Getting to Zero Update

In this issue:

Commitments to disarmament and arms control

Hoover Group Members and other policy leaders reinvigorate call for world without nuclear weapons

Members of the “Hoover Group” and other policy leaders met at a high level conference and presented papers on “Achieving the Vision of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” in Oslo, Norway on February 26 and 27. The much-anticipated conference was organized by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), The Hoover Institution, and Statens Stralevern (Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority).

Former US Secretary of State George Shultz began the conference by marking guideposts in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation which will involve an “immense effort in diplomacy” in the “broadest sense” and sounded a warning on nuclear proliferation: “So wake up, everybody. The danger is real and the potential consequences are of catastrophic proportions.”

Jonas Gahr Støre, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered a summary of the conference, reporting: “Although there was broad agreement about the need for a cooperative approach to nuclear security, there was a divergence of views about which organization would be responsible for enforcement, and how it would be constituted. Four criteria to help judge success along the road to nuclear disarmament were reiterated: binding commitments, irreversibility, transparency and verification.” Støre concluded with a series of recommendations for realizing the vision, including the creation of a non-discriminatory nuclear fuel supply bank and encouraging the United States and Russia to reduce their nuclear weapons arsenals down to the hundreds, not thousands. BASIC was involved in follow-up events to the conference. See the bottom of this Update for more information.

See also: Papers and speeches from conference on Achieving the Vision of a World Free of Nuclear Weapons: International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament, Oslo, Norway, February 26-27, 2008.

Further reading

Disarmament redux: The US foreign policy establishment is beginning to consider progress toward the “d-word” – above and beyond deterrence-a global security imperative
J. Peter Sclobic, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Vol. 64, No. 1, March/April 2008, pp. 34-39, 57.

New leaders and policies are a cause for hope
Joseph Cirincione, JS Online (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), March 8, 2008.

The Future of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Keegan McGrath, Stephanie Bobiak and Jean du Preez, CNS Feature Story, March 7, 2008.

US senior statesmen and others support the entry into force of the CTBT
Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organization, March 4, 2008.

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons: An Interview With Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chairman Sam Nunn
Interviewed by Daryl G. Kimball and Miles A. Pomper, Arms Control Today, March 2008.

Senior Statesmen on Campaign to Abolish Nukes
Rob Gifford, “Morning Edition,” NPR, February 29, 2008. Link to audio file and Concerns Continue over Nuclear Proliferation, Mike Shuster,, February 28, 2008.

Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty: Issues and Arguments
Jonathan Medalia, CRS Report for Congress, February 28, 2008, via the Federation of American Scientists Website.

UN Calls On US , Russia To Lead The Way For A Nuclear Weapons Free World
RTT News, February 27, 2008.

The United States pays US$ 23.8 million to the CTBTO
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Press Release, February 26, 2008.

Country updates

United States

US Strategic Forces Commander emphasizes need for nuclear deterrent, new nuclear weapons

General Kevin Chilton, commander of US strategic forces, testified before Congress on February 27, arguing that the United States needs to maintain a nuclear weapons arsenal to deter other countries and would also need to pursue the development of new nuclear warheads. He later told reporters that the United States would need nuclear weapons for at least the rest of this century.

Nominees announced for commission on strategic posture

The House and Senate announced their nominees for the Congressional Commission on US Strategic Posture on March 19. The nominees for the Senate include: James Schlesinger, John Glenn, Fred Ikle, Morton Halperin, James Woolsey, and Bruce Tarter. The House nominees are: William Perry, John Foster, Lee Hamilton, Keith Payne, Ellen Williams, and Harry Cartland. The Commission is expected to review the strategic posture of the United States, and the role of non-proliferation programs and missile defenses in strategic policies. Under current guidelines, the Commission is to conclude its findings and report to the President and Congress by December 1 of this year.

Bill calling for nuclear arsenal reductions introduced in House

Representative James McGovern (Democrat-Massachusetts) introduced for himself and Rep. Daniel Lungren (Republican-California) the Global Security Priorities Resolution on March 13. The resolution expresses the following Sense of the House of Representatives: “Recognizing the paramount need to address the threat of international terrorism and protect the global security of the United States by reducing the number and accessibility of nuclear weapons and preventing their proliferation, and directing a portion of the resulting savings towards child survival, hunger, and universal education, and calling on the President to take action to achieve these goals.” Also known as H. RES. 1045, the bill has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Parts used for detonation of nuclear warheads mistakenly transferred to Taiwan

The Department of Defense announced on March 25 that four “non-nuclear” nose cone assemblies and their associated electrical components for a ballistic missile were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in the fall of 2006. Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynn, said during a DoD press conference that the Defense Logistics Agency was supposed to fill a Foreign Military Sales Order from Taiwan for helicopter batteries, but instead accidentally shipped the nose-cone assemblies and electrical components. Secretary Wynn said that based on preliminary information, it is the DoD’s understanding that the shipment was placed in storage upon receipt. The parts were returned to the United States last week. The Secretary noted that, “This could not be construed as being nuclear material,” but added “It is a component for the fuse in the nose cone for a nuclear system. We are very concerned about it.” Beijing issued a protest with Washington following the revelation of the shipment.

Air Force Chief of Staff says conventional bombing demands have weakened nuclear training

General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force Chief of Staff, told reporters at the end of February that steps have been taken to prevent the same kind of mistake that happened in August when nuclear weapons were accidentally loaded onto a bomber in North Dakota and flown over the United States. General Moseley said that the demands of the B-52’s conventional bombing missions over Afghanistan have detracted from training for their nuclear role, “We need to somehow allow the squadron commander to focus on that (nuclear mission) and that alone.” Among other changes, B-52 crews will train exclusively for nuclear attack missions for at least six months at a time, rather than frequently alternating between conventional and nuclear training.

Resignation of admiral over Iran policy

Admiral William Fallon, the Commander of US Middle East operations, resigned on March 11. Speculation has persisted that his departure was at least partly the result of an article published in Esquire magazine. The article suggested that Admiral Fallon was against a military attack on Iran and that he was undermining the attempt by some in the Bush Administration to pursue such a course.

Debates over nuclear weapons complex rage on

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been holding public hearings on its plans to transform the nuclear weapons complex and anticipated environmental effects. The hearings have also attracted people concerned about the impacts on local employment and economies as well as others who have voiced concerns that the plans will lead to long-term reliance and spending on nuclear weapons arsenals. The comment period on the Complex Transformation Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (SPEIS) ends April 10, 2008.

Further reading

Y-12 reports on ‘massive consolidation effort’
Oakridger (Tennessee), March 25, 2008.

LIVERMORE: Major cuts planned at nuclear labs; Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos among sites destined for new role as nation reduces its stockpile of nuclear weapons
David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle, March 18, 2008.

US Nuclear Weapons Complex: Livermore Homes and Plutonium Make Bad Neighbors
Project on Government Oversight (POGO), March 17, 2008.

Bush Budget Revives Cut Warhead
Wade Boese, Arms Control Today, March 2008.

NNSA: Working to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, National Nuclear Security Administration Fact Sheet, March 2008.

US Presidential Elections

Senator Barack Obama (Democrat – Illinois) called for direct negotiations between Washington and Tehran to dissuade Iran from producing nuclear weapons, and has pointed to the need to achieve the objectives of the NPT as outlined by the Hoover Group. Meanwhile, Senator John McCain (Republican – Arizona) said that the United States should not tolerate a nuclear armed Iran but did not specify how US actions should play out. Although during his visit to France on March 21, Senator McCain urged President Nicolas Sarkozy to take a strong lead on sanctions to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Also see: An Early Look Ahead, John Isaacs, RightWeb Analysis, February 28, 2008. This article covers foreign policy positions of US Presidential candidates, including missile defense, nuclear weapons, North Korea and Iran.


On February 22, the IAEA published a report on Iran’s compliance with its investigation into the country’s nuclear program. The report noted that while some questions had been resolved and could be closed, Iran had not been fully forthcoming on work possibly related to nuclear weapons. As before, Iran rejected the accusations. The IAEA had shown to Iranian officials the evidence that indicated Iran may have been trying to make nuclear weapons, with most of that evidence apparently having been provided by the United States. Iran said that the IAEA revealed the evidence on February 15, too late for it to provide a full explanation and rejected much of the information as being false. The IAEA explained the late notice, saying that it had to obtain permission from countries before it could share their evidence with Iran.

The UN Security Council imposed a third round of sanctions on March 3, issuing a travel ban and freezing the assets of more individuals and companies linked to Iran’s nuclear program. The sanctions were again rebuffed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

UN Member States have had a mixed track record of reporting on their compliance with the previous two rounds of sanctions. Eighty-eight of 192 UN member states have filed mandatory reports on how they are complying with the first round of sanctions against Iran, and fewer (72) states are meeting reporting requirements for the second round of sanctions.

The UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee published a report on Iran on March 2, noting that sanctions against Iran without more diplomatic engagement, or military strikes on any suspected facilities, were unlikely to work and that the United States should engage in a direct dialogue with Iran. The Guardian reported on March 6 that a senior British official contends that Iran may not have halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, contrary to the conclusions of a US National Intelligence Estimate released several months ago.

On March 14, conservative candidates won well over a majority of seats – the vast majority of reformist candidates had already been barred by the Guardian Council.

On March 19, during a statement on Radio Farda, President Bush misspoke about Iran’s nuclear intentions, saying that Iran “declared they want a nuclear weapon to destroy people.” Such an official declaration has not come from Iran. Radio Farda is a US -run radio station broadcast in Farsi.

Further reading

A Solution for the US -Iran Nuclear Standoff
William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering and Jim Walsh, The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, No. 4, March 20, 2008.

Kissinger backs direct US talks with Iran
Camilla Hall and Mike Schneider, Bloomberg News via Deseret Morning News, March 15, 2008.

Luers: Possible Solution for US -Iran Nuclear Standoff
Gwertzman Asks the Experts, Council on Foreign Relations, March 13, 2008.

Take Two: Iran’s Plan for Nuclear Compliance
Sharon Squassoni and Nima Gerami, Proliferation Analysis, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 5, 2008.

Albright: Next US President Must Deal Quickly with the Iran Nuclear Program
Gwertzman Asks the Experts, Council on Foreign Relations, March 3, 2008.

Changing the Frame of the International Debate Over Iran’s Nuclear Programme: Iran’s Role in Moving Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World, Paul Ingram, and Changing the Frame of the International Debate Over Iran’s Nuclear Programme: Other Solutions to Iran’s Energy Insecurity
Paul Ingram and Laura Spagnuolo, BASIC Notes, March 2008.

IAEA: Iran Work Plan Progress Incomplete
Peter Crail, Arms Control Today, March 2008.

ElBaradei is quietly managing to disarm Iran
Ray Takeyh and Joseph Cirincione, Financial Times, February 27, 2008.

IAEA Iran Latest – A Balanced Safeguards Report
David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, ISIS Issue Brief, February 22, 2008.

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran
IAEA Report on Iran, February 22, 2008.


On March 17, the Indian government failed to reach a breakthrough in meetings with opposition leaders for their support on an agreement with the United States that would allow India access to US nuclear fuel. At the end of February, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had visited India to strengthen military ties between his country and India. He discussed with Indian officials the possibility of a $10 billion fighter jet agreement which would include 126 combat aircraft. The deepening relations are seen in part within the context of the United States seeking to bolster Indian military strength as a counterweight to China.

At the end of February, for the first time India tested a nuclear-capable missile from a sea-based platform. Pakistan’s naval chief said that the test of the missile could start a new arms race in the region because the missile, called the K-15, could give India a second-strike capability in a nuclear war. On March 24, India test-fired an Agni I missile, which has the capability of reaching most targets in Pakistan.

Australia denied visas to two Indian nuclear scientists based on “health and character grounds” and fears that they could obtain sensitive information that would help India’s nuclear weapons program. In a separate development, an Indian national who has resided in South Carolina, Parthasarathy Sudarsan, pleaded guilty to charges that he illegally exported microprocessors and other electronics equipment to Indian agencies that could assist India’s ballistic missile program. In another case, MTS Systems Corporation, based in Minnesota, was fined for falsifying export control documents and exporting equipment to India that might be used to support its nuclear weapons program.

Further reading

Non-Proliferation Experts Call on State Department to Come Clean on Questions Concerning US -Indian Nuclear Deal
Arms Control Association Press Release, March 5, 2008.

Missile Defense: A Wrong Turn for US -India Cooperation?
Todd Fine, Center for Defense Information, March 5, 2008.

History, Design and Prospects for Improving Pakistan’s Nuclear Personnel Reliability Program (PRP)
Max Postman, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, March 5, 2008.

Contradictions Still Plague US -Indian Nuclear Deal
Daryl Kimball, Arms Control Today, March 2008.

US -Indian Deal in Limbo as Clock Ticks
Wade Boese, Arms Control Today, March 2008.

Indian Space Launch Vehicles and ICBM
Center for Defense Information, February 29, 2008.

Interview with the Times of India
R Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Washington, DC, February 29, 2008.

North Korea

On March 15, US Under Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-Gwan held negotiations in Geneva. Hill said that North Korea was still unwilling to make a full account of its nuclear program, which Washington believes includes a uranium enrichment program and nuclear cooperation with Syria. North Korea has denied the allegations. Hill said that some advances were made on disarmament. Earlier in March, the United States and South Korea held joint military exercises that involved thousands of troops. North Korea responded to the exercises, saying that they would slow down negotiations over nuclear programs.

On March 11, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said that North Korea will benefit from South Korean economic aid and help to increase the per capita income to $3,000 if North Korea can show that it has dismantled its nuclear weapons program. The Ministry also said that the government would intensify relevant regional dialogues. The South Korean government did clarify, however, that it would not link food and fertilizer aid to North Korea’s denuclearization.

Also see: A New National Security Strategy for Korea: North Korea Threats Require Deterrence, Reconciliation, Bruce Bennett, (RAND), commentary – originally appeared in the Korea Herald on March 13, 2008.

United Kingdom

The Independent on March 9 was reporting on UK plans to ship plutonium dioxide powder to France on a low security ferry, against the advice of some policy makers and terrorism and environmental experts.

On February 27, the United Kingdom signed onto the US-led Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. GNEP activities include seeking new nuclear energy and recycling technologies, promoting the use of nuclear energy around the world and extracting uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel and processing it for reuse. See also: Bush Calls for More GNEP, MOX Facility Funds, Miles A Pomper, Arms Control Today, March 2008.


On March 21, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed his commitment to France’s nuclear deterrent, citing Iran as a particular threat, but announced that France would cut its warhead stockpile to fewer than 300. He also called on China and the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Also see: France’s Nuclear Diplomacy, Michelle M. Smith and Charles D. Ferguson, International Herald Tribune, March 11, 2008.


In early March, the US Department of Defense released its annual report to Congress: Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2008 (available on the Website of the Federation of American Scientists – warning: document is 30 MB). The report says that China has made advancements in strategic strike capabilities and also argues that the international community has limited knowledge of the motivations and decision-making behind China’s force modernization. China’s People Daily criticized the Pentagon’s report, saying that it exaggerated China’s cyber warfare and military space capabilities.

During a DoD news briefing on March 3, David Sedney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, announced that talks between the United States and China on nuclear strategy and policy could begin within the next two months.

Further reading

Kangzhuang and DF-31
Jeffrey Lewis, Arms Control Wonk, March 15, 2008.

Chinese Nuclear Arsenal Increased by a Third Since 2006, Pentagon Report Indicates
Hans Kristensen, Strategic Security Blog -Federation of American Scientists, March 6, 2008.


During the nuclear disarmament conference held in Oslo on February 26-27, the Norwegian government announced that it would contribute $5 million toward the international nuclear fuel bank project under the IAEA. The project’s aim is to establish a low-enriched uranium reserve that would provide countries with nuclear energy. The project needs $45 million more in donations to become fully operative. Bellona, a Norwegian environmental organization, raised concerns about Norway’s support for the project, saying that it could lead to environmental damage and that the government should have stipulated that its contribution would be used exclusively for dealing with the environmental impacts of the project once it is implemented.

Missile defense

The Bush Administration tried again without success to garner the approval of Russian leaders on plans for US missile defense bases in Eastern Europe in a meeting on March 18 in Moscow. The Bush Administration has faced fierce criticism because of its desire to forge ahead with bilateral arrangements with Poland and the Czech Republic regardless of Russian concerns that such deployments would neutralise their second strike capability. After the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Isvestiya that the United States has said that it would permit Russia to monitor the missile defense sites.

Ongoing negotiations between the United States and Poland inched closer toward a deal on having Poland host the ten missile interceptors. Poland was apparently able to obtain US agreement on combining an eventual deal on missile defense with a US military aid package.

Peter Flory, NATO Assistant Secretary-General for Defence Investment Division, told members of the press on March 12 that NATO would delay a decision for a “bolt on” missile defense system that would be intended to protect countries that would not be covered by the current US missile defense proposal. The “unprotected” countries are said to include: Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and Turkey. NATO members still have questions about the costs and effectiveness of the project and will not reach such an agreement in time for the Bucharest Summit on April 2-4, 2008. A general announcement that will acknowledge agreement on missile threats is still anticipated.

The US Government Accountability Office released two publications on the Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) (the aforementioned system for Europe is related to this program). A summary of Congressional testimony submitted by the GAO’s Director for Acquisition and Sourcing Management states:

In the past year, MDA has fielded additional and new assets, enhanced the capability of some existing assets, and achieved most test objectives. However, MDA did not meet the goals it originally set for the block. Ultimately, MDA fielded fewer assets, increased costs by about $1 billion and conducted fewer tests. Even with the cost increase, MDA deferred work to keep costs from increasing further, as some contractors overran their fiscal year 2007 budgets. Deferring work obscures the cost of the block because such work is no longer counted as part of Block 2006… We were unable to assess whether MDA met its overall performance goal because there have not been enough flight tests to provide a high confidence that the models and simulations accurately predict BMDS performance. Moreover, the tests done to date have been developmental in nature, and do not provide sufficient realism for DOD’s test and evaluation Director to determine whether BMDS is suitable and effective for battle.

The BMDS program is the Defense Department’s largest research and development program. See the full reports: Defense Acquisitions: Assessment of DOD Efforts to Enhance Missile Defense Capabilities and Oversight, US Government Accountability Office, February 26, 2008 and Defense Acquisitions: Progress Made in Fielding Missile Defense, but Program is Short of Meeting Goals, US Government Accountability Office, March 2008.

Further reading

Missile Agency Under Fire
Josh Rogin, CQ Weekly, March 23, 2008.

Missile Defense and Arms Control: 25 Years Later
Philip Coyle and Victoria Samson, Center for Defense Information, March 21, 2008.

Moscow’s Missile Gambit
Robert Joseph and J.D. Crouch II, Washington Post, March 13, 2008.

Downing a sick satellite, or upping the arms race
Katie Mounts, Topeka-Capital Journal, March 7, 2008.

Is an Outer Space Arms Control Treaty Verifiable
Paula A. DeSutter, Assistant Secretary for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation, Remarks to the George C. Marshall Institute Roundtable at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, March 4, 2008.

Space Weapons Spending in the FY 2009 Defense Budget
Theresa Hitchens and Victoria Samson, Center for Defense Information, March 2008.

Shooting down USA-193: A $100 million shot to be followed by even greater political costs
Victoria Samson, Center for Defense Information, February 26, 2008.

Satellite Shootdown was a Necessary Operation
Baker Spring, Heritage Foundation WebMemo #1823, February 22, 2008.


Arm Wrestling
Richard Weitz, National Interest, March-April 2008.

After Putin
Joseph Biden, Wall Street Journal, March 24, 2008.

Identity Politics and Nuclear Disarmament: the Case of Ukraine, Christopher Stevens, The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, March 2008. (Abstract. Full article unavailable without subscription.) Also see: Ukrainians Want to Leave Nuclear Era Behind (poll)
Angus Reid Global Monitor, March 23, 2008.

Detecting nuclear and radiological materials
The Royal Society, March 6, 2008. The report is the result of a workshop held in December 2007.

Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom
Ed. Henry D. Sikolski, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a wake-up call on the effectiveness of the IAEA in achieving its mission, along with seven clear recommendations on how to improve the non-proliferation capabilities of the system.

The Department of Defense and the Nuclear Mission in the 21st Century
Clark Murdock, A Beyond Goldwater-Nichols Phase 4 Report, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 2008.

Oil for nukes – mostly a bad idea; Bartering nuclear technology for oil is a path to the spread of nuclear weapons
Matthew Fuhrmann, Christian Science Monitor, February 29, 2008.

Getting to Zero project

BASIC was involved in two immediate follow-up events on the nuclear weapons conference in Oslo. George Shultz and Sam Nunn addressed a meeting of the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Security and Non-Proliferation (clerked by BASIC) on February 28 in London. The meeting was packed, an extraordinary situation for a Thursday evening on a quiet day, when most parliamentarians would be expected in their constituencies. Members attending included several high-profile former cabinet members. The session was lively, and parliamentarians showed a keen interest.

On March 6 in Washington, BASIC co-sponsored with the United States Institute of Peace and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace A World Without Nuclear Weapons: The International Dimension. Ambassadors Max Kampelman and James Goodby, and nuclear proliferation expert George Perkovich, spoke to a standing-room only crowd at the US Institute of Peace. They discussed the outcome of the conference in Oslo and pointed out the challenges that lay ahead in getting to zero.

In particular, Ambassador Kampelman reflected on his time serving in the Reagan Administration and the negotiations held at Reykjavik, emphasizing that Americans should be motivated by the “ought” of nuclear disarmament. George Perkovich discussed the practical aspects of nuclear disarmament and addressed the criticisms that have been levelled at the endeavour. Ambassador Goodby reviewed the various steps that need to be taken on the way to complete nuclear disarmament. Follow this link to USIP for a full summary and audio recording of the event.

BASIC Co-Executive Director Paul Ingram participated in a conference on Iran’s nuclear program in Tehran on March 9. He presented two papers seeking to change the frame of the international debate over Iran’s nuclear program:

  • Iran’s Role in Moving Towards a Nuclear Weapon Free World, Paul Ingram, March 2008.
  • Other Solutions to Iran’s Energy Insecurity, Paul Ingram and Laura Spagnuolo, BASIC Notes, March 2008.

The conference was hosted by the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), a think-tank closely associated with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic.

Also see: Iran Conference Report, Jonathan Granoff, Global Security Institute, March 10, 2008.

  • Congressmen, Reagan Administration Policy Experts, and Activists Call for Reducing US Nuclear Arsenal Global Security Priorities – report of a DC briefing
  • Prospects for non-proliferation under John McCain

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