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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Annan welcomes report urging broad steps to prevent terrorists from getting WMDs

1 June 2006 Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed a new report calling for broad steps to prevent weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) from falling into terrorist hands – ranging from outlawing them completely to convening a world summit on the issue – after receiving it from chief author Hans Blix, a former chief United Nations arms inspector for Iraq.

On receipt of the 231-page document produced by the Independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, which Mr. Blix chaired, a spokesman for Mr. Annan called it “an important contribution to the debate on disarmament and non-proliferation” and urged the international community “to study the report and consider its recommendations.”

Arguing that nuclear, biological and chemical arms are “the most inhumane of all weapons” capable of vast, indiscriminate and long-lasting destruction, the report points out that so long as any country has these weapons others will want them. “So long as any such weapons remain in any State’s arsenal, there is a high risk that they will one day be used, by design or accident,” the authors note, warning that “Any such use would be catastrophic.”

Stocks remain “extraordinarily and alarmingly high,” including 27,000 nuclear weapons, of which around 12,000 are still actively deployed.

While acknowledging that weapons of mass destruction “cannot be uninvented,” the report stresses that they can be outlawed, as biological and chemical weapons already have been, and their use made unthinkable. “Compliance, verification and enforcement rules can, with the requisite will, be effectively applied. And with that will, even the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is not beyond the world’s reach.”

In the face of a mounting loss of momentum in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts – as evidenced by the failure of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and the inability of the 2005 World Summit to agree on any WMD issue, the authors put forward a number of specific recommendations for action.

The report calls for disarmament and non-proliferation to be pursued through a “cooperative rule-based international order, applied and enforced through effective multilateral institutions, with the UN Security Council as the ultimate global authority.”

There is an urgent need to revive “meaningful” negotiations on reducing the danger of present arsenals, preventing proliferation, and outlawing all weapons of mass destruction once and for all, the report argues.

The report calls for convening a world summit on disarmament, non-proliferation and terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction “to generate new momentum for concerted international action.”

In order to reduce the danger of present arsenals, the report calls for securing all weapons of mass destruction and all WMD-related material and equipment from theft or other acquisition by terrorists. Nuclear weapons must be taken off high-alert status to cut the risk of launching them by error, while there should be “deep reductions” in strategic nuclear weapons. All non-strategic nuclear weapons should be placed in centralized storage and withdrawn from foreign soil.

Other recommendations call for a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, a phase out of the production of highly enriched uranium, the adoption of ‘no-first-use’ pledges, assurances not to use atomic arms against non-nuclear-weapon States, and no development of nuclear weapons for new tasks.

The report further calls for bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force and reviving the fundamental commitments of all NPT parties, namely that the five (declared) nuclear-weapon States must negotiate towards nuclear disarmament and the non-nuclear-weapon States must refrain from developing nuclear weapons.

Ultimately, the report points to the need to outlaw all weapons of mass destruction “once and for all.”

In his preface to the report, Mr. Blix sounds a note of cautious optimism. “At the present time it seems to me that not only successes in the vital work to prevent proliferation and terrorism but also progress in two additional areas could transform the current gloom into hope,” he writes, calling for bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force and negotiating a global treaty to stop the production of fissile material for weapons.

“In both these areas the United States has the decisive leverage,” he says. “If it takes the lead the world is likely to follow. If it does not take the lead, there could be more nuclear tests and new nuclear arms races.”

Mr. Blix echoed this point during a press conference held in New York today in conjunction with the report’s launch. “If there were to be ratification by governments of the CTBT including in the US where it was turned down by the Senate a number of years ago then this would change the atmosphere completely,” he said, adding that he didn’t see “any sign” of this happening at present.

“The US is opposed to a ratification but the reality is probably that if the US were to ratify then China would; if China did then India would; if India did Pakistan would; if Pakistan did then Iran would. So it would set in motion a good domino effect,” he said.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC) is established on an initiative by the late Foreign Minister of Sweden, Anna Lindh, acting on a proposal by then United Nations Under-Secretary-General Jayantha Dhanapala. The Swedish Government invited Dr. Blix to set up and chair the Commission.

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