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Swiss sound alarm over disarmament inertia

There were anti-nuclear protests in New York a day before the conference opened Keystone

Switzerland has told a United Nations meeting that little progress has been made towards nuclear disarmament in the past five years.

This content was published on May 3, 2005 - 21:57

Peter Maurer, Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York, called on Tuesday for more to be done to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Maurer was addressing delegates on the second day of a conference on the NPT in New York. 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, with delegates from all 188 signatory states - including Switzerland - taking part in the month-long conference at the UN’s New York headquarters.

The ambassador said that, 35 years after coming into force, the NPT was still "a long way" from being fully implemented and that developments since the last conference in 2000 had been "disquieting rather than encouraging".

Nuclear disarmament had not been achieved and negotiations on measures to stop the production of atomic-weapons material had not even begun, noted Maurer.

Credibility

"My country therefore considers it essential that the treaty should retain and strengthen its credibility, which up to now has prompted the vast majority of states parties to respect their commitments vis-à-vis the NPT," he said.

Maurer said it was vital to maintain what had been achieved at the previous review conferences in 1995 and 2000. This included the adoption of two key documents aimed at encouraging nuclear disarmament.

The ambassador also underlined the importance of the "universality" of the treaty. He reminded delegates that India, Israel and Pakistan - all nuclear powers - had not yet signed up.

North Korea withdrew in 2003 and the exact nature of Iran’s atomic programme was still not known, added Maurer.

He also criticised the "sizeable black market" in nuclear technology and the fact that some member countries had granted funds for the development of weapons.

In all, Maurer said that Switzerland could only find four positive developments concerning nuclear programmes over the past five years – among them Libya’s decision to renounce atomic weapons in 2003 and the confirmation from several sources that there was no nuclear-weapons programme in Iraq.

Commitment

Maurer’s comments came a day after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on world leaders to reinforce their commitment to the treaty.

Speaking at the conference, Annan said that former Cold War rivals Russia and the United States should reduce their present nuclear arsenals.

He added that countries such as Iran should be allowed access to nuclear fuel but should not be tempted to try atomic programmes.

The US has accused Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons. Last month Iran threatened to resume a uranium-enrichment programme.

At the meeting on Tuesday Tehran insisted it had the right to carry out legal nuclear activities, including the enrichment of uranium, for peaceful purposes.

It added that it was not up to an "exclusive club" of nations to decide who had access to such technology.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The 188 signatory states of the NPT are meeting in New York from May 2-27.
The NPT is reviewed every five years.
The meeting is being held amid concerns about the extent of nuclear programmes in Iran and North Korea.
The NPT came into force in 1970 and limits nuclear weapons to the US, Russia, Britain, France and China.
Switzerland ratified it in 1977.

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