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End nuke non-proliferation deadlock, Annan pleads

Annan pleads for end to international deadlock on nuclear non-proliferation

With the world “sleepwalking” down the path towards more States, and possibly terrorists, acquiring nuclear weapons, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today strongly urged the Conference on Disarmament to take action after nine years of deadlock and two recent high-profile failures to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“I do not discount the depth of the difficulty that you face in settling longstanding differences, especially over nuclear disarmament and negative security assurances,” Mr. Annan told the Conference, which was established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community and is meeting in Geneva.

“Yet those difficulties pale into insignificance, when measured against the immense challenges that the global community faces in the broader sphere of non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control,” he said.

He said that twice last year, governments had a chance to strengthen the foundations of the NPT – first at the review conference in May, and then at the World Summit in September – and failed both times.

“This sent a terrible signal – of waning respect for the Treaty’s authority, and of a dangerous rift on a leading threat to peace and prosperity,” he said.

He noted that the Conference and its predecessors have registered “some truly important gains,” such as the major treaties on weapons of mass destruction it negotiated. “But the last such success – the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty – was nine years ago, I repeat, was nine years ago – and it has still not entered into force,” he said, once again urging those States whose ratification is still needed to take action as soon as possible.

The core of the impasse, he said, lies in the fact that the contract between the nuclear-weapon States and the rest of the international community, which is the basis of the NPT, has been called into question and that nuclear weapons worldwide still number in the thousands, many of them on hair-trigger alert.

These facts have engendered a self-defeating debate between those who insist on disarmament before further non-proliferation measures, and those who argue the opposite, while both are essential, he stressed.

He said nuclear weapons must be devalued for security, citing Japan, South Africa, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Libya as countries that have realized that security and status need not be equated with possession of nuclear weapons.

Noting that it was also urgent to resolve two specific situations, he expressed hope that the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “will listen to what the world is telling them, and take great care not to make the situation on the Peninsula even more complicated.”

Iran, he said, needs to enable the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assure the world that its nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful in nature: “In both cases, we need solutions that are not only peaceful, but that buttress the NPT’s integrity,” he urged.

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