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'High risk' of WMD attack in decade

U.S. survey finds more nations will acquire nuclear weapons

U.S. troops in full chemical suits check what they thought might have been a WMD site in Baquba, 2003.



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chance of an attack with a weapon of mass destruction somewhere in the world in the next 10 years runs as high as 70 percent, arms experts have predicted in a U.S. survey.

Most of the more than 80 experts surveyed in the report released on Tuesday believed one or two new countries will acquire nuclear weapons in the next five years, with two to five countries joining the nuclear club during the next decade.

The survey, commissioned by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, also showed that four out of five people said their country was not spending enough on non-proliferation efforts.

The most likely scenario for a nuclear attack would be for terrorists to use a weapon they made themselves with material acquired on the black market, the survey said.

"The results underscore the need to improve security around tactical nuclear weapons and nuclear material in Russia and expand our ability to detect transfer of weapons or materials from rogue states to terrorist organizations," said a summary of a report outlining the survey results.

Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are designed to kill large number of people, using either nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological means.

In 1991, in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, Republican Lugar and former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn initiated a program to combat the proliferation threat posed by former Soviet states.

In an introduction to the report he commissioned, Lugar said the success of that program proves the spread of WMD can be stopped by building "extraordinary international relationships."

He said establishing a "worldwide system of accountability" for WMD could prevent terrorists from acquiring such weapons.

"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," Lugar said.

"Everything is at risk if we fail in this one area."

Rogue states

Following the September 11 attacks on America, U.S. President George W. Bush made a bid to crack down on regimes who sponsor terrorists.

In 2002 Bush labeled pre-war Iraq, Iran and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil."

"By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger," he said at the time.

The United States went to war against Iraq in 2003, claiming leader Saddam Hussein was maintaining clandestine stockpiles of nerve gas, biological weapons and secret nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Washington has also been trying to get North Korea to come to the table to curb its nuclear ambitions. In February this year, Pyongyang said it possessed nuclear weapons.

Bush has also said that Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. Tehran says its program is purely for the production of energy.

'Dirty bomb'

The survey found that the most significant risk of a WMD attack was from a radiological weapon, or a so-called "dirty bomb," in which radioactive material is put into a conventional explosive device.

The next highest risk was of an attack with a chemical or biological weapon, with a nuclear attack judged least likely.

However, when the risks were combined to determine the probably of an attack with any form of WMD, the survey put the chances as high as 50 percent over the next five years, with the probability increasing to as high as 70 percent over the next decade.

Among the experts who participated in the survey were Nunn; retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf; former defense secretaries William Cohen and Frank Carlucci; former CIA Director James Woolsey; former National Security Adviser Richard Allen; former Iraq chief weapons inspector Richard Butler; former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott; and David Kay, who led the hunt for WMD in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.

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