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NPT Conference Ends With Consensus on Final Document

  • Margaret Besheer

The 189 states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty overcame differences and agreed to a final outcome document Friday, capping off a month-long review conference. The document lays out steps toward the long-term goal of nuclear disarmament, but does not set any deadlines or benchmarks for that goal.

The 28-page final document lays out action plans for all three of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's (NPT) three pillars - non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

It calls on the five original nuclear weapons states - the U.S., France, Britain, China and Russia - to speed up "concrete progress" on their disarmament and move towards an overall reduction of their nuclear arsenals. They are also urged to lessen the role and importance of nuclear weapons in their military and security policies, and further enhance transparency and increase mutual confidence.

The document also calls for a conference to be held in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons - an idea endorsed at the 1995 review conference, but never implemented.

Egyptian Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, who spoke on behalf of the 118 members of the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed that move. "We have moved forward and achieved progress in adopting an action plan to push towards the implementation of this resolution, to establish a zone free from nuclear weapons as well as other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East," he said.

Delegates negotiated the document until the final moments Friday. There were concerns that Iran could be a spoiler to any consensus. The Islamic Republic is the only NPT signatory to be found by the International Atomic Energy Agency to be in non-compliance with its nuclear safeguard obligations. It is currently facing a possible fourth round of U.N. sanctions for its suspect nuclear program. But ultimately, Iran did not stand in the way of the document's adoption, although it did list several things it felt were flawed about it.

North Korea, which announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003, was singled out in the final document and urged to return to the Treaty and adhere to its IAEA safeguards agreement.

Pyongyang came in for a rebuke from the U.S. delegate, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, Ellen Tauscher. "North Korea should understand that it will never achieve security or acceptance by the international community without the complete and verified abandonment of its nuclear weapons programs. North Korea's behavior, particularly its failure to implement its commitments under the Six Party Talks, to include its return to the NPT and IAEA safeguards at an early date, calls into question the utility of negotiations with North Korea," she said.

The only three nuclear states not to be signatories to the NPT - India, Pakistan and Israel - were urged in the final document to join the treaty and place their nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. Israel, has never publicly acknowledged it has nuclear weapons, but is widely believed to - a point of contention among its Middle Eastern neighbors.

Most states said that while the action plans did not meet all their expectations, they were generally satisfied with the final outcome. At the 2005 review conference - these meetings are held every five years - the conference ended in failure when parties could not agree on a final document.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the outcome in a statement, saying the strong spirit of compromise and cooperation had delivered a significant agreement to build a safer and more secure world.

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