U.N. Urged to Host World Summit on Nukes
By Thalif Deen - Inter Press Service
United Nations, 02 June, (IPS): An international commission on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons has urged the 191-member U.N. General Assembly to convene a world summit on disarmament, non-proliferation and terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The proposed summit of world leaders should also discuss and decide on reforms to improve the efficiency of the U.N. disarmament machinery and make it more effective, says a report by the 14-member commission headed by Hans Blix of Sweden, a onetime head of the U.N.'s arms inspection team in Iraq.
"After 50 years of (the U.S.-Soviet) cold war, we even see the risk of arms races involving new types of nuclear weapons, space weapons and missiles," says the study titled "Weapons of Terror."
The Blix team, officially called the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, has advanced 60 concrete proposals on how the world could be freed of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
"So long as any state has such weapons -- especially nuclear arms -- others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain in any state's arsenal, there is a high risk that they will one day be used, by design or accident. Any such use would be catastrophe," the study warns.
The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, which has expressed strong reservations over nuclear disarmament, is also not likely to support any proposal for a world summit on disarmament.
Asked whether such a proposal was practicable, John Burroughs, executive director of the New York-based Lawyer's Committee on Nuclear Policy, told IPS: "For it to happen, I think it would require a new administration in Washington that was prepared to join and enlist the world in new efforts (at nuclear disarmament)."
But he pointed out that the Blix Commission's proposal usefully revives the idea for an international conference that was floated in a different form by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan earlier this decade.
Despite the end of the cold war over a decade ago, the study says, stocks of WMD "remain extraordinarily and alarmingly high": some 27,000 in the case of nuclear weapons, of which about 12,000 are still actively deployed.
"Weapons of mass destruction cannot be un-invented. But they can be outlawed, as biological and chemical weapons already have been, and their use made unthinkable," says the study.
The commission has concluded that the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is not beyond the world's reach. But it still lacks the political will to do so.
The five declared nuclear powers -- who are also veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- are the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China.
At a second level are the world's three new nuclear powers, namely India, Pakistan and Israel. At a third level are two potential nuclear powers, Iran and North Korea, while two suspected WMD programmes -- in Iraq and Libya -- have been declared eliminated. "For too long now," said Burroughs, "Americans have been hearing the message that nuclear weapons are unacceptable in the hands of rogue states and terrorists."
But the Blix report "rightly says that these catastrophic devices are dangerous in anyone's hands; that the problems of existing arsenals, potential spread, and potential acquisition by terrorists are all linked; and that the problems can be solved only by a comprehensive approach leading to elimination of all nuclear weapons."
Fundamentally, the solution embraced by the Blix Commission, "and long advocated by my organisation is that proliferation must be reversed where it began: in the United States," Burroughs added.
In a statement released Thursday, Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation said the report is a "wake-up call."
"The Commission clearly holds the United States largely responsible for the present crisis. By walking away from tried and true arms control treaties, and by launching an illegal preventive war in the name of 'counter-proliferation', the U.S. has seriously undermined international law and endangered international security," Cabasso added.
One of the major recommendations of the commission is that all governments must accept the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that was agreed 10 years ago. The treaty states that those possessing nuclear weapons must reduce their arsenals and stop producing plutonium and highly enriched uranium for more nuclear weapons.
At the international level, the Commission calls on the 15-member U.N. Security Council to make greater use of its potential to reduce and eliminate threats of weapons of mass destruction -- whether they are linked to existing arsenals, proliferation or terrorists.
"It should take up for consideration any withdrawal from or breach of an obligation not to acquire weapons of mass destruction," says the study.
Asked if this proposal would fly -- in view of the fact that the Security Council also includes the world's five declared nuclear powers -- Burroughs told IPS: "This is extremely interesting and important."
On the one hand, the Commission clearly sees the potential for the Security Council to build upon what it did in resolution 1540 on preventing non-state actors from acquiring and trafficking in WMD.
On the other hand, he said, the Commission is aware that the Security Council lacks in accountability and legitimacy.
"So their solution is for the Council to do more consultation and be more transparent, pending reform of the Council to make it more representative and lessen the dominance of the existing permanent members."
"I certainly support those steps. But I don't think that the world -- or the United States -- should give up on the approach of negotiating multilateral agreements of which all states can feel ownership," Burroughs added.
- Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency -