CIA document listed Spain in 1974 as possible proliferator of nuclear arms

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Analysts warned that a Spanish weapons race would depend on post-Franco era.

18 January 2008

MADRID - In 1974, the CIA believed that Spain could become "a possible proliferator" of nuclear weapons, warning that it had an extensive long-range nuclear program that deserved the US government's special attention.

In a declassified document released this week by the US intelligence agency, the CIA also warned that Spain was already testing a uranium-separation plant, but said it would depend on "an unlikely combination of circumstances," including the policies of a post-Franco government (the dictator died in 1975), to propel Spain in the nuclear arms race.

The 50-page assessment, entitled Prospects for Further Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, was released on Monday after the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington DC filed a petition to gain access to it under the Freedom of Information Act. The survey was published on 17 May 1974 after India tested a nuclear device.

In it, US intelligence analysts said that Spain - along with Iran, Egypt, Pakistan Brazil and South Korea - would need at least a decade to carry out a nuclear-weapons development program. "One or another might detonate a demonstrative device earlier - perhaps considerably earlier by using purchased materials or by obtaining extensive foreign assistance," the document states. "Each of these countries is subject to a different set of motivations and pressures."

In the Spanish case, the CIA said that Spain had not signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which 19 countries had signed by then, and "was unlikely to do so."

"Spain is the one European country that is deserving of some attention as a possible proliferator in the years ahead. It has indigenous uranium reserves of moderate size, an extensive long-range nuclear power program (three reactors in operation, seven under construction and up to 17 more planned), and a pilot [uranium] separation plant," reads the once top-secret paper.

Analysts pointed out that Spain had refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty because "pledges of protection for non-nuclear states" were inadequate and required periodic inspections, which reveal development secrets to competitors. "However, Spain is linked to the US by a bilateral military agreement that Spanish leaders are likely to view as offering better security than any independent Spanish nuclear capability."

Under Socialist Prime Minister Felipe González, Spain signed the treaty in 1986.

Today there are eight nuclear power plants in operation, but there is a 24-year-old moratorium on building new ones. Prime Minister José Rodríguez Zapatero said last week that he will reduce the country's dependence on nuclear power in favour of renewable sources of energy, such a wind power.

Although the CIA document was declassified, parts of the assessment were heavily excised before it was posted on the agency's website on Monday.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / MARTIN DELFÍN 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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