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UN official voices optimism Central Asia could become nuclear-weapon-free zone

UN official voices optimism Central Asia could become nuclear-weapon-free zone

The top United Nations disarmament official today said he was optimistic that five Central Asian countries could agree to a treaty banning nuclear weapons from the region.

Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala, in Tajikistan for the first leg of his five-nation tour of the region, said in an interview with UN Radio that he thought making Central Asia a nuclear-weapon-free zone was an "extremely realistic" idea.

"It is an indigenous proposal - it is not a proposal that has been imposed by anybody outside the zone," Mr. Dhanapala said, noting that the plan arose originally in 1997 through the Almaty Declaration and through a UN General Assembly resolution co-sponsored by Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

"We have negotiated most of the treaty," he added. "What now remains to be done is to spell out in detail the security assurances for these countries from both the nuclear weapons States and from others in the neighbouring region."

In addition to the proposal for a nuclear-weapons-free zone, Mr. Dhanapala said that he and President Emomali Rahmonov had also discussed the issue of small arms in the country.

"It appears that they have been able to overcome the substantial part of the problem," Mr. Dhanapala said, noting, however, that there remained a danger from Afghanistan because the two countries shared a long border and there was always the danger of an overspill of arms following the Afghanistan conflict.