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Loose nuclear material threatens U.S., forum told

Former Sen. Sam Nunn rated efforts to secure nuclear stockpiles a three on a scale of one to 10.

By wire services
Published June 28, 2005


WASHINGTON - Former Sen. Sam Nunn said Monday that the United States and other countries "could face disaster" unless they accelerate efforts to keep nuclear bombmaking materials out of the hands of terrorists.

"The terrorists are racing, and we are somewhere between a walk and a crawl," the Georgia Democrat told a forum organized by former members of the 9/11 commission to measure progress on security recommendations they issued a year ago.

Nunn, who as a senator co-sponsored a U.S. program that helps the former Soviet states dismantle or secure their nuclear stockpiles, said responsibility for safeguarding the world's nuclear materials lies largely with the United States and Russia. On a scale of one to 10, he rated that effort a three.

Nunn laid out a nightmare scenario in which a terrorist group detonated a nuclear bomb in one city and then announced that they were going to blow up another.

"That's the kind of horror we would face," said Nunn, who is CEO of the nonprofit group Nuclear Threat Initiative. "We believe that ... seeing the danger is the first step to improving security, and that public understanding is absolutely essential if we are to meet these challenges head-on."

Nunn urged the United States to resolve a longstanding dispute over legal liability that he said has "gummed up" the U.S.-aided drive to secure Russia's nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Nunn said he was hopeful that the issue - which involves who would pay if there were an accident during the process of securing the materials - will be settled when President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet next week in Scotland at the annual G-8 economic summit.

He also urged the two governments to reach agreement on the monitoring of smaller, tactical nuclear weapons. "We don't have good counts on those; we don't know where they are," Nunn said. He rated progress in this area at one on a scale of one to 10.

Despite his sobering assessment, Nunn said that some progress has been made, including the removal of all nuclear weapons from the former Soviet states of Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus and Libya's decision to give up its nuclear ambitions.

U.S., allies to merge terrorist watch lists

TORONTO - The United States, Canada and Mexico pledged Monday to shore up security by integrating their terrorist watch lists and beefing up joint protection of borders and bridges.

At the same time, they promised to develop a single program to facilitate the free flow of people and goods across their borders.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and his Canadian and Mexican counterparts unveiled a list of targets and initiatives in Ottawa.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said 300 proposals were under review to ensure security and the free flow of trade and harmonize the screening of dangerous people or cargo.