* IAEA wants to visit Myanmar
* U.S. think tank says nuclear claims "poorly evidenced"
* Myanmar: no "economic strength" to build such arms
By Fredrik Dahl
VIENNA, Dec 15 The United Nations nuclear
watchdog is seeking to gain access to sites in Myanmar, which
rejected allegations by an exile group last year it was trying
to develop atomic weapons, a diplomat familiar with the issue
Myanmar officials signalled during talks in September that
inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
could come to the southeast Asian nation, which has initiated
radical reforms after decades of authoritarian military rule.
The meeting on the sidelines of the IAEA's member state
conference raised hopes of progress on the issue, the diplomat
added, without specifying which facilities the Vienna-based U.N.
agency may want to see. There was no immediate IAEA comment.
A exile group based in Norway said in mid-2010 that Myanmar
had a secret programme dedicated to developing the means to make
nuclear weapons, following up on similar allegations by
defectors from the then reclusive state.
The IAEA said at the time that it was looking into the
report. Myanmar is a member of both the IAEA and the nuclear
Myanmar's IAEA envoy, Tin Win, said in September the country
did not have "enough economic strength" to develop atomic arms.
It has also previously denied the accusations.
A U.S.-based think tank this week said allegations by the
exile group and defector interviews claiming that Myanmar "had
or has a nuclear weapons research programme remain
unsubstantiated and poorly evidenced".
But, the Institute for Science and International Security
(ISIS) said: "The international community must remain steadfast
in its calls on (Myanmar) to fully commit to nuclear
non-proliferation objectives and allow full verification of
NORTH KOREA LINKS?
The IAEA is tasked with preventing the spread of atomic
bombs in the world by seeking to make sure that any nuclear
material is not diverted for military purposes.
Myanmar "should answer any questions the IAEA has about its
nuclear activities and illicit procurement efforts relating to
sensitive equipment potentially related to nuclear
applications," ISIS said on its website.
It should also provide information about past transfers and
cooperation with North Korea and explain why it continues to
send students to Russia for training in nuclear and missile
applications, the think tank added.
Last year, a U.N. report suggested that North Korea might
have supplied impoverished Myanmar as well as Iran and Syria
with banned atomic technology.
But most analysts believe Myanmar remains well short of any
goal to acquire nuclear capability, and U.S. officials have
played down fears its ties with North Korea had broadened to
include a nuclear programme.
During a landmark visit two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton urged Myanmar to end illicit contacts with
North Korea, which has been trying to build a nuclear arsenal
and which is under international sanctions.
Myanmar later denied it had been cooperating with North
Korea on nuclear technology, the first time it has commented on
speculation that the two states might be working together to
build atomic weapons.
(Editing by Rosalind Russell)