to do with EU states.

She said the US has created a secure crossing point on the Jordan-Syria border and has given it mobile detection vans to help control desert routes.

It has also beefed up security at the Jordanian port of Aqaba and trained Jordanian border officials.

"We teach them things like: 'What does a sealed radiological source look like? If you see one coming through your checkpoint, what do you do?'," Harrington explained.

She said the EU and US will also share knowledge.

"We know there are well established smuggling routes, for example from central Africa through Libya to Europe. This has been a route since the time of the caravans. The oases haven't moved," she noted.

Limage said EU states have better relations than the US with some Middle East countries, mentioning Lebanon.

"We've had a hard time building capacity with Lebanon for various reasons, but it's in such a strategic area that we can't ignore its role," he said.

He noted the importance of anti-American feeling - linked to its support for Israel and to the 2003 Iraq war - should not be exaggerated, however.

"These feelings have not prevented co-operation on matters of national security for these countries," he said.

WMDs aside, Britain and France say they will ship conventional weapons, such as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, to Syrian rebels if upcoming peace talks fail.

The US is also saying "all possible options" are on the table to ensure the fall of the Syrian regime.

Limage noted that conventional arms are "the most immediate and dangerous threat" in terms of proliferation in the region.

He said one "disturbing" development is the transfer of Libyan weapons to conflicts in Mali and Syria after the 2011 Libya war.

There is speculation in Europe that Britain and France are bluffing on arms to Syria in order to get the regime to negotiate.

But with diplomatic efforts unravelling to get Syrian leaders to talk to rebels in Geneva in August or September, one EU diplomat predicted that the UK and France will go ahead.

"I don't think they would bluff on a matter of such great international importance," the EU contact said.

EU arms to Syria: what, how and if

Britain and France are since Saturday free to ship arms to Syrian rebels. But many analysts think the idea is "a bluff."

Juncker: Death penalty will end Turkey's EU bid

Turkish president Erdogan said he would reinstate capital punishment, for people behind last year's failed military coup. But European Commission president Juncker says the move would end Turkey's bid to join the EU.

Cyprus talks up in the air

A week after the failure of negotiations to reunite the islands, Greek Cypriots are calling on Turkish Cypriots to reaffirm their commitment to the process.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary