North Korea reveals details of uranium enrichment plant

North Korea reveals details of new nuclear power plant. Iran blamed ‘Zionist regime’ for assassination of top nuclear scientist. Gaza blockade still 'crippling' Palestinians. Congolese army accused of instability and smuggling. All this and more in today’s security briefing.
Rukeyya Khan
30 November 2010

North Korea revealed details of a new uranium enrichment power plant on Tuesday, in a move that is considered by South Korea as yet another provocation. The revelations come a week after the North fired artillery shells at the disputed South Korean-controlled Yeonpyeong island, killing four South Koreans. Pyongyang today boasted of running 'thousands' of nuclear centrifuges in what analysts say may be an attempt to gain leverage for North Korea's leader in waiting, Kim Jong Un, and to pressure Washington and Seoul to resume dialogue and aid.

Elsewhere, the US has snubbed Chinese proposals for a resumption of multiparty talks with Pyongyang as a 'PR' exercise. South Korea however has approached the North’s revelations about an expanded nuclear programme with caution, saying it would be meeting Japanese and US officials next month to discuss the a course of action.

Iran blamed ‘Zionist regime’ for assassination of top nuclear scientist

Iran's interior ministry yesterday accused Mossad and the CIA for a targeted bombing that killed an Iranian nuclear scientist, Majid Shahriyari, along with five doctors near Tehran's Shahid Besheshti University. Another scientist, Fereyedoun Abbasi-Davani was injured in the attack. The head of Iran's nuclear energy program said that Shahreyari was 'in charge of one of the biggest projects' of Iran's nuclear program though he did not divulge any further details.

Speaking to reporters, Ahmadinejad affirmed Iran's commitment to pursuing its nuclear programme as the state media identified the attackers as agents of the 'Zionist regime.' The incident is not the first of its kind. Earlier this year, an Iranian nuclear physicist was also killed by a bomb. The latest incident and row of words will no doubt colour diplomatic efforts aimed at resuming talks on the nuclear issue next week with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Gaza blockade still 'crippling' Palestinians

There has been 'little improvement' for Gaza's residents since Israel announced an ease on the blockade of the territory six months ago. That is according to a new report, titled 'Dashed hopes: continuation of the Gaza blockade', compiled by 21 different NGOs including Oxfam, Amnesty and Save the Children.

The report says that imports of construction material are a fraction of pre-blockade levels, despite a very real need for construction material to build the infrastructure destroyed during Operation Cast Lead in winter 2008-2009. The report further notes that two-thirds of businesses in the Gaza Strip have closed and fishing, among other industries, has been affected by the imposition of a 'buffer zone' around Gaza.

NGOs have called on Israel to put an end to the 'cruel' and 'illegal' blockade that collectively punishes Gazans. In response, Israel has claimed the report's findings are biased and distorted.

Congolese army accused of instability and smuggling

Criminal groups within Congo's army have deliberately fomented strife - including mass killing and rape - to profit from illegal mining, smuggling and poaching, according to a UN report published on Monday. The report said that officers of Congo's national FARDC army "jostle for control over mineral-rich areas at the expense of civilian protection."

The national army was also found responsible for approximately a third of incidents of violence and attacks reported in the first half of 2010 by the UN. In response, the UN has renewed a travel ban and a freeze on the assets of Congolese armed groups and militias operating in the eastern provinces, in particular North and South Kivu. The report may also contribute to the issuance of new guidelines for people and companies importing, processing or consuming Congolese mineral products in order to limit illicit trade and curb conflict and rights violations in the region.

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