At a time when nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament face critical challenges, nearly 190 states will gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York next Monday for a two-week meeting to help prepare urgently needed measures to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
In a news release on the meeting today the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, stressed that the NPT, the world's most widely adhered to multilateral arms control accord, confronts a raft of challenges from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's refusal to submit to IAEA verification to the discovery of a sophisticated illicit market in nuclear technology and materials.
The IAEA, which is not a party to the NPT but is entrusted with key roles and responsibilities under it, also pointed to on-going agency efforts to verify the nuclear activities of Iran and Libya and the slow progress in nuclear disarmament.
The IAEA acts as the international safeguards inspectorate for NPT and as a multilateral channel for facilitating the transfer of peaceful applications of nuclear technology.
The meeting starting Monday - referred to as a Preparatory Committee or 'PrepCom' session - will consider the purpose, operation and implementation of the NPT and agree on strengthening measures to be approved at the Treaty's upcoming Review Conference in 2005. It is the third and final PrepCom session.
IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recently voiced hope that the conference "will consider urgently needed measures and agree on a specific course of action that will help re-engineer the nuclear non-proliferation regime and revive the stalling nuclear arms control and disarmament process."