The Guardian May 24, 2000


Nuclear Non-Proliferaton Treaty review

Following lengthy and at times tense negotiations over the future of 
nuclear disarmament, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review 
Conference ended late last week, with the adoption of a final 
statement.

Diplomats representing 187 nations took part in the conference at the 
United Nations Headquarters in New York, with 500 non-government 
organisations watching closely.

The NPT, signed by 187 nations, contains a clause (Article VI) obliging the 
officially recognised nuclear weapons states (US, Russia, China, France and 
UK) to negotiate away their nuclear arsenals.

It has been in force since 1970, but the nuclear weapons states have done 
little to live up to their legal requirements. if anything, the Treaty has 
been used to preserve a monopoly over nuclear weapons, rather than see 
their elimination.

In a joint statement, Irene Gale of the Australian Peace Committee SA (APC) 
and John Hallam of Friends of the Earth (FOE), commented on the outcome: 
"While the statement that has been adopted is much weaker than NGOs 
worldwide and most governments, especially those of the moderate `New 
Agenda Coalition', led by Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, 
South Africa, and Egypt, would have liked, it does for the first time, 
force the nuclear weapons states to accomplish the total elimination of 
their nuclear arsenals, leading to nuclear disarmament."

During the conference the nuclear weapon states had released a statement 
pledging the "ultimate" elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

This "concession" by the nuclear weapons states is the result of immense 
pressure from around the world but, as the FOE/APC statement points out, 
"it lacks a clear time-table, and the requirement for the nuclear weapon 
states to document the steps they are taking over the next review period 
has been eliminated".

The APC and FOE also pointed out that outside the NPT review conference, 
the US and Russia were engaged in a wrangle over US plans to deploy a 
national ballistic defence system, which would violate the ABM treaty 
signed in 1972.

Russia has given notice that if the ABM treaty is violated it will withdraw 
from all arms control agreements, threatening to reignite a nuclear arms 
race.

During the NPT review conference, nation after nation termed the ABM treaty 
"the cornerstone of strategic stability" and urged that it be maintained".

Both FOE and the APC are critical of the role played by the Australian 
Government.

It failed to support the New Agenda Coalition in spite of a resolution in 
the Australian Senate urging it to do so and refused to move from its non-
proliferation approach to nuclear weapons rather than seek their 
elimination.

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