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World NGOs Say Time's Up For Nuclear Weapons

The following contains the press releases issued by NGOs for the Canberra release of the 'Heads of State' NPT letter, the release issued by Senator Lyn Allison, and extracts from AAP newswire and the Age reports.

The letter was released yesterday in Canberra, Christchurch NZ, New York, The Hague, Moscow, and London.

WORLD ORGANIZATIONS SAY 'TIME'S UP' FOR N-WEAPONS - WORLDWIDE RELEASE OF LETTER TO HEADS OF STATE

On the eve of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, 374 citizen organisations and parliamentarians have said time is up for nuclear weapons.

Groups and parliamentarians from all over the world representing millions of people have written to all the signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to ask that they fulfill article VI of the treaty, which calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Will the world's leaders be able to respond to the hopes of their publics, who are asking for a Review Conference that will allow the NPT to work as it was intended?

The NPT has been signed by 187 countries, with only India, Pakistan, Israel and Cuba not signed up. The letter has been sent to these countries also.

The letter is being released internationally on 10 April in Canberra, New York, Christchurch, Moscow, the Hague and London. It emphasizes that under the terms of the NPT, in force since 1970, the nuclear weapons states are legally obliged to eliminate their nuclear arsenals 'at an early date'.

The NPT Review Conference will take place at the United Nations in New York from 24April to May 19th. It will help determine whether or not the world will move towards the elimination of nuclear weapons or their further proliferation. The conference is widely expected to be 'difficult'.

Issues that will help make the conference difficult include the testing of nuclear weapons by India, and Pakistan, the refusal of the US Senate to ratify the Comprehensive test Ban treaty, the failure of the Russian Duma to ratify the START-II agreement, and the destabilizing effect of US plans to deploy a ballistic missile defence system. The letter notes that even ten years after the supposed end of the cold war, some 5,000 nuclear warheads are on permanent 'hair trigger' alert.

The letter has been signed by 42 parliamentarians including 13 members of the European Parliament, by 17 Australian MPs, and members of the parliaments of the UK, Belgium, Canada, NZ, and Germany. Groups that have signed the letter include Friends of the Earth International, Greenpeace International, International Peace Bureau, IPPNW, British-American Security Information Council and Green Cross International.

Contact:

Christchurch NZ - Commander Rob Green, (+64) 3 348 1353

Press release from Senator Lyn Allison

N-disarmament 'gone backwards'

On the eve of a conference reviewing the historic Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Australian Democrats nuclear spokesperson, Senator Lyn Allison, said it was disturbing to note Australia's retreat from involvement in disarmament.

Speaking at the Australian launch of a 374-signatory letter calling for disarmament, Senator Allison said, "The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed back in 1968, but I think it is fair to say we've gone backwards since that time."

Senator Allison echoed the UN Secretary-General.

"The nuclear disarmament agenda is in a state of deplorable stagnation," she said.

"Hopefully, this letter will help break the deadlocked progress in pursuit of nuclear non-proliferation. The vast majority of Australians want to see disarmament and an end to nuclear weapons.

"The possession of nuclear weapons by any state is a constant stimulus for other states to acquire them.

"Currently, 5000 nuclear missiles are pointed at major cities around the world. More worryingly, these missiles are on hair trigger alert.

"Russia and the US have, between them, 30,000 nuclear weapons and there are still no disarmament negotiations in relation to tactical weapons.

"Today I want to say that Australia could take a much stronger role in persuading nuclear weapons states to disarm.

"We want Australia to take a stronger role in this review. It is an opportunity to put pressure on the US and Russia. New Zealand, Ireland and Sweden have spoken out. We can't argue that Australia is too small and too inconsequential to make a difference," Senator Allison concluded.

The NPT Treaty Review Conference commences in New York on the 24th of this month and goes through until May 19. Seventeen Australian MPs signed the letter distributed at today's launch.

AAP Newswire:

(This is reproduced word for word in the AGE of Monday Apr 11)

Fed: Push for renewed committment to nuclear disarmament

Canberra, April 10 AAP- An international summit may be the worlds last chance to break the nuclear disarmament deadlock.

Several Australian politicians warned today that the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) may break down unless committment to disarmament is renewed at this months review conference in New York.

"The NPT Review Conference will help determine whether or not the world will move towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, or their further proliferation' they said in a statement.

The warning came at the launch of an international petition calling on the 187 treaty signatories to fulfil their committment to ending the nuclear age.

Of the 374 government and non-government signatures, 17 were from Australian MPs.

The petitions release was presided over by signatories lyn Allison (Australian Democrats) Carmen Lawrence (ALP) and Bob Brown (Australian greens)

They were joined by lobbyists from non- govenmental organisations in urging the Australian government to take a strong stance on the issue.

Senator Allison re- stated UN Secretary general Kofi Annans warning that the disarmament movement was in a 'state of deplorable stagnation'.

She told journalists 5000 nuclear missiles were pointed at major cities around the world, while the US and Russia had 30,000 warheads between them. ........

.....Her views were echoed by Dr Carmen Lawrence, who said the govrnment had surrendered Australias leading role - as shown duribg the 1996 Canberra Commission - to other middle powers such as Ireland and New Zealand. .......Foreign minister Alexander Downer would attend the conference, a spokesperson said.

ends

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