News / USA

NPT Conference to Discuss Iran, Mideast Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone

Multimedia

Audio

Delegates from around the world are at the United Nations in New York, taking part in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference - a gathering that takes place every five years.  The conference will discuss two issues: Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program and the idea of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, is the legal cornerstone of nonproliferation efforts.

Nearly 190 signatories have ratified the NPT that entered into force in 1970.  In 1995, member states agreed to extend the treaty indefinitely.  Every five years, the signatory states gather to review compliance with the treaty.  That is what is happening this month at the United Nations.

Experts say the NPT involves a "grand bargain" - non-nuclear states are bound not to acquire nuclear weapons, while states that possess nuclear weapons move toward disarmament, getting rid of their atomic arsenals.  All states are free to develop nuclear power, but only for peaceful purposes.

Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association here in Washington, says nine states possess nuclear weapons.

"The five original nuclear weapon states - the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China," Kimball said. "And then India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons.  Israel has a nuclear program outside of international safeguards and it is widely known, though Israel does not acknowledge that it has a relatively small number of nuclear weapons.  And North Korea has enough plutonium to build about 10 nuclear bombs.  No one knows precisely how many bombs North Korea may have assembled."

Nonetheless, experts such as John Isaacs, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, say the NPT has been successful in curbing the spread of nuclear weapons.

"Yes, there are more nuclear powers than there were when the treaty was signed," Isaacs said. "But on the other hand, when [U.S.] President [John F.] Kennedy was in office in the 1960s, he was predicting there would be 20 to 25 nuclear powers.  So the treaty hasn't been perfect; it hasn't prevented all countries that didn't have nuclear weapons from developing them.  But I think it has been one of the impediments to countries that could have developed nuclear weapons and decided not to.  And that list of countries that thought about building nuclear weapons would include Argentina and Brazil, Japan, South Korea."

Suspected of Seeking N. Weapons:

The West suspects that NPT-member Iran has been seeking nuclear weapons. Tehran denies.

The United States and Britain have been leading a campaign to toughen UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran for enriching uranium.

Western fears of a stealthy Iranian quest for nuclear weapons capacity heightened when Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) it will build another plant for enriching uranium.

The month-long NPT Review Conference is expected to discuss, among other issues, Iran - a country that is suspected by many nations of having a covert program to build atomic weapons.  But Tehran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told conference delegates this week [on Monday] that his country does not need nuclear bombs for its development.

Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, says that although specific leaders might be criticized, countries at the conference will not be singled out by name.

"There is generally a diplomatic courtesy extended to avoid using proper nouns - that is, references to other countries," Sokolski said. "But everyone will be aware that if they talk about enforcement, if they talk about the need for countries not to acquire the very materials necessary to make bombs - highly-enriched uranium or separated plutonium - that the case in point will be Iran.  And it's just going to loom over the proceedings to some degree, no matter what people try to do to avoid using the proper name, Iran.  Iran will be a neuralgic [painful] topic for the body.  Many states that are like us [the United States] will want to say something about it.  But I think there will be just as many that would prefer to defend its argument that it hasn't acquired a bomb and shouldn't be leaned upon and shouldn't be sanctioned, etc."

Analysts say delegates must be careful about how far they go in criticizing Iran, because as a member of the NPT, Tehran has the potential to block any agreement on a final conference statement.

Experts such as Daryl Kimball say the conference will also discuss an idea that has been proposed for many years for the Middle East - a nuclear weapons free zone.

Suspected of Having N. Weapons:

Israel
is widely suspected to have between 100 and 200 strategic nuclear weapons.

Israel has a policy of ambiguity on its nuclear program, no confirmation, no denial. In 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted that Israel has nuclear weapons, in an interview with German television.

Israel refuses to sign the NPT Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In 1986 Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu gave detailed information to the British Sunday Times newspaper about Israel's nuclear program.Vanunu was kidnapped from Italy by the Israeli intelligence and brought back to Israel where he was jailed for 18 Years.

"Egypt has been a main proponent.  And in 1995, when the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was indefinitely extended, it was extended on the promise to pursue the goal of a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East," Kimball said. "Egypt at this conference is looking for some commitment from the other NPT members to move forward in this direction.  And they are seeking, among other things, agreement by the states to hold a conference in 2011 on how a zone free of weapons of mass destruction can be established in the region.  Now all states in the region theoretically support this as a goal, but they disagree on how to proceed and what the conditions for such a zone should be."

Kimball says that this time, the proposal might get more attention because Egypt is the current chair of the 118-member non-aligned movement.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid