Azeris Says Armenia Building Nuclear Weapons

BAKU (AP/Dow Jones)– Azerbaijan accused Armenia on Wednesday of running a dangerous nuclear power plant and of seeking to produce nuclear weapons–and demanded that the plant be closed.

"Armenia continues to use its nuclear power plant–which does not meet modern world standards. This plant has become obsolete and presents a real danger of nuclear contamination to the region," said Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Hassan Hassanov.

"We believe the Armenian nuclear power plant must be closed down," he said on national television.

The plant was closed down in 1989 because of a devastating earthquake in Armenia the year before.

Hassanov said Armenia’s nuclear potential should be placed under tight international control as "Armenia might well use its scientific–human and economic potential to make individual components and units for future nuclear weapons."

Azerbaijan–he said–is proposing to make the southern Caucasus region a nuclear-free zone. The minister was also critical of Moscow–saying that weapons it has secretly provided to Armenia included missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Armenia Denies Charges Armenian Defense and Foreign Ministry spokesmen have since rejected Azeri claims of developing nuclear weapons at secret bases–Radio Free Europe’s Yerevan bureau reported Wednesday.

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arsen Gasparyan said Yerevan fully adheres to its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and uses its nuclear potential "only for peaceful purposes."

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