UN Nuclear Conference Gets Last-Minute Draft Statement

UNITED NATIONS — A month-long UN nuclear conference took up a new draft final document in its final 24 hours in a last-ditch bid to resolve a stalemate that has blocked moves on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for a decade.

UNITED NATIONS — A month-long UN nuclear conference took up a new draft final document in its final 24 hours in a last-ditch bid to resolve a stalemate that has blocked moves on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for a decade.

Conference president Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines presented the draft to a plenary session on Thursday, reviewing the 189-nation NPT at United Nations headquarters.

"The document before you is the best that can be offered" amid conflicting national demands, he said.


At stake is a reaffirmation of the validity of the NPT treaty, which since 1970 has set the global agenda for fighting the spread of nuclear weapons.

The NPT is in crisis over how to monitor suspect nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, and how to get nuclear weapons states to honor their treaty promise on disarmament.

The NPT bargain is that weapon states move to disarm while others forgo seeking the bomb in return for getting help to develop peaceful nuclear programs.

Nuclear powers and non-nuclear-weapon states, represented by the non-aligned movement, clashed here Wednesday over how to get rid of atomic arms.

Non-aligned states suggested some 200 amendments to an earlier draft statement, particularly to get nuclear weapon states to accept the principle of putting a time limit on achieving disarmament, diplomats told AFP.

Nuclear powers Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States reject this.

Approval of a final text, which must be by consensus, would not be a cure-all for the world's nuclear proliferation problems, but it would mark a new tone of cooperation.

It also would be a success for US President Barack Obama's ambitious non-proliferation agenda which favors multilateral diplomacy and is a marked departure from the confrontational tactics of his predecessor George W. Bush.

A solution of the diplomatic battles that have set the world's nuclear haves against the have-nots may come in the carefully crafted new draft that lays out action plans for disarmament, for verifying nuclear programs to keep them peaceful, for promoting the civilian use of atomic energy and for creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

The action plans take up 11 pages of the 28-page new draft. The remaining review, which is full of controversial items, is expected not to be adopted since there is not enough time for debate. It will be expressed in a presidential summary, diplomats told AFP.

The plenary must approve the action plans within 24 hours since the conference is due to end at 6:00 pm (2200 GMT) Friday.

The conference has been deadlocked, raising fears of a repeat of the disaster of the previous NPT gathering in 2005 when there was no agreement and no final text. Reviews are held every five years.

"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," a Western official cautioned, but he and others expressed confidence the conference was on track to a positive conclusion.

Iranian ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, however, told reporters that Iran could not accept the text unless the date of 2025 was set "to eliminate all nuclear weapons," something which is not in the disarmament action plan.

Perhaps the most contentious issue is the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, first proposed at the 1995 conference.

The United States and Egypt have spearheaded talks between nuclear powers and non-aligneds to find a way forward on this matter.

Israel -- widely understood to be the region's lone if undeclared nuclear power -- opposes a zone until there is peace in the Middle East but might agree to a non-binding conference, diplomats said.

The draft calls for a conference in 2012 "to be attended by all states of the Middle East, leading to the establishment¨ of a zone.

Iran was not named in this part of the draft despite being in defiance of UN resolutions for it to prove its civil nuclear work does not hide bomb development.

Western states had wanted Iran singled out but do not want to sabotage the chance of a consensus.

Source: AFP