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May 03, 1991 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-05-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BACKGROUND

HELEN DAVIS

Foreign Correspondent

A

British intelligence
report this week is
believed to spell out
the details of an Algerian
project that is designed to
provide the Arab world with
its first nuclear weapons
before the end of the decade.
The report, a collaborative
effort by Britain's civilian
and military intelligence
services, claims that the
facility is being constructed
with assistance from China
and is expected to cause
widespread alarm
throughout the West, not
least in Israel.
The nuclear plant, near
the town of Oussera in the
foothills of the Atlas Moun-
tains about 165 miles south
of Algiers, is part of a
military complex that also
contains an airbase and is
reportedly defended by a
dense forest of anti-aircraft
missile batteries.
The entire area has been
designated a closed military
zone and is surrounded by a
high perimeter fence which
is under constant surveil-
lance by Algerian security
forces.
The Oussera complex is
believed to contain a reactor
hall and a reprocessing plant
that will be capable of pro-
ducing weapons-grade
plutonium.
Based on the dimensions of
its cooling towers, techni-
cians estimate that the reac-
tor has a capacity of 40
megawatts, which is con-
sidered too large for a simple
experimental plant.
They also doubt that the
reactor is intended to ge-
nerate nuclear power for
civilian purposes as there
are no electrical facilities or
large population centers
nearby.
The reactor is scheduled to
be completed by 1993 and
will be fueled by substantial
stocks of uranium dioxide
which Algeria has already
imported from Argentina.

Artwork from Newsday by Anthony D'Adano. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Preparing
The 'Arab Bomb'

An intelligence report claims that Algeria may soon
provide the Arab world with its first nuclear weapons.

By the time it is commis-
sioned, the reactor will be
capable of producing some
12 pounds of enriched
plutonium a year, enough to
produce the first "Arab
Bomb" by 1998.
Algeria already possesses
a reactor, which was sup-
plied for research purposes
by Argentina, but the rela-
tionship soured when the
Argentinian government in-
sisted that the International
Atomic Energy Agency be
given regular access to the
reactor in order to ensure
that nuclear material was
not being diverted for
military purposes.
At that point, Algeria
turned to China, which has
refused to sign the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty
and which is believed to
have previously sold nuclear
technology to Iraq, Pakistan,
North Korea and South
Africa.
Like China, Algeria has
not signed the treaty, and
diplomatic sources note that
Algerian officials have
pointedly remarked that the

outcome of the Gulf crisis
would have been quite diff-
erent if Iraq had possessed
nuclear weapons.
Work on the Oussera reac-
tor began two years ago, but
the unusual nature of the
construction was only de-
tected by United States sur-
veillance satellites in
January this year.
Shortly afterward, the CIA
warned congressional intel-
ligence committees that

Algeria has shifted
perceptibly toward
the radical fringes
of the Arab world.

China was helping the
Algerians to design a
warhead for its Soviet-made
Scud-B missile delivery
systems.
Meanwhile, diplomatic
tension between Britain and
Algeria increased dramati-
cally last month when the
British Military Attache to
Algeria, William Cross, was
expelled after he was found
photographing the site.

Until recently, Algeria
was regarded as an impor-
tant conduit between Middle
East states, a role that was
enhanced in 1988 when it
helped broker the ceasefire
between Iraq and Iran after
their eight-year-long war.
However, Algeria has
since shifted perceptibly
toward the radical fringes of
the Arab world, embracing
Islamic fundamentalism and
increasing the volume of its
anti-Western rhetoric.
Crowds estimated at up to
a half-million thronged the
streets of Algeria's main
cities during the Gulf crisis
to declare their support for
Saddam Hussein, who was
reported to be planning to
seek asylum in Algiers if he
was forced to flee Iraq.
During the Golf war itself,
the North African state
adopted an openly pro-Iraqi
stance, which was ex-
emplified when President
Chadli Benjedid told the Na-
tional Assembly that "we
will stand by our brother
Iraq."

Algeria veered sharply
toward Islamic fundamen-
talism when local elections
were held last year, and it is
now considered likely that
the fundamentalists will
sweep to power at the nation-
al level later this year when
Algeria holds its first gen-
eral elections since winning
independence from France
in 1962.
The Algerian nuclear rev-
elation is the most serious,
but by no means the only,
evidence that the region is
once more engaged in a mas-
sive arms race.
Even as President Bush
prepares to unveil an arms
control program this month
— the first tangible expres-
sion of his much-vaunted
New World Order — there
are clear indications that the
Middle East is seeking
security not in peace but
rather in the acquisition of
ever-more sophisticated
weapons systems.
Not least among them is
Iraq, which has set up a
highly sophisticated sanc-
tions-busting operation in
Jordan, whose ambiguous
posture was interpreted as
sympathetic to Iraq's
Saddam Hussein during the
war.
Jordan has previously
acted as a "front" for Iraqi
arms purchases and, accor-
ding to Western intelligence
sources, Iraq is already ac-
quiring urgently needed re-
supplies of ammunition and
spare parts for its tanks, ar-
tillery pieces and heavy-
caliber machine guns via
Jordan from North Korea
and China.
Iraq is said to be paying for
its illicit arms imports
through income from oil,
which is being exported
through a Jordanian
pipeline in contravention of
the UN sanctions. It is also
drawing on funds deposited
in Jordan before the war and
on multi-billion-dollar Swiss
bank accounts held per-
sonally by Saddam Hussein
and his family. ❑

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

27



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