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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Recent advances improve atmosphere of upcoming nuclear forum - UN official

30 April 2010 – The latest review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will kick off in a much more positive atmosphere than the last gathering, thanks to recent moves by the United States and Russia to slash their nuclear arsenals, among others, according to the top United Nations disarmament official.

At the end of the last meeting in 2005, Sergio Duarte, President of that review conference and now UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the event had accomplished “very little” amid widely diverging views on nuclear arms and their spread. It wrapped up without any substantive agreement having been reached by nations.

Under the provisions of the NPT, which forms the foundation of the world’s nuclear non-proliferation regime and which marked the 40th anniversary of its entry into force earlier this month, parties to the pact must meet every five years to discuss how to further its full implementation and its universality.

But this year’s conference, which starts at UN Headquarters on Monday, Mr. Duarte told UN Radio yesterday, will take place in a much different atmosphere, coming on the heels of positive developments, such as the agreement last year between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to significantly reduce their nuclear arsenals.

Additional progress was made last month when the two countries reached a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) under which they pledged to cut back on their stockpiles by a third.

That development put a “very positive note… not only on the relations between these… two possessors of nuclear weapons, but also for the rest of the community in the NPT,” the disarmament official noted.

Also contributing to an improved atmosphere is that, unlike the 2005 review conference, the preparatory meetings ahead of this year’s gathering have been successful, with States parties agreeing on its organization, he noted.

“All these things together certainly made a good difference from the climate that prevailed in 2005,” Mr. Duarte stressed.

One of the main challenges this year’s event faces, he said, is how to make the NPT more effective in the fields of disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the three main thrusts of the treaty.

Speakers at the review conference, which runs from 3 to 28 May, will include Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iranian authorities hold that the country’s work in the nuclear field is for peaceful purposes, while some countries contend it is driven by military ambitions. The programme has been a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the NPT.

Earlier this week, Mr. Ban told reporters that if Mr. Ahmadinejad “brings some good constructive proposal in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue, that would be helpful.”

The President-elect of this year’s review conference, Ambassador Libran N. Cabactulan of the Philippines, emphasized yesterday that “all the States parties are equally important to bring their views to the table” and “find ways and means that can provide” a safer world for all.

The forum should serve as “a marketplace of ideas,” he said. “The best ideas or the right ideas must prevail.”



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