Disarmament Conference Continues Work on a Chemical Weapons Ban, Discusses Nuclear Issues

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Disarmament Conference continues work on a chemical weapons ban, discusses nuclear issues

During meetings in February and March, members of the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament expressed hope at the possibility of concluding a chemical weapons agreement, and attempted to break the deadlock on the nuclear test-ban issue. It also discussed a three-stage Soviet plan for complete nuclear disarmament by the year 2000.

The 40-member Conference, the world's only multilateral disarmament negotiating body, opened its 1986 session on 4 February with a message from Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar acknowledging the importance of the Conference's role in furthering the objectives of the International Year of Peace (1986).

"The hope with which the Year begins can be fulfilled only if the foundations for significant measures of arms limitation and disarmament are speedily laid', warned the Secretary-General in a statement read by Miljan Komatina, Conference Secretary-General. The conclusion of a complete nuclear test ban should continue to have highest priority, he said.

In a message to the Conference delivered by Conference President Richard Butler (Australia), Australian Foreign Minister William Hayden said that what "must be done between the two major Powers and what we must do in this multilateral context has a necessary and organic relationship'. The Conference should "make practical progress' this year towards a comprehensive test ban. Nothing was more likely to help towards disarmament in the short term than concluding a chemical weapons agreement, he added.

In addition to prohibition of nuclear and chemical weapons, the Conference in 1986 was also to consider a comprehensive programme of disarmament; cessation of the nuclear-arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war; prevention of an arms race in outer space; effective security assurances for non-nuclear States; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; and radiological weapons.

The Conference holds its 6-month session in two parts: from February through April, and from June through August.

During February, the Conference re-established its Ad Hoc Committees on a chemical weapons bad and on a comprehensive programme of disarmament, both of which continued work begun in previous sessions. In March, the Conference also reestablished its Ad Hoc Committee on radiological weapons with a view to reaching agreement on a convention prohibiting their development, production and use. The Conference was unable by 31 March to establish a subsidiary body on prevention of nuclear war or to agree on a draft mandate for an ad hoc committee on a nuclear test ban.

Mr. Butler, Conference President for February, observed that during that month all groups had reiterated the importance of a nuclear test ban and supported continuation of open-ended consultations on the item. …