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Key US Senator Proposes Expansion of Successful Non-Proliferation Program - 2003-04-05

An influential U.S. Senator is proposing the expansion of a program that has successfully been used to dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.

The Nunn-Lugar program, named for Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and former Senator Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat, became law nearly 12 years ago.

At an international conference on non-proliferation held on Capitol Hill Friday, Senator Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the progress that the program has made toward dismantling and securing nuclear stockpiles in the former Soviet Union.

Senator Lugar argued that if the program could reduce nuclear tensions between two bitter Cold War enemies, it might also ease strains between other rivals. He suggested that a lessening of hostilities between Pakistan and India might offer a possibility. "Closer ties between India and Pakistan offer new opportunities to discuss nuclear security with both countries, including safe storage and accountability," he said. "We must attempt to establish programs that respect their sovereignty and go far to help ensure their security."

Senator Lugar suggested the Nunn-Lugar program could be tried in other regions. We should not rule out the possibility that improved cooperation could be forged with nations such as Iran, Syria or Libya that could lead to international confidence that any weapons or materials of mass destruction are safely stored or destroyed," the senator said.

Senator Lugar underscored that such an effort would require what he called 'extraordinary political and financial commitments' from the United States and its allies.

He called on the major industrialized nations, and Russia a group known as the G-8, to do more to addressing the threat of weapons of mass destruction. "By ensuring that the war on terrorism focuses on weapons of mass destruction and by forming a coalition to combat it, the G8 nations would be addressing the most important problem in international security today," he said. "Such a coalition would bolster the mutual interests of G8 nations that have sometimes disagreed over Iraq and other tactics in the war on terrorism."

The G-8 nations last year pledged $20 billion to help dismantle and secure such weapons in the former Soviet Union. The issue of proliferation is expected to be high on the agenda at their summit in France in June.

Senator Lugar acknowledged that Nunn-Lugar may not work everywhere, and he defended the use of pre-emptive military action as a last resort. "The precise replication of the Nunn-Lugar program will not be possible everywhere, but a satisfactory level of accountability, transparency and safety must be established in every nation with a weapons of mass destruction program. When nations resist such accountability or when they make their territory accountability available to terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction, our nation the United States, Russia and the G-8 must be prepared to use force as well as all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal," he said.

Senator Lugar is proposing legislation that would allow the President to use Nunn-Lugar expertise and resources to address proliferation threats around the world, in any country.