SYDNEY, (AFP) – Terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) are trying to obtain nuclear weapons and will not hesitate to use them, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.
Speaking ahead of a two-day conference on regional nuclear proliferation starting here Monday, Downer said although JI was yet to get its hands on atomic weapons, it would not give up trying.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that terrorists, or at least some terrorists, are endeavouring to get hold of nuclear materials as well as other forms of weapons of mass destruction,” he told commercial television.
“We don’t have any evidence that for example that Jemaah Islamiyah is trying to do that, but we do in the Middle East that organisations like al-Qaeda are.”
Downer said it was clear JI had no problem targeting innocent victims as it had in the Bali bombings which claimed 202 lives, including 88 Australians, in October, 2002.
“Obviously, any organisation that is prepared to wipe people out, young people enjoying themselves, wipe them out in Bali, is an organisation that wouldn’t stop short of using at least some sort of more vicious and more dangerous weapons.
“I think in the interests of the region and the interest of humanity we need to make a very big effort to stop the proliferation of these systems.”
Downer said the conference was a chance to seek common approaches to the treatment of nuclear materials.
The conference, likely to be dominated by questions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, will be attended by government ministers and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.
“This is about getting countries in our region to try to develop common approaches to dealing with questions such as nuclear security, that’s the security of nuclear facilities of one kind or another that they themselves have,” he said.
It was also about finding ways to stop inappropriate exports of material which could contribute to proliferation.
Downer said questions surrounding nuclear material in North Korea, Iraq and Iran highlighted the need to develop strong and consistent approaches.
“There is absolutely no consensus on how to handle these questions,” he said. “There’s no consensus in detail how to handle, for example, sensitive exports. There’s no consensus on how to handle nuclear materials internally.”