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Rice Claims Quiet Gains for Anti-Proliferation Initiative

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the Proliferation Security Initiative has scored a number of unpublicized successes against the trafficking of items related to weapons of mass destruction. She spoke at a State Department event marking the second anniversary of the U.S.-led international effort.

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), an informal U.S.-led alliance aimed at curbing the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, has held more than a dozen exercises in various regions of the world in the last two years.

But Ms. Rice says the effort, now involving some 60 countries, has also recorded a number of previously undisclosed operational successes.

At a diplomatic reception marking the second anniversary of the PSI's founding in Krakow, Poland, the Secretary of State gave few details other than to say that Iran may have figured in several of them:

"In the last nine months alone, the United States and 10 of our PSI partners have quietly cooperated in 11 successful efforts,” said Ms. Rice. “For example, PSI cooperation stopped the trans-shipment of material and equipment bound for ballistic missile programs in countries of concern, including Iran. PSI partners, working at times with others, have prevented Iran from procuring goods to support its missile and WMD programs, including its nuclear program."

Without naming the state involved, Ms. Rice also said PSI cooperation prevented a country in another region with a ballistic missile program from receiving equipment used to produce propellant.

The secretary said the PSI provided the framework for the most well-known interdiction operation, the seizure in the Mediterranean in October 2003 of a freighter carrying equipment for Libya's then-covert nuclear arms program.

Ms. Rice said that incident, involving U.S. and Italian naval forces, played a major role in the unraveling of the proliferation network of Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, and what she termed Libya's wise decision to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missile programs.

The secretary told the gathering of foreign diplomats and officials including U.S. national intelligence director John Negroponte that Argentina, Iraq and Georgia had become the latest countries to join the PSI.

Appealing for still-broader participation, Ms. Rice said the acquisition of a nuclear, biological or chemical device by a terrorist group would mean devastation and death on a scale far worse than the September 2001 attacks against the United States and other recent acts of terror.

She said the trade in such weapons can only be stopped through coordinated and continuous efforts by the international community and that the greater the number of countries involved in the PSI, the safer people everywhere will be.