WikiLeaked

Did Moscow really promise Egypt a nuclear bomb?

Egypt’s U.N. ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, speaking in a confidential arms control briefing last year with top U.S. officials, sought to burnish his country’s reputation as a responsible player on the nuclear front with an anecdote illustrating Cairo’s lack of interest in pursuing atomic weapons. Moscow, he told Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State ...

Egypt’s U.N. ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, speaking in a confidential arms control briefing last year with top U.S. officials, sought to burnish his country’s reputation as a responsible player on the nuclear front with an anecdote illustrating Cairo’s lack of interest in pursuing atomic weapons.

Moscow, he told Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance and Implementation, had offered Egypt "nuclear scientists, materials and even weapons following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Egypt had refused all such offers," according to a U.S. diplomatic cable, which was released by WikiLeaks.  "A/S Gottemoeller asked him how he knew this to be true, to which Abdelaziz replied he was in Moscow at that time and had direct personal knowledge."

The claim by Abdelaziz — who was serving as a young first secretary in the Egyptian embassy in Moscow at the time — has been met with skepticism among arms control scholars and experts on the Soviet nuclear program. They acknowledge that in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s there were concerns about weak controls over nuclear materials and the risk of out-of-work nuclear scientists selling their expertise to the highest bidder, but they say that it’s now clear that nuclear warheads were always kept under strict control of the military. There is little evidence that Moscow — which had to struggle to exert control over nuclear weapons in Belarus and Ukraine — sought to export its nuclear program to Egypt or other countries.

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Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. @columlynch

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