Title: "NPT Review Conference Enters Crucial Final Negotiations." As negotiations on the future of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) enter their final stage, support is
growing for an indefinite extension of the accord. (950509)
Translated Title: La conference d'examen du TNP entre dans sa phase cruciale. (950509)
Author: AITA, JUDY (USIA STAFF WRITER)
NPT REVIEW CONFERENCE ENTERS CRUCIAL FINAL NEGOTIATIONS (NPT: Delegates seek consensus on indefinite extension) (1140) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- As negotiations on the extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) enter the final hours, support for an indefinite extension of the treaty continues to grow.
Disarmament experts, as well as Conference President Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, feel that a consensus decision on the treaty's extension is important for the overall strength of the treaty.
Nevertheless, the conference has three proposals for extension. The first, presented by Canada on behalf of 107 co-sponsors, says that "the Conference of States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, held in accordance with Article X.2 of the Treaty, decides that the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely."
The second extends the treaty through rolling, 25-year periods. Presented by Indonesia on behalf of North Korea, Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Zimbabwe, the proposal states that the treaty would continue in force "for rolling fixed periods of 25 years....unless the majority of the parties to the treaty decide otherwise at the review and extension conference."
Allowing for five-year reviews, the proposal also suggests setting specific timeframes for a comprehensive test ban treaty, a legally binding agreement against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; a fissile material production cut-off; the elimination of nuclear weapons, and the unimpeded and non-discriminatory transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
A third proposal, sponsored solely by Mexico, suggests extending the treaty indefinitely, setting as conditions the specific issues outlined in the Indonesian proposal.
The Campaign for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a coalition of 18 arms control and research organizations, said May 9 that another 13 states have declared that they are in favor of indefinite extension and another 16 states are "leaning yes," for a total of 136 nations favoring indefinite extension.
The extension decision requires a simple majority of the 178 NPT parties; thus, 90 votes are needed if the issue goes to a vote.
Negotiations are continuing behind closed doors and observers agree they have entered a crucial stage facing a deadline of 3 p.m. May 10 -- the time Dhanapala has set for the conference to begin taking the final decisions, including one on whether a vote on the extension will be by open or secret ballot.
Dhanapala is expected to bring forward his own proposal on indefinite extension as a result of his consultations. It is reported to contain language emphasizing universal adherence to the treaty and the attainment of the ultimate goal of the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. But most importantly, using language that "recognizes that a majority of the states parties want an indefinite extension," Dhanapala hopes to have found a formula that will help the conference bypass voting and reach a consensus decision, observers say.
Closely linked to any agreement are two documents emanating from South Africa's proposal, presented during the opening debate three weeks ago, for a statement of principles and a strengthened review mechanism to guide the implementation of the treaty in the years to come.
Daniel Plesch of the British American Security Information Council said that "we need to demonstrate that the entire international community strongly favors stopping and reversing the spread of nuclear weapons."
"Strengthening the review process is the best way to achieve this consensus," Plesch said. "Consensus is at hand if the nuclear weapons states will commit to the disarmament steps that are in everyone's security interests."
But Plesch warned that there is "still a chance that we will find ourselves starting on a voting procedure -- voting on how to vote or voting on how to decide how to vote" May 10. If that happens, he said, "the remarkable atmosphere of good will, which is much greater than anybody could have anticipated coming into this conference, will start to unravel."
Abdul Minty, a key member of the South Africa delegation, said that his government's proposal was well received from the outset "not because of dramatic language or revolutionary proposals," but because "we have created proposals that are meeting concerns of all sides."
Noting that the South African delegation was "surprised" that there were no other such proposals presented to the conference, Minty said that "from day one it seemed as if countries in the Non-Aligned Movement -- who had previously felt the nuclear weapons states were acting collectively against them and not taking their concerns into account -- found that our document addressed some of those concerns and could be a point at which we could discuss it....We had a similar reaction from the United States to discuss our document. The interesting thing is we have been able to work on these proposals outside (regional) groups."
"We are simply saying we all want the treaty strengthened whatever option we choose and let us work collectively and in that spirit," he said.
"We came with the idea of the (review) mechanism being strengthened and to adopt a set of principles that would act as a yardstick, because we needed something between the five-year review process so there is some continuity," he said.
"The principles have given us the opportunity to identify important issues which need to be addressed," said Minty, who is adviser to the South African Foreign Ministry on nuclear affairs. "What we are talking about is that if the treaty is to be extended...then we want what can be termed political concessions....We need to take account of the changing world situation."
"We took great care in drafting our proposals and nothing that we suggest creates a legal conditionality. In other words, we do not want a condition to be inserted that if not met can threaten the existence of the treaty. So in that sense we would not agree to conditionality," Minty said.
The South African government is going to put a very high priority on follow-up actions, he said. "This is for us the beginning, not only because we are new, but this is a different atmosphere, and if we can get unity from everyone committed to the treaty, we need to move forward to eliminate all nuclear weapons."
Plesch added that most nuclear weapons states came with the sole objective of winning a vote on indefinite extension, but anticipating a major confrontation.
"Now they are in a position where there is a growing move toward consensus for indefinite extension and they need to be able to show that they intend to carry out the treaty in good faith. There is an enormous imperative upon them to agree to substantive language in the principles, in the mechanism and in the review of the conference itself."