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Kyrgyzstan signs on to US program to curb nuclear smuggling

Kyrgyzstan joined a U.S. program to curb nuclear smuggling, becoming the fourth former Soviet state to join the initiative.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabayev signed an agreement that will help the Central Asian nation improve its capability to prevent, detect and respond to the smuggling of dangerous nuclear and radioactive material.

The deal commits Washington and Bishkek to taking 20 steps, including police and border security guard training, setting up radiation sensors and preparing an inventory of nuclear material in Kyrgyzstan, to combat growing concerns about the illicit trade.

"With this agreement, the U.S. and Kyrgyz governments are significantly enhancing their collaborative efforts combating the threat that nuclear or highly radioactive materials could be acquired by terrorists or others who would use them to harm us," the State Department said.

Although Kyrgyzstan did not host atomic weapons during the Soviet era, it does have nuclear power plants and there have been several incidents of smuggling of radioactive material through the country, some from sites to the north in Siberia, U.S. officials said.

Kygyzstan is the fourth ex-Soviet republic to join the U.S. Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative. The other three are Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia.

The United States hopes to sign another 20 similar agreements with countries where nuclear smuggling is a concern, the State Department said in a statement.

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