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Warning that nuclear test ban is vital

Warning that nuclear test ban is vital, Annan urges speedy ratification

Warning that a ban on nuclear testing is more vital than ever given the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on 12 key nations whose ratification is essential for the treaty to enter into force to do so forthwith, specifically naming the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"No nuclear testing must be tolerated under any circumstances," Mr. Annan said in an opening message to a conference in Vienna on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), calling on all states to observe a moratorium until the treaty, first opened for signature seven years ago, finally becomes operational.

"I therefore call upon all States that have yet to sign or ratify the treaty to do so without delay," he told the three-day meeting in the message, delivered by Antonio Maria Costa, Director-General, UN Office at Vienna. "Given the latest developments, I particularly direct this call to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as well as to the other eleven States whose ratification is needed for the Treaty to enter into force.

"It is essential that this important norm against nuclear proliferation and the further development of nuclear weapons becomes operational. Until it does so, it is crucial that all relevant states maintain a moratorium on nuclear-weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions," he added.

The DPRK withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at the beginning of the year and has since been reported to have said it would develop nuclear weapons and might carry out tests. Six-party talks, welcomed by Mr. Annan last Wednesday "an encouraging development," were held in Beijing last week in an effort to defuse the crisis among China, Japan, DPRK, Republic of Korea (ROK), Russian Federation and the United States.

To date, 168 states have signed the treaty and 104 have ratified it, but it will enter into force only when all 44 States, deemed to have nuclear potential, ratify it. Of these, 12 have still to do so - China, Colombia, DPRK, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, United States and Viet Nam.

"Our world can ill afford to fail, or even to be unduly delayed, in achieving a comprehensive nuclear test ban. Delay increases the risk that nuclear testing might resume. And it jeopardizes efforts to take further steps towards the goal of nuclear disarmament," Mr. Annan said, stressing the passage of time since the treaty was opened for signature.

"The entry into force of the CTBT would be a victory for the cause of peace. It cannot come too soon. The United Nations remains firmly committed to helping the world community to achieve that goal," he concluded.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, also called for speedy ratification.

"With the early entry into force of the CTBT, it would indeed be a significant achievement if this new century were to remain free of any nuclear test explosions," he said. "In this context, I encourage all signatory states to ratify the CTBT, and all those states that have yet to sign to do so and to ratify the treaty, as soon as possible - so that another crucial pillar can be raised to support the edifice of global nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament norms."

Under the terms of CTBT, a global verification regime to monitor compliance with the treaty must be operational at the time of entry into force.

The 32 key states who have already ratified CTBT are: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

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