Delegates Take Key Step In Nuclear Treaty Review

By: Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press Email
By: Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press Email

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Delegates preparing for a major conference next year to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty have agreed on an agenda, complete with contentious issues such as the pace of disarmament by the five nuclear powers.

Britain's ambassador for multilateral arms control and disarmament said getting agreement on the agenda was a major goal.

The last review conference in 2005 was unable to agree on an agenda until nearly three weeks after it started, "and this was a major factor in the failure of the meeting," John Duncan said.

President Barack Obama's pledge last month to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons - a major reversal from former President George W. Bush's policy - has spurred hope that it and new U.S.-Russian cooperation will end a long deadlock on global disarmament efforts.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, known as the NPT, requires signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers - the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China - to move toward nuclear disarmament. The nonweapons states are guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology to produce nuclear power.

Britain's Duncan cautioned that "this is only the first step on what will be a challenging discussion."

The agenda - which will be formally adopted at the start of next year's conference - covers the treaty's three pillars: disarmament, nonproliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

It includes contentious issues such as assurances by the nuclear weapon states that they won't use their atomic weapons against non-nuclear states, and getting all countries to join the treaty.

The U.S. is encouraging the three holdouts - India, Pakistan and Israel - to join, and North Korea to come back. India, Pakistan and North Korea possess nuclear weapons, and Israel is widely believed to have them.

Also on the agenda is the establishment of a nuclear-weapons free zone in the Middle East, which would require Israel's compliance.

The preparatory meeting ends May 15.

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