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  U.S. Denies It Put Nukes in Iceland

By Robert Burns
AP Military Writer
Tuesday, Oct. 26, 1999; 1:30 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON –– The U.S. government has informed Iceland that, contrary to a magazine report last week, U.S. nuclear weapons were never deployed on the Nordic island during the Cold War.

Breaking with a long-standing American policy of neither confirming nor denying the locations of nuclear weapons, the Clinton administration told the Icelandic government that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' article published Oct. 20 was wrong in naming Iceland as among 27 nuclear deployment sites.

It has long been U.S. policy to obtain the permission of host governments before deploying nuclear weapons in their territory.

The Bulletin article – written by military historians Robert S. Norris, William Arkin and William Burr – was based on a newly declassified 1977 official Pentagon history of the custody and deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons. Nine locations of weapons were listed in an appendix to the Pentagon report. Government censors blacked out the names of 18 other locations, but the Bulletin authors said they deduced from other publicly available documents that Iceland was among the 18.

"While we will not fill in the names of places that were redacted from the original document, we want to make clear that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' conclusion that the document indicated U.S. nuclear weapons were deployed to Iceland is incorrect," Robert Sorenson, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Jon Hannibalsson, Iceland's ambassador to Washington, was given that assurance the day the story appeared, Sorenson said.

"This is a dead issue" as far as the Iceland government is concerned, Hjalmar Hannesson, the director of political affairs at the Foreign Ministry in Reykjavik, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. He said his government was assured "the name of Iceland is definitely not there on the list."

Arkin said Tuesday: "We may be wrong, but the evidence surrounding the nuclear history of Iceland continues to provide suspicions."

The Bulletin's publisher, Steve Schwartz, said the Clinton administration's willingness to publicly deny the Iceland story while keeping secret other information about nuclear deployments of decades ago "points up the problems of the nuclear secrecy regime."

Arkin initially asked the Pentagon for the nuclear weapons deployment history in 1983, but the still-censored version was not released until May. "It's been a 16-year ordeal," he said.

The other blacked-out Pentagon report entries include Okinawa, the Bulletin article said. The U.S. government has not disputed that, but will not confirm it either, even though National Security Council documents from 1969 – publicly available at the National Archives for several years – refer explicitly to "the nuclear weapons stockpiles on Okinawa" and discuss in detail U.S. government concerns that Japan might force the United States to withdraw the weapons.

The blacked-out entry that the Bulletin authors surmised was Iceland showed nuclear bomb components deployed between 1956 and 1966 and complete nuclear bombs from 1956 to 1959.

Iceland is a NATO member, although it has no military forces.

The article cited a 1993 Center for Air Force History report that stated that major changes in operational capability at Keflavik air base in Iceland included U.S. Strategic Air Command aircraft "accommodated" in 1955-56, and the elimination of such activities in 1959-60. "This is a perfect fit for the presence of the bombs" described in the Pentagon report's appendix, they wrote.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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