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Spread of nuclear weapons must be curbed, Annan says as test ban talks open at UN

Spread of nuclear weapons must be curbed, Annan says as test ban talks open at UN

The events of 11 September have made it clear that the world cannot afford further proliferation of nuclear weapons, nor can it afford to lose momentum in efforts to eliminate such arms from the world’s arsenals, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today to a United Nations conference to promote a ban on nuclear testing.

“We must do everything we can to reduce the risk of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists,” Mr. Annan said in his opening remarks to the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) at UN Headquarters in New York.

Referring to the countries that have not signed or ratified the Treaty, the Secretary-General said, “I implore them to do so.” He also urged other countries to focus on “finding arguments, and taking steps, that will allay the doubts still felt in those States.”

“We have a precious but fleeting opportunity to render this troubled world a safer place, free of the threat of nuclear weapons,” he said. “We must not let it pass.”

The three-day session in New York aims to bring aboard those States whose ratification was critical to the Treaty’s success, according to the newly elected President of the Conference, Miguel Marin Bosch of Mexico, who spoke to reporters at a press conference. In response to a question about the realistic possibility of the Treaty going forward without the participation of the United States, he said these things had a way of weighing on the souls and conscience of countries. He noted that some 50 years ago, no one would even entertain the idea of certain nations giving up their colonies. But over time, the weight of petitioners as well as pressure from the UN and the international community had led to eventual independence for many countries.

“If you keep up the pressure on the United States, I believe they will come around,” he said. While it was perhaps necessary to explore ways to allay that country’s reservations, high-level international recognition of the Treaty’s importance could also play a crucial role in bringing the US back on board. Moreover, Mr. Marin Bosch said he believed that there was not unanimity on the disarmament issue within the US Government.

The CTBT currently has 161 signatories and 84 ratifications and can only enter into force when 44 countries listed in an annex as possessors of nuclear research or nuclear power reactors have signed and ratified it. Of those 44 countries, 41 have signed the Treaty and 31 have ratified it; three of the States listed in the annex have neither signed nor ratified the accord: India, Pakistan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The declared nuclear-weapon-States - France, Russia and the United Kingdom - have ratified the Treaty, while China and the United States have only signed it.