Asia-Pacific officials honed details of how to boost security at nuclear facilities yesterday in what the top UN nuclear watchdog called a race to prevent terrorists from getting weapons material.
The officials met behind closed doors at a Sydney hotel to work out details of a statement signed late Monday by ministers from 18 nations in the region, which pledged to "expand and enhance the nuclear safeguards and security framework."
Nations at the conference vowed to adopt tighter international security standards and work together to tighten border controls to prevent the illicit export of nuclear materials.
Speaking to reporters outside the conference, the International Atomic Energy Agency chief said the world is not ready for a nuclear or radiological attack by terrorists and must hurry to strengthen nonproliferation measures to prevent such a possibility.
"We are in a race against time because it is something we were not prepared for," Mohamed ElBaradei said.
In his annual report to the UN earlier this month, ElBaradei said there is an "extensive illicit market" for nuclear material.
In a newspaper interview printed yesterday, ElBaradei also said that eliminating Israel's nuclear capability is key to Middle East peace efforts.
"This is not really sustainable, that you have Israel sitting with nuclear weapons capability there while everyone else is part of the nonproliferation regime,'' ElBaradei told The Sydney Morning Herald.
In an indication of high tensions in the region, Egypt on Sunday angrily denied it has a secret nuclear weapons program in response to reports that ElBaradei's agency is investigating plutonium particles found near an Egyptian nuclear facility.