Belarus to give up enriched uranium stockpile

Belarus has decided to relinquish its stockpile of highly enriched uranium, Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov said Wednesday.

Martynov announced the decision in a joint statement issued after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the seventh summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Belarus intends to give up its stockpile by 2012 while the U.S. will provide technical and financial assistance to support the former Soviet republic in the effort, the statement said.

The amount of material was not mentioned but Belarus reportedly has hundreds of kilograms of highly enriched uranium. Clinton praised the Belarus decision as "a sign of progress."

Belarus in 1994 gave up the nuclear weapons it inherited in the breakup of the Soviet Union but it retained its highly enriched uranium stocks.

The seventh OSCE summit opened on Wednesday amid tight security in Astana, capital city of Kazakhstan, the rotating chair of the organization, to discuss various security issues, including Afghanistan, terrorism, and the drug trade.

It was the first time that an OSCE summit was held in a Central Asian country.

Clinton, German Chancellor Angela Merkel,Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi,Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai are attending the summit.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko were also attending the event, where heads of state, government leaders, ministers of the OSCE member countries and reprepresentatives from 12 other partner states were gathered.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy were also seen in Astana.

The OSCE is based in Vienna with 56 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. It also maintains formal relations with a number of partner states in Asia and the Mediterranean.

Kazakhstan holds the rotating chair of the organization this year.


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