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Swiss call for open weapons debate at UN

Jenö Staehelin says the WMD debate should be more transparent Keystone

The Swiss ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Jenö Staehelin, has called for a wider debate on weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

This content was published on April 23, 2004 - 07:55

The call comes as the UN Security Council considers a new resolution aimed at preventing the procurement of such weapons by militant groups.

Staehelin told the Security Council on Thursday that Switzerland was fully aware of the risk of individuals or terrorist groups getting their hands on WMD. He said Switzerland agreed there was an urgent need to contain the threat.

But the ambassador warned that any discussion about limiting WMD proliferation needed to be as transparent as possible.

“As the resolution under discussion contains obligations relevant for all [UN] member states, it must be drafted with the greatest possible transparency,” said Staehelin. “It is this concern for transparency that has led Switzerland to support the request for an open debate.”

Small group

To date only the five permanent members of the Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain – have discussed the draft resolution, tabled by Washington.

Other Security Council members - which serve on the Council on a temporary basis - have complained about how the issue is being handled.

Six non-members, including Switzerland, also voiced their disagreement and were able to make their case to the Security Council on Thursday.

The Swiss object to the fact that only the permanent members of the Security Council are deciding on the issue.

Staehelin argues that any resolution would affect all UN member states, especially since various international treaties already cover different types of WMD.

He added that the obligations of member states needed to be clarified.

“Switzerland is of the opinion that a number of elements in the draft resolution are not sufficiently precise,” said Staehelin.

Obligations

One of the main concerns is that the resolution will be used by states to justify unilateral action or sanctions. The Swiss ambassador warned that monitoring its implementation would have to be a multilateral effort.

Staehelin added that any committee set up to monitor implementation would have to work in conjunction with existing organisations.

He added that efforts should also focus on strengthening verification procedures.

Staehelin also used his speech to remind UN member states of their obligations concerning arms control and disarmament.

“The long-term aim is and must remain the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

“To achieve this objective, all states must fully meet their obligations that are contained in the relevant conventions.”

swissinfo

In brief

An American-backed draft resolution to prevent weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from falling into the hands of militant groups has been discussed at the UN.

So far, only the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have talked about the resolution, a move that has irritated other member states.

Six countries, including Switzerland, have requested a more open debate involving all member states, since the resolution would have consequences for all nations.

The Swiss have also demanded that any resolution adopted must contain multilateral provisions, so as to avoid the possibility of unilateral action by one state against another.

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