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IAEA, Italian Officials Call for Strengthened Non-Proliferation Treaty

The chief of the U.N. nuclear agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, and the Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema are stressing the need for the international community to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to avoid nuclear stand-offs such as the one with Iran. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

At a conference about the nuclear non-proliferation treaty held in Rome, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said the international community must address the causes at the root of the drive toward weapons of mass destruction.

ElBaradei cited instability and insecurity as issues at the basis of this drive and stressed the need for greater understanding of the dangers that are behind nuclear proliferation.

"The more you will have countries with nuclear weapons, the more the odds that nuclear weapons will be used either accidentally or by design," he said.

ElBaradei and Italy's foreign minister Massimo D'Alema agreed that there is a serious need for non-proliferation efforts to be defended and disarmament policies relaunched.

"Either we are going to continue to work under a system of collective security that is based on ultimate reliance of nuclear weapons or we are going to make good on our commitment in 1970, under the non-proliferation treaty, that nuclear weapons should not be part of our security system," he said. "We are committed to move toward nuclear disarmament."

The Italian foreign minister said weaknesses in the multi-lateral security system push nations to acquire nuclear weapons. He added that countries feel that the only way to defend themselves from possible aggression is to have weapons of mass destruction in their possession.

And this, he added, is a threat to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and peace and security in the world.

D'Alema said the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, while having obtained important results, is now exposed to serious risks. He said either it is strengthened or it risks being eroded.

Speaking of the nuclear standoff between Iran and the international community, D'Alema said the possibility of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is unacceptable. He said Italy would back more sanctions against Tehran, but added that everything must be done to bring Iran back to the negotiating table.

ElBaradei said there is still a lot of nuclear material after the dissolution of the Soviet Union that is not adequately protected. He said there is also danger that this could be stolen and fall into the wrong hands.

"We have seen very sophisticated groups of terrorists who have shown key interest in acquiring nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction," he said.

The chief of the U.N. nuclear agency said terrorists who obtain nuclear weapons would undoubtedly make use of them. For them, he said, the concept of mutual assured destruction or deterrence has no relevance.