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Myanmar denies it is seeking nukes

world Updated: Jun 19, 2010 16:40 IST

Myanmar has sent a letter to the UN nuclear agency insisting it has no current or future plan to develop a nuclear programme in the isolated country's second denial this month after reports emerged it may be seeking an atomic weapon.

Myanmar's military government has denied similar allegations in the past, but suspicions have mounted recently that the impoverished Southeast Asian nation has embarked on a nuclear programme. Myanmar's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Win Tin, dismissed the allegations as "groundless and unfounded" in a letter sent on Friday, according to a Saturday report in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper. The Foreign Ministry issued a denial on June 11.

"No activity related to uranium conversion, enrichment, reactor construction or operation has been carried out in the past, is ongoing or is planned for the future in Myanmar," the letter said, according to the newspaper which is a mouthpiece for the junta. The letter was sent in response to one from the IAEA dated June 14 that asked Myanmar to outline any nuclear-related activities or ambitions, the newspaper said.

Earlier this month, the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma, a Myanmar exile news service, charged that the junta, aided by North Korea, is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons programme with the aim of developing a bomb and long-range missiles.

It said its conclusions were based on a five-year study and revelations by a recent Myanmar army defector who smuggled out extensive files and photographs. The report also said that Myanmar is still far from producing a nuclear weapon.

Win Tin's letter noted that Myanmar is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the agency's so-called safeguards agreement.

"As stated in the safeguards agreement, Myanmar will notify the agency if it plans to carry out any nuclear activities," the letter said.

Last month, UN experts monitoring sanctions imposed against North Korea over its nuclear and missile tests said their research indicated it was involved in banned nuclear and ballistic missile activities in Iran, Syria and Myanmar, which is also called Burma.

Documents that surfaced earlier showed that North Korea was helping Myanmar dig a series of underground facilities and develop missiles with a range of up to 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometres).