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UN: Obstacles remain to global nuclear disarmament

Obstacles remain to global nuclear disarmament, UN official warns.

13 January -- The world has made progress in recent years in fulfilling some of the global nuclear disarmament agenda but the challenges ahead are still formidable, UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, said Wednesday.

"Anyone examining the published numbers of nuclear weapons over time will note a consistent downward trend since the height of the Cold War," Mr. Dhanapala said in an address at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation. But many traditional obstacles to disarmament remained: "nationalism, the notion of strategic nuclear supremacy, lack of mutual trust and the inability of any verification system ever to guarantee perfect compliance," he added.

While some progress had been made in reducing the 'alert' status of nuclear weapons, deeper reduction in stockpiles was dependent upon the entry into force of the START II treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation and the start up of negotiations on START III, Mr. Dhanapala said.

Also, despite many improvements in the physical security of nuclear material in recent years, "no control can guarantee that significant quantities of such material will not be vulnerable to terrorist threats," he added.

Mr. Dhanapala said the way ahead lay in new initiatives by nuclear-weapons States and in achieving universal membership of the non-proliferation treaties.

There had been some success in strengthening the role of the UN in the field of disarmament, Mr. Dhanapala said. He expressed the hope that a series of meetings at the UN this year, including the Millennium Summit and the review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, "will help to rekindle some of the political will to pursue common disarmament goals in earnest."

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