Belgium’s new government has reversed a decision banning the sale of equipment to the Karachi nuclear power plant (Kanupp) in Pakistan. The row over the export of surveillance equipment to the plant had threatened to expose deep fissures in the coalition government formed in July under Liberal prime minister Guy Verhofstadt.
The outgoing government had given an export licence for the 60 million Belgian franc ($1.56 million) contract to the Alsthom plant at Charleroi in southern Belgium.
But the new energy minister Olivier Deleuze revoked the licence within days of taking office.
Verhofstadt told a news conference in Brussels that on 10 September the cabinet decided to grant the export licence after all. But it has agreed that before the goods leave Belgium, Kanupp, currently closed for maintenance, must start up again, and Pakistan must sign an international accord known as the Full Scope Safeguards Agreement. Countries signing this accord undertake among other things not to use their civil nuclear power capability to further their military ends.
Verhofstadt said his government would require the same safeguards before granting any future application for an export licence to the nuclear industry elsewhere in the world.
In an apparent snub to Deleuze, Verhofstadt said decisions on any future applications would be taken by his foreign affairs and economic ministers, calling this “a very radical simplification in the procedure.”