UN set to adopt treaty outlawing nuclear arms

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UNITED NATIONS: A global treaty banning nuclear weapons is set to be adopted at the United Nations on Friday despite opposition from the United States, Britain, France and other nuclear powers that boycotted negotiations.

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Supporters describe the treaty as a historic achievement but the nuclear-armed states have dismissed the ban as unrealistic, arguing it will have no impact on reducing the global stockpile of 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand, 141 countries have taken part in three weeks of negotiations on the treaty that provides for a total ban on developing, stockpiling or threatening to use nuclear weapons.

Advocates hope it will increase pressure on nuclear states to take disarmament more seriously.

“After our final review of the text yesterday, I am convinced that we have achieved a general consensus on a robust and comprehensive prohibition,” said Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica, who serves as the President of the conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.

“This will be a historic moment and it is the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty to be concluded in more than 20 years,” she told a news conference at UN Headquarters.

According to the draft text, the treaty covers the full range of nuclear weapons-related activities, prohibiting undertaking by any State party to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

The prohibitions also include any undertaking to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

However, none of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons—the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—took part in the negotiations.

Even Japan—the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945—boycotted the talks as did most NATO countries.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley came out strongly against the ban when negotiations opened on March 27, saying “there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic.”

“Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?” she asked.

No more prestige
Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent against a nuclear attack and say they remain committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The decades-old NPT seeks to prevent the spread of atomic weapons but also puts the onus on nuclear states to reduce their stockpiles.

Impatience however is growing among many non-nuclear states over the slow pace of disarmament as are worries that the weapons of mass destruction will fall into the wrong hands.

Disarmament campaigners say the treaty will go a long way in increasing the stigma associated with nuclear weapons and will have an impact on public opinion.

During a meeting at the General Assembly, the treaty is expected to be adopted by consensus by the conference of nations that has negotiated the document without the nuclear powers and their allies.

After its adoption, the treaty will be open for signatures as of September 20 and will enter into force when 50 countries have ratified it.

During a vote at the UN General Assembly in December, 113 countries voted in favor of starting negotiations on the new treaty while 35 opposed the move and 13 abstained.

AFP/UN DAILY NEWS

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