Minsk to hold on to its arms-grade uranium - Lukashenko

Belarus has no plans to build a "dirty" nuclear bomb but no one can take its enriched uranium stockpiles away from it, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday.

"Russia and the United States are telling us - give us your enriched uranium. We will not give anything away. Everything here is under IAEA control. Russia tells America: Calm down, we will take it from there [Belarus]. No one will take anything without our consent. We will not allow that," he said in a state-of-the-nation address.

Lukashenko added that his strained relations with Russia and the United States were due, among other things, to its reluctance to give away enriched uranium.

"We have no plans to build dirty nuclear bombs, but we want to be treated nicely," he said.

Lukashenko said because Belarus refused to "dance" to the U.S. and Russian "tune" he was not invited to a recent nuclear security summit in Washington.

He earlier said Belarus had "hundreds of kilograms of arms-grade and less enriched uranium," which would be used for research purposes.

In 1994, Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of independent Belarus, committed to withdrawing nuclear weapons from the country, declaring it a nuclear-free state.

But Lukashenko said he believes the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from the country in 1996 was "a huge mistake."

MINSK, April 20 (RIA Novosti)


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