UN asks for agreement on nuclear disarmament

New York, May 28 (DPA) With one day left before a month-long nuclear review conference ends Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the participants to agree on nuclear disarmament as expected by the world.

‘There is too much at stake for the conference to repeat the failure of 2005,’ Ban said in a letter to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty meeting at UN headquarters in New York.

Ban urged the parties to break deadlocks over nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. The every-five-year conference ended in disaster in 2005 when the United States led the charge against Iran’s nuclear activities and the conference ended without a statement.

The 189 NPT signatories were to issue a final declaration Friday, which in its draft form calls for a timeline for the elimination of all nuclear weapons in the possession of the world’s five recognized nuclear powers: the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.

The five powers have so far not agreed on a clear timeline even though they agree to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

‘Now is the time for the delegations to be pragmatic and coalesce around solutions that will advance the interest of the whole community of nations,’ Ban said.

He called for adopting a document that will further strengthen nuclear non-proliferation and lead to nuclear disarmament.

The draft supports a conference in 2012 leading to a long-proposed nuclear-weapons free Middle East. The date was accepted by Arab governments for the first time, after years of pushing for the proposal.

The proposed 30-page draft was presented Monday night to NPT signatories and will likely be amended before Friday. It was drafted by Philippine Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, who chaired the review debate and tried to reflect the differences among participants.

Participants said the decision for a 2010 Middle East conference – under UN auspices – was by itself an achievement by the NPT signatories because it would bring together all nations in the Middle East, including Israel and Iran.

Israel has never admitted it has nuclear weapons, as alleged by Arab governments. The British Guardian newspaper published this week declassified South African documents claiming to show Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to South Africa’s former apartheid regime.

The Middle East zone was first proposed at the NPT review conference in 1995. The draft calls for the appointment of a special envoy to lead talks and to report on progress between now and 2015, the next NPT review conference.

The 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement have been pressuring the NPT for a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament, which runs counter to what the five nuclear powers want to do. Those powers can agree to the elimination of nuclear weapons but without a timeline.

The draft offers a plan of action, which included a reaffirmation of ‘the unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament’.

The draft calls for further efforts ‘to verifiably reduce all types of nuclear weapons, deployed and non-deployed’, which would include tactical, non-strategic, weapons.

During closed-door debate, representatives of the five nuclear powers also opposed a separate international convention that would demand nuclear disarmament.

The draft calls for the UN secretary general to hold ‘open-ended high-level discussion to take stock and agree on a roadmap for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, including by means of a universal legal instrument’.

Western governments attending the NPT conference also gave full support to the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in particular to enforcing a protocol which allows IAEA inspectors intrusive access to information and nuclear facilities of NPT signatories.

Non-aligned countries object to the intrusive access, and insist that the access is only a voluntary arrangement.

Three other countries – India, Pakistan and North Korea – have exploded nuclear devices. India and Pakistan never joined the NPT, while North Korea remains an NPT member although it has verbally withdrawn without filing official notice.