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No Bombs for Brazil

By its title alone, the article "The Bombs From Brazil," Feb. 10, conveys an utterly misleading picture of what is happening in the field of nuclear nonproliferation in Brazil.

The authors fail to give full credit to the Joint Safeguards Agreement signed last December by Brazil, Argentina, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The agreement was the successful outcome of complex negotiations dating back to 1985 and reflects the firm commitment of the democratic and civilian governments of Brazil and Argentina to nuclear nonproliferation.

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The agreement was preceded by a number of far-reaching decisions in this field, among which are the signing of a bilateral agreement in July 1991 setting up a monitoring agency to administer the implementation of the IAEA safeguards. In addition, last September Brazil, Argentina, and Chile signed a joint declaration on the complete proscription of chemical and biological weapons, which further attests to the endeavors of the Southern Cone countries to strengthen regional and international security.

The joint agreement with the IAEA provides for comprehensive safeguards on all nuclear materials and equipment and opens the way for the entry into force of the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (Treaty of Tlatelolco), which, in terms of its provisions and objectives, is equivalent to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In this regard it is worth mentioning that Brazil's President Fernando Collor de Mello and Argentina's President Carlos Menem recently announced the intention to bri ng Tlatelolco into force.

The authors attribute to CIA director Robert Gates, during a recent Senate testimony, concern about the possibility that "Brazil could become a major exporter of nuclear-weapons know-how." They further state that "CIA Director Gates emphasized that Brazil has significant potential to furnish nuclear and other military technologies to customers in the developing world."

The readers should be provided with the record of Mr. Gates's actual statement in his Jan. 15 testimony: "The governments of several key countries have assured the State Department that they have abandoned nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles programs. For example, ... Argentina and Brazil have taken some steps away from their nuclear options." He further adds that "Brazil has announced its space-launch program has been placed under civilian control."

As regards the alleged participation of Brazilian technicians in Iraq's nuclear program, it must be clarified that the Brazilian Government has never been involved in or complacent with such activities. Aware of the problem of the export of sensitive technologies, the Collor administration has recently submitted to Brazil's Congress a bill whose aim is to provide the legal framework to punish unauthorized export of strategic technology and services.

As to the backbone of the article, the assumption that Brazil, which is not a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), "has shifted its trade focus in the Middle East away from Iraq in an effort to sell nuclear and other defense-technology items to Iran," the following clarifications should be made: The Joint Safeguards Agreement signed last December with the IAEA provides safeguards which are as rigorous as those foreseen in the NPT; and Brazil's commercial transactions with Iran do not involve any strategic technologies and are in keeping with the country's commitment to the nonproliferation of arms of mass destruction.

I hope these remarks will cast new light on the exclusively peaceful purposes of the Brazilian nuclear program as well as on Brazil's firm commitment to submit all of its nuclear activities to international inspection. Rubens Ricupero, Washington, Brazilian Ambassador to the United States

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Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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