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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid