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US Lawmaker Urges US, Russia To Renounce First Use of Nuclear Weapons - 2002-06-12

Prominent anti-nuclear campaigners have joined with a member of congress in a warning about what they call a "new nuclear danger." The call came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the nuclear freeze movement, and one day before the formal withdrawal of the United States from the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

At a news conference, Democratic congressman Ed Markey said the threat of nuclear war remains as real today as during the height of the Cold War.

Although the U.S.-Soviet arms race has ended, he said, both countries still have thousands of warheads on alert. This, combined with alarm over possible diversion of nuclear materials to terrorists and tensions between India and Pakistan, will require new efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons:

"We now see countries such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea seeking to join the nuclear club," he said, "and face the terrifying prospect that terrorist organizations might someday get access to these deadly weapons."

Congressman Markey has introduced a joint resolution calling on the Bush administration, Russia, and other nuclear powers to renounce first-use of nuclear weapons. Joint resolutions must be approved by the House and Senate, but are non-binding.

Mr. Markey's resolution calls for an end to the transfer of nuclear technologies to so-called "rogue states" such as North Korea and Iran. Other points include reducing the amount of nuclear material worldwide and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Appearing with Congressman Markey was author and anti-nuclear campaigner Jonathan Schell. He says the world was under the illusion that nuclear peril would disappear, when it was, in his words, "only changing shape".

Mr. Schell listed a number of worrying signs of what he calls a new nuclear age, the most prominent of which is the standoff between nuclear powers India and Pakistan. However, he reserved most of criticism for Bush administration's nuclear and military planning policies, saying that they, "seem to amount to is the idea that the solution to nuclear danger is not negotiation, not cooperation, not disarmament, but is rather military. It is the first use of these weapons, with bunker busters, as a solution to proliferation, so that nuclear disarmament of all things has become a matter of war."

Randy Forsberg, a founder of the nuclear freeze campaign, also blames Bush administration for what she calls the rising nuclear danger. "Bush's withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, which takes effect Thursday, and massive funding for national missile defense are likely to spar a nuclear build-up in China, which could trigger increases in India and Pakistan," he said, "Bush's refusal to submit the Comprehensive Test Ban to the Senate for ratification, and his failure to negotiate a ban on North Korea's missile testing and exports, have further weakened efforts to stop proliferation."

Congressman Markey says he expects support in the Democratic-controlled Senate for his joint resolution. The bill also calls on the United States to cancel plans to provide nuclear reactor technology to North Korea, and Russia not to export technology to Iran.