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International disarmament conference gets go-ahead

The New Zealand government is holding discussions with the United Nations Asia Pacific Centre For Disarmament on the possibility of New Zealand hosting a disarmament conference early next year, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control Matt Robson announced today from Kaitaia at the opening of a new nuclear monitoring station.

$450,000 was allocated in the last budget for new multi-lateral initiatives, some of which will be used for meeting the costs of this conference, said Matt Robson.

He was opening New Zealand's newest nuclear monitoring station in Kaitaia with Minister of Health Annette King.

The first station was opened earlier this year in the Chathams by Annette King. A third station operates from the Cook Islands.

A formal agenda for the conference has yet to be decided, but a segment could aid further implementation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the South Pacific, said Matt Robson.

"New Zealand has a moral authority when it comes to world nuclear disarmament. We were one of the first countries to set up these sorts of monitoring stations under the CTBT. The Kaitaia station, like 300 others stations across the world will send data back to head quarters in Vienna. Any illegal testing in our region will be picked up straight away. It's a bit like a global speed camera to detect tests.

"The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been called the 'longest-sought, hardest-fought' prize in disarmament history since the atomic age began. Today this Kaitaia station officially becomes part of this global move to eliminate the testing of nuclear weapons for ever.

"A conference, hosted by New Zealand in early 2001, will be an opportunity for us to promote a nuclear weapon free Southern Hemisphere. We already have nuclear free zones in the South Pacific, South East Asia, Latin America and Africa. It's a case of joining forces and sending a strong message to the Northern Hemisphere to come and visit, but please - leave your weapons at the equator.

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