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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

In face of potential nuclear terrorism, States seek to strengthen UN-backed treaty

30 June 2005 Concerned by the potential for nuclear terrorism, more than 350 delegates from 80 States Parties to a United Nations-backed treaty on safeguarding nuclear material open a five-day conference in Vienna, Austria, on Monday aimed at adopting additional measures to avert smuggling or sabotage that could further such acts.

The Vienna-based UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the depositary of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), the only legally binding international agreement providing physical protection of nuclear material and ensuring improved security in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.

"Following the recent adoption of the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of International Terrorism, the CPPNM amendments will be yet another milestone in international efforts to improve the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said earlier this month.

Since 2001, a group of experts has worked to strengthen the physical protection regime under the current Convention, which was signed in Vienna and New York in 1980. It applies to the protection of nuclear material used for peaceful purposes while in international transport and also contains provisions related to offences relating to nuclear material used for peaceful purposes while in domestic use, storage a transport.

Strengthening the current Convention entails a stronger and uniform physical protection regime applicable to both nuclear material and facilities used for peaceful purposes.

The amendments will provide for an expanded regime that aims at the protection of nuclear material against theft, smuggling and sabotage, and nuclear facilities against sabotage. The regime also provides for expanded cooperation between States regarding rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, to mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage and to prevent and combat relevant offences.

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