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News Review Special Edition

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International Developments, November 15, 2002 - February 1, 2003

Comments by Brazilian Minister Keep Nuclear Controversy Bubbling

On January 5, remarks by Roberto Amaral, Minister for Science and Technology in the new Brazilian Government, fuelled doubts over a possible wavering in Brazil's commitment to its non-nuclear-weapon status under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. As reported in the online version of the last News Review, twelve Republican members of the US Congress wrote to President Bush on October 3 to express their alarm at comments made by Workers' Party leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - known popularly as 'Lula' - during his successful presidential campaign. Addressing senior military officials in Rio de Janeiro in September, Lula was quoted as observing that the NPT "would make sense only if all the countries that already have nuclear weapons also gave them up", and that "Brazil will only be respected in the world when it turns into an economic, technological and military power."

Ironically, Amaral's remarks, made during an interview with the BBC's Brazilian service, appear intended to dispel such suspicions: "We are against nuclear proliferation, we are signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but we cannot renounce scientific knowledge..." Asked to elaborate, Amaral stated: "It includes all knowledge - the knowledge of the genome, knowledge of DNA, knowledge of nuclear fission..."

Reacting to a media storm generated by the comments, a spokesperson for President da Silva issued a statement on January 7 insisting that Brazil is fully dedicated to the "exclusively" peaceful exploitation of the atom. The same day, Amaral himself told reporters: "We are against a Brazilian nuclear bomb, as well as against an Argentine atomic bomb, a Bolivian, an American - we are against the nuclear option. We want to defend peace." Perhaps optimistically, the minister added: "The issue is closed - I never spoke about an atomic bomb." Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, former UN ambassador and a highly-respected disarmament diplomat, was equally clear (January 8) that "Brazil has no interest whatsoever in using [atomic] technology to construct weapons or a nuclear bomb. Brazil will continue to fight for nuclear disarmament."

Related material on Acronym website:

Reports: Brazil needs A-Bomb ability, aide says, setting off furor, New York Times, January 9; Brazil - official backtracks after expressing desire for nuclear weapons technology, Global Security Newswire, January 14.

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© 2002 The Acronym Institute.