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Terrorism & Security
Experts warn of substantial risk of WMD attack
New survey predicts 70 percent chance of attack in next decade
Updated: 6:22 a.m. ET June 22, 2005

WASHINGTON - There is a 70 percent risk of an attack somewhere in the world with a weapon of mass destruction in the next decade, arms experts predicted in a survey released on Tuesday.

They also said up to five more countries are likely to acquire nuclear weapons within the next 10 years.

The survey, conducted by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, describes a threat that is “real and increasing over time” and endorses vastly increased funding for non-proliferation programs.

“Even if we succeed spectacularly at building democracy around the world, bringing stability to failed states and spreading economic opportunity broadly, we will not be secure from the actions of small, disaffected groups that acquire weapons of mass destruction,” the Indiana Republican said in a preface to the survey.

“Everything is at risk if we fail in this area,” he said.

The survey records the views of 85, mostly American, experts, including the Bush administration’s top non-proliferation official, Robert Joseph, and such former Republican and Democratic officials as John Wolf, James Woolsey, William Burns, Donald Gregg, Strobe Talbott and Robert Einhorn.

The experts estimated the risk of a nuclear attack to be 16.4 percent over the next five years and 29.2 percent over the next decade.

Asked to consider the possibility of a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological (dirty bomb) attack on any nation, they concluded the chance of one of the four to be 50 percent over five years and 70 percent over 10 years.

A Lugar aide who oversaw the survey told Reuters 70 percent is “a very conservative estimate.”

An attack with a dirty bomb, combining a conventional explosive like dynamite with radioactive material, is seen as most likely, with a risk of 40 percent over the next decade.

The survey report also said “there was a broad agreement within the (experts’) group that nuclear weapons will proliferate to new countries in the coming years.”

Large majorities judged that one or two more nations would acquire nuclear weapons during the next five years and two to five would acquire them during the next decade.

Currently, there are five declared nuclear states -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China. Three others -- India, Pakistan and Israel -- are understood to have nuclear arms. North Korea recently announced it has nuclear weapons.

Iran is pursuing a nuclear program that the United States and other nations believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is peaceful.

With former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, Lugar is the main force behind the Nunn-Lugar program, which has spent millions of dollars since 1991 to destroy 6,624 nuclear warheads and dismantle hundreds of bombers, missiles and submarines of the former Soviet Union.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.


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