Reuters International

VIENNA (Reuters) - More than 100 countries will have to meet higher standards on the protection of nuclear facilities and materials from next month, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday.

Nicaragua on Friday formally completed ratification of an amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, meaning enough states have ratified it for it to go into force, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

"(The amendment) will help reduce the risk of a terrorist attack involving nuclear material, which could have catastrophic consequences," IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in a statement.

The convention was adopted by 152 countries a decade ago, and had to be ratified by two thirds of them to go into effect.

The amendment, intended to guarding against threats such as smuggling and sabotage, makes it legally binding for countries to protect nuclear facilities as well as the domestic use, storage and transportation of nuclear material.

It also provides for broader cooperation among countries on finding and recovering stolen or smuggled nuclear material.

The convention and amendment are only binding on countries that have ratified them, an IAEA spokesman said. Amano said last month more work was needed to make the requirement universal.

The United States, Russia, India, Pakistan and former Soviet republics including Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan are among the countries that have ratified the amendment, according to the IAEA. Those that have not include Iran and North Korea.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Andrew Roche)

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