Swiss disappointed by nuclear-arms conference

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Switzerland has expressed its disappointment after a conference aimed at boosting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) collapsed without a deal.

This content was published on May 28, 2005 - 12:36

The head of the Swiss delegation, Jürg Streuli, said that the failure was due to an "unholy alliance" between nuclear powers and developing countries.

Delegates from 188 nations - including Switzerland - had been meeting at the UN’s headquarters in New York for a month for talks on the NPT.

The treaty, signed in 1970, was designed to stop the spread of weapons, achieve nuclear disarmament and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It is reviewed every five years.

But the meeting, which wrapped up on Friday evening, ended in stalemate with countries failing to agree on new measures to stop the spread of nuclear arms.

Streuli said it was "a shame" that no consensus had been found. But he added that it was "not a catastrophe".

"The non-proliferation treaty has been weakened, but it will keep going," Streuli told swissinfo.

He said that in the treaty’s 35-year history there had been several situations when negotiations came to a halt with no results.

He added that the decisions taken at the last two meetings in 1995 and 2000, calling for a "diminishing role" for nuclear weapons in security policies and reinforcing the treaty, were still in place.

Unholy alliance

Streuli said that a "sort of unholy alliance" between nuclear powers and developing countries was largely to blame for the failure of the conference.

On the one hand, atomic powers such as the United States did not want to sign up to any measures that would mean more rigorous controls by the international community of their nuclear arsenal.

On the other hand, developing countries, which are in favour of atomic energy because of the high price of oil, didn’t want to be subject to any new regulations on nuclear power.

For its part, Switzerland continued to support nuclear disarmament and condemn proliferation. It is also still in favour of a controlled and peaceful use of nuclear arms and energy, said Streuli.

"Switzerland is not unimportant. We produce two-fifths of our energy using atomic power and have highly developed nuclear technology," the diplomat told swissinfo.

He said that numerous suggestions had been put forward at the meeting which could be discussed at other occasions, such as the next UN conference on disarmament, which is due to take place in Geneva on Thursday.

Streuli added that he was convinced that nuclear disarmament would be a topic at the 60th UN General Assembly in September.

"We hope that government heads will be able to straighten things out," he said.

Missed opportunity

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he regretted that nations had missed "a vital opportunity to strengthen our collective security against many nuclear threats to which all states and all peoples are vulnerable".

He warned that the inability to take action was "bound to weaken the treaty and the broader-based regime over time".

When the conference began on May 2 countries had hoped to agree on a plan to plug loopholes in the treaty that allow countries to acquire sensitive atomic technology. They also wanted reassurance from the nuclear powers that they remained committed to disarmament.

But even amid concerns over nuclear activities in Iran and North Korea, no deal was struck.

Correspondents said that this was mainly because the meeting was dogged by politics and procedural wrangling.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The NPT was signed in 1968 and limits nuclear weapons to the US, Russia, Britain, France and China.
Switzerland ratified it in 1977.
The 188 nations met in New York from May 2-27 to review the treaty.
But the meeting ended without a deal.
The two previous conferences, in 1995 and 2000, were more successful, making the NPT permanent and defining 13 steps for nuclear disarmament.

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