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Gorbachev Urges Water Treaty; Criticizes US Nuclear Policy


Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has appealed at the United Nations for an international treaty guaranteeing access to clean water for all. Mr. Gorbachev also lashed out at the United States on the issue of nuclear weapons.

He came to the United Nations this week to press world leaders to declare access to drinking water a basic human right. Speaking at a U.N. conference on water and sanitation, Mr. Gorbachev called for adoption of an international water treaty during the September world summit in New York.

"Ratification of such a convention by members of the United Nations would give everyone a juridical instrument for defending their right to clean water and sanitation and would oblige governments to make sure it's enforced," he said.

Mr. Gorbachev called providing clean water for everyone a bigger challenge than ending the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.

During his two-day visit to U.N. headquarters, the former Soviet president often sounded like the Cold War figure he was. Several times, he lashed out at the United States, at one point calling it a sick country suffering from the disease of being the only remaining superpower. Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Gorbachev likened U.S. nuclear weapons policy to what he termed "the law of the jungle".

"The United States and Russia must continue what they started at the time when we were doing away with the possibility of nuclear war. First of all you need trust, confidence, that is crucial. Then you need cooperation. I think Russia is ready to cooperate. Now the question is, is the United States, which is the only superpower remaining, is the United States ready to do this, I think not myself. The United States is sick. It suffers from the sickness, the disease of being the victor, and it has to cure itself of this disease," he said.

Mr. Gorbachev's comments come as the United Nations is preparing for a review of the Cold War-era nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Planning for the conference has been stalled by disagreements between countries with nuclear weapons and those without them.

Mr. Gorbachev held power in the Kremlin during the last six years of the Soviet Union. He was forced to step down when the country collapsed in 1991.

He was at the United Nations this week in his capacity as head of Green Cross International, an environmental group he founded in 1993.

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