Egypt Has Shown No Inclination to Enter Nuclear Race, Says ‘monitor’ Correspondent

Egypt has shown no inclination to enter a nuclear arms race with Israel and apparently relies on Big Power protection under terms of the nuclear non-proliferation draft treaty which Egypt has signed but has not yet formally ratified, Christian Science Monitor correspondent John K. Cooley reported from Cairo today.

The treaty, which Israel so far has refrained from signing, will take effect only when at least three nuclear powers and 40 other nations have completed ratification. So far, only Britain, of the nuclear powers, and 11 other nations have ratified the draft.

According to Mr. Cooley, Cairo considers the estimated $400 million cost of a nuclear weapons program prohibitive. Israel and Egypt both began peacetime nuclear-energy programs in the 1950s. (There have been a flurry of reports recently that Israel has produced nuclear bombs, emphatically denied by Israeli authorities. It is generally conceded however that Israel has the technical capability to produce such weapons.)

Mr. Cooley noted that nuclear research has been conducted at Israel’s Soreq research center since 1952 under safeguards and inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. Atomic research is also conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovoth, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Haifa Technion, he said. Israel constructed a research reactor at Dimona in the Negev in the early 1960s with French help which is operated without IAEA safeguards or inspection, Mr. Cooley wrote. He said that Israel has no known means of manufacturing enriched uranium but the Dimona reactor can manufacture plutonium from uranium found in the Dead Sea Phosphate beds.

Mr. Cooley noted that Egypt signed its first agreement on nuclear cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1956 and in 1961 the Russians built a 2,000 kilowatt reactor at Inchass in lower Egypt. It has no known capacity for manufacturing plutonium in military quantities, nor has Egypt, like Israel, developed natural uranium supplies, the correspondent wrote.