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UN official urges concrete steps to achieve nuclear disarmament

UN official urges concrete steps to achieve nuclear disarmament

The top United Nations disarmament official today urged concrete action in the area of nuclear disarmament - a key challenge to global security.

Addressing a two-day meeting organized by the "Middle Powers Initiative," Jayantha Dhanapala, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament, called for action to implement 13 practical steps toward global nuclear disarmament agreed at the 2000 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). He warned that the effort would not be easy "since there is a risk -- if not a likelihood -- that some countries may attempt to exploit ambiguities in the drafting of these steps to escape accountability."

Mr. Dhanapala called for realistic expectations in the face of the challenge. "The way to a world free of nuclear weapons will more likely resemble a winding, unpaved road than a super-highway," he said, adding that if the gap between words and deeds persists, it might be useful to pursue the Secretary-General's proposal for a major international conference to eliminate nuclear dangers.

Concerning the specific challenges ahead, he cited the "rather bleak" prospects for the entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Despite the impressive fact that 160 States have signed the Treaty and 76 have ratified it, only 31 of the 44 States which are specifically required to ratify the Treaty have done so at present. He expressed particular concern that the Treaty continued to face serious obstacles to ratification by the United States -- "the country that worked hard and long to conclude such a treaty."

The Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative, Douglas Roche of Canada, has described it as a campaign "to urge the leaders of several key middle-power States to press the nuclear weapon States to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons."

In a related development, the Disarmament Commission on Friday wrapped up its annual session by adopting, among other documents, a report on ways and means to achieve nuclear disarmament. According to the Commission Chairperson Diane Quarless of Jamaica, the document provides a good synthesis of the many facets of the issue.