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US Urges Malaysia to Tighten Nuclear Export Controls - 2004-03-02


The United States is urging Malaysia to tighten controls against the trade in nuclear technology. The call from a visiting U.S. envoy follows the disclosure that a Malaysian firm produced nuclear technology bound for Libya.

The Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation, John Wolf, pressed Malaysian officials to crackdown on nuclear trafficking and tighten export and production controls on nuclear technology.

During his one-day visit, Mr. Wolf held talks with Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar and other officials. There were conflicting reports on whether Mr. Wolf met with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose son is part owner of the firm that allegedly made the parts that were being shipped to Libya.

U.S. Embassy spokesman in Kuala Lumpur, Frank Whitaker, said Assistant Secretary Wolf hoped for increased cooperation from Malaysia during the talks.

"Certainly we have been urging the Malaysians on several fronts, but in particular in order to prevent future proliferation activities to bring its export control system in line with international standards," said Mr. Whitaker.

Mr. Wolf's visit follows the seizure of a ship bound for Libya with the Malaysian made centrifuge parts. A Sri Lankan businessman accused of brokering the technology transfer to Libya remains free in Malaysia, where officials insist he has broken no laws. Officials say the company that made the parts was tricked into the deal.

A lecturer in Asian business studies at Western Australia's Griffith University, William Case, says there may be a basis for believing the company was an unwitting player in manufacturing of the technology.

"I think probably it is the case to the extent that companies were involved in they have been involved unwittingly," he said. "Apparently its the case that this kind of technology could be used for a variety of things."

But Mr. Case says, it is understandable the United States would want Malaysia to tighten export controls. The United States is pressing Malaysia, a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, to sign additional protocols prohibiting the sale of technology destined for use in the nuclear industry.

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