Title: "Support Growing for Indefinite Extension of NPT Treaty." As the conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) continues, Western diplomats are increasingly
optimistic about its chances for indefinite extension. (950426)
Translated Title: Crece apoyo a prorroga indefinida tratado TNP.; La prorogation illimitee du TNP gagne des partisans. (950426)
Author: AITA, JUDY (USIA STAFF WRITER)
SUPPORT GROWING FOR INDEFINITE EXTENSION OF NPT TREATY (NPT: General debate ends; review, voting discussed) (820) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- As the states parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended their opening debate April 25, Western diplomats were increasingly optimistic that a significant majority would vote for indefinite extension of the treaty.
The Campaign for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a group of 18 nongovernmental arms control groups, estimated that 103 states support indefinite extension of the accord and that an additional 28 states are on the verge of favoring that position. The campaign said April 26 that 22 states are against indefinite extension and that another 12 are moving in the direction of voting against indefinite extension. Twelve NPT members remain undecided.
At a press conference April 26, NPT Conference President Jayantha Dhanapala said, "A substantial number of those who spoke (during the debate), according to an analysis provided to me by the secretariat, have expressed support in their statements for an indefinite extension of the treaty. But it is important that many of them also expressed a desire that this decision be taken by consensus."
"There is also a clear commitment expressed by many speakers toward further measures for nuclear disarmament as an important aspect of having a decision to continue with the treaty indefinitely," Dhanapala said.
Dhanapala reported that his negotiations have not indicated agreement on whether the vote to extend the treaty will be decided by open or secret ballot if consensus cannot be reached. The ambassador said he will continue his consultations while setting May 5 as the deadline for proposals to be included on a ballot outlining options for how the treaty should be extended. He has not set a date for the vote.
"It is too early to predict prospects for consensus," he said. "Precisely what basis this consensus will take will depend on the ability of various delegations to compromise on their various original positions and the 'give-and-take' of the negotiations that will take place."
Of the 178 NPT parties, 160 are attending the review conference. The extension decision requires a simple majority of all the NPT parties; thus, 90 votes will be needed if the issue goes to a vote. The conference is scheduled to end on May 12.
On the possibility of achieving indefinite extension by consensus, a senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told journalists April 25 that "we have always assumed that was a very low probability, but we are not ruling it out."
The United States is also "strongly opposed to secret ballot -- as are virtually all democratic countries. It is inconsistent, we think, to have a vote on a public treaty in secret. This isn't an election," the U.S. official said.
A British diplomat told journalists that the number of members in favor of indefinite extension is growing so large that he is optimistic that the conference will be able to make the decision by consensus.
Meanwhile the main focus has shifted to three committees which are reviewing the central elements of the NPT: peaceful uses of nuclear energy, disarmament, and non-proliferation/safeguards.
Netherlands Ambassador Jaap Ramaker, chairman of Committee III on peaceful uses, said that the "review is considered to be an important part and many delegations feel that (the review) will reflect on their decision on the future of the treaty."
One issue that may influence the final vote on extension is adoption of measures to strengthen the treaty, such as one based on South Africa's proposal for more substantive reviews in the future.
The United States is amenable to the South African proposal, the U.S. official said.
"The non-nuclear weapons states are going to stress the accountability of nuclear weapons states under Article VI...and enhanced review is a way they can be additionally assured that the nuclear disarmament process will continue," the official said.
"Fundamental to us is that the future life of the treaty not be threatened. That is our absolute bottom line. But in terms of accountability we understand the desire for accountability that the non-nuclear weapons states have, and we want to try to meet that," the U.S. official said.
The U.S. official also emphasized the wide-ranging, long-term, historic impact of the conference. "I know of no conference that will match the impact this conference will have," the official said.
"A lot has been accomplished in the last four or five years; the trend is in the right direction. Nuclear stockpiles are dramatically declining; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is in sight in Geneva; there is a good chance to achieve it by next year. Other measures are going forward. Most important to this momentum is to make the NPT a permanent treaty like all other arms control treaties," the senior official said.