U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warns that the spread of nuclear weapons threatens to propel the world into a state of crisis. In a speech to the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, the secretary-general mentioned North Korea and Iran as two potential flash points.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, says the world is at a crossroads. One path can lead to the restriction or even reversal of the spread of nuclear weapons. The other path, he says, can lead to a world in which a growing number of states arm themselves with these weapons. The consequence of this second choice, he warns, is that these dangerous weapons could fall into the hands of people who would have the means to carry out nuclear terrorism.
"The international community seems almost to be sleepwalking down the latter path - not by conscious choice, but rather through miscalculation, sterile debate and paralysis of the very multilateral mechanisms created for confidence-building and conflict resolution," Annan said.
Annan says some progress toward disarmament has been made. But, he notes, thousands of nuclear weapons exist around the world and many are on hair-trigger alert.
The secretary-general was speaking as international tensions are growing over North Korea's and Iran's nuclear weapons programs. North Korea seems bent on testing a long-range missile, which Washington says, has the capacity to reach the United States. And, the United States and European Union suspect Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies.
Annan says these two specific situations must be resolved.
"The impasse on the Korean Peninsula is especially disappointing given last September's agreement, in the six-party talks, which included a set of principles for a verifiable denuclearization of the Peninsula," he said. "I hope the leaders of the DPRK will listen to what the world is telling them, and take great care not to make the situation on the Peninsula even more complicated."
Annan says Iran needs to assure the world that its nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful in nature.
He says urgent action must be taken to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. He appealed for the U.N. Conference on Disarmament to wake up from its slumber and begin real negotiations on halting the production of uranium and plutonium used to make nuclear weapons. He is also calling for the conference to negotiate a treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.