Splits emerge over call for strengthened nuclear inspections


On Day Two of the NPT Review Conference, delegates were unanimous in urging the entry into force as soon as possible of a global ban on nuclear tests.

Every speaker also called for movement towards implementing the 1995 resolution on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. They all highlighted the need for negotiations to get under way on a fissile materials ban at the Conference on Disarmament —with Norway saying that if the CD continues to stall "we should negotiate elsewhere".

But predictably there was less consensus on NPT compliance issues linked to Iran —with Venezuela condemning western "pressure" on Tehran - and on adopting as a universal standard the toughened inspections under the International Atomic Energy Agencys Additional Protocol. And the non nuclear weapons states paid scant attention to the US revelation of its nuclear arsenal the day before.

The New Agenda Coalition's presentation —delivered by Egypt's ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament —welcomed New START but he said that it was "only one of many necessary (disarmament) steps needed". He listed the CTBT, the lack of a fissile materials treaty and the ME resolution as requiring urgent attention. The statement carried weight as it represented the views of Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand, Sweden and Egypt.

The New Zealand minister for disarmament, Georgina Te Heuheu, described Indonesia's announced intention to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as "a cause for celebration". She urged the other eight states which have not yet done so —including the US —to ratify "as a matter of priority". Once all nine have ratified, the CTBT would enter into force.

In the wings, negotiations were going on as the Permanent Five of the UN security council —Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States —which are also the recognized nuclear powers put the finishing touches to a conference statement.

Complex negotiations —not only between the United States and Egypt, but also involving the P5 and Arab states —are also continuing on implementing the 1995 resolution on a Middle East WMD-free zone. But these are likely to continue throughout the conference.

Somewhat surprisingly, while other states have fielded ministers and senior officials, Egypt is represented at ambassador level and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit has stayed away. Surprising given Egypt's big push at this Review Conference to secure a regional conference as part of its quest for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. Could it be that he has an inkling of what lies in store in the negotiations?

Anne Penketh is currently attending the NPT RevCon in New York.

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