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Progress in nuclear disarmament more urgent following terror attacks: Annan

Progress in nuclear disarmament more urgent following terror attacks: Annan

Recent terrorist attacks against the United States heighten the need to cut the world's nuclear arsenals, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in a message to the General Conference of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Making progress in the areas of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament is more important than ever in the aftermath of last week's appalling terrorist attack on the United States," Mr. Annan said in the statement delivered on his behalf by Steinar Bjornsson, Deputy Director of the UN Office at Vienna.

The Secretary-General called particular attention to the need for safety measures to prevent the diversion of nuclear materials to illegal channels. "Looking to the future, it is evident that broad international cooperation is essential to upgrade the physical protection of nuclear material, to improve capabilities for intercepting and responding to illicit trafficking in nuclear materials, and to enhance the protection of facilities against terrorism and sabotage."

Mr. Annan predicted that the Agency's role in tackling such matters would expand in the future. "The IAEA's mission is likely to grow and deepen in the decades ahead, and as you tackle this vast array of challenges, I wish you all success," he said.

The weeklong IAEA General Conference opened on a sombre note with a moment of silence followed by a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir to honour the victims of the recent tragedy in the United States.

Among other actions, States meeting at the Conference today approved the reappointment of Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt to a second four-year term as IAEA Director-General. Dr. ElBaradei said he was grateful for the confidence placed in him to meet the challenges ahead. "I trust that through our work, we can move forward together to make our world a safer and more humane place," he said.