Mideast Science Group Meets to Discuss Particle Accelerator

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The advisory council for the Middle East synchrotron particle accelerator project met last week in Amman to discuss the project's budget and the amount of money that member countries will contribute next year.

The project is known as SESAME, an acronym for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, and it is constructing the Middle East's first major international research center as a cooperative venture by the scientists and governments of the region. It is also establishing the largest and most sophisticated particle accelerator in the Middle East. Israel is a member nation, as are Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey.

"A basic principle of progressive budgeting has been established," said Israel's representative on the advisory council, Eyal Epstein, who works in the Finance Ministry's budgets department. He said the extent of Israel's financial participation in the project has yet to be determined. However, Israeli officials involved in the project said the yearly SESAME budget will not include more than a few hundred thousand shekels.

The advisory council will make its recommendations to SESAME's executive board at the end of December. Hebrew University of Jerusalem professors Eliezer Rabinovitch and Moshe Pasternak will represent Israel at the meeting.

SESAME has classified Israel, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey as the economically strong countries involved in the project. The Finance Ministry has already allocated some $200,000 for the project, which it approved in 2003.

Other countries, including Morocco, Libya, Iraq and Cyprus would like to participate in the SESAME project. At least some are expected to join it next year.

The SESAME project is being developed under the umbrella of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The project is located in Allaan, Jordan, (30 kilometers from Amman). The building to house the facility is set to be completed in 2006, while the entire project is expected to be completed in 2009.

SESAME's particle accelerator produces synchrotron, or electromagnetic, radiation that typically includes high-intensity X-rays. The radiation is used for research in many fields, including structural molecular biology, molecular environmental science, surface and interface science, archaeological microanalysis and clinical medical applications. The project aims to serve as a propeller for the scientific, technical and economic development of the region and to strengthen collaboration in science.

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