The Guardian 15 June, 2005

US sabotaged nuke meeting

Dan Margolis

UNITED NATIONS: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) 2005 Review Conference ended here in failure on May 27. Many countries, non-governmental groups and peace activists said a successful outcome, which would have advanced global nuclear disarmament, was blocked by the Bush administration.

Chilean UN Ambassador Alfredo Labbe said the failed review represented "missed opportunities to practice multilateralism". In an obvious reference to the US, Labbe echoed the views of many when he said "some countries" had abused the rules of consensus to effectively exercise veto power over the review.

Former US Ambassador Thom­as Graham Jr of the Global Policy Institute said the US had failed to fulfil commitments it made when the NPT was adopted in 1995. "There have been failures in the past, but this failure appears to be at this stage the most acute failure in the history of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference process", he said.

Chris Cooper of Abolition Now, which co-sponsored the mass May 1 anti-nuclear demonstrations here, said, "I would be willing to say the United States basically sabotaged the conference. It became clear that they were not serious about strengthening the non-­proliferation regime."

Critics of US policy say that its representatives stymied the negotiations from the very beginning. The conference did not even have a working agenda until two weeks into the four-week conference.

Most nations wanted the agenda to include references to agreements reached in 1995 and 2000, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and an indefinite extension of the NPT. The stalemate only ended when other states, realising that time was short, capitulated to the US and agreed that there would be no reference to these issues in the final document, only a verbal mention of them in the opening statement by the conference president.

Another issue that held up adoption of an agenda was US opposition to a proposal pushed by Egypt, but backed by others, to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

Many so-called "middle powers", such as Ireland, Brazil and New Zealand, are advocating nuclear-weapons-free zones. These zones have already been established in many areas of the world, including all of Latin America, Antarctica, parts of Asia and Oceania. Their aim is to step-by-step restrict areas where there are nuclear weapons.

Once an agenda was adopted, the US stalled on other issues, leaving little if any time for the meeting to reach any substantive agreement.

Most non-nuclear nations criticise nuclear weapons states, mainly the US, for focusing on non-proliferation but not keeping their side of the agreement by dismantling their huge nuclear arsenals. Smaller, developing states say they feel threatened by this one-sided US posture.

The US push on "counter-proliferation", say many states, is trampling on their right to use nuclear energy for peaceful development, guaranteed by the NPT.

"It is convenient to blame Iran and Egypt and others for the failure of the NPT Review Conference", said Susi Snyder, secretary general of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She pointed out that Egypt "has been very vocal about the importance of acknowledging past agreements and bringing Israel into the treaty. And Iran has consistently called for a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East."

Both actions would strengthen the non-proliferation process, she said. "When the US refuses to even discuss these issues, then it is the one sabotaging the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

The Japan Council against A and H Bombs said the attitude of the US government "has aroused opposition internationally", including from many governments who are NPT signatories, "bringing into relief the absurdity and isolation of the US Bush administration going against the world’s wishes.

"The world’s calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons are now irreversible", the group said.

Cooper of Abolition Now said the US sabotage of the non-proliferation review "has completely re-energised the nuclear abolition movement, especially in Europe and the Middle East."

People’s Weekly World (abridged)

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