Nuclear Arms Resolution Passed at UN Summit

By Harvey, Cole | Arms Control Today, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Nuclear Arms Resolution Passed at UN Summit


Harvey, Cole, Arms Control Today


The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S.sponsored resolution seeking "to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons" Sept. 24, endorsing many of measures laid out in President Barack Obama's April 5 speech in Prague. (See ACT, May 2009.) The resolution also lays the political groundwork for strengthening the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime and tightening nuclear export controls. It also demands that Iran and North Korea comply with their obligations under previous Security Council resolutions.

Nonproliferation

In a key nonproliferation provision, the council asserted its right to determine if a case of noncompliance with the NPT constitutes a threat to international peace and security and emphasized its "primary responsibility" in addressing such a threat.

The council did not name any particular country in this regard, but the resolution expresses concern at "the current major challenges to the nonproliferation regime" and recalls prior resolutions that address the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs. The resolution demands that the "parties concerned" comply with their obligations under international law.

"This is not about singling out individual nations," Obama said. "It is about standing up for the rights of all nations who do live up to their responsibilities."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the strongest statement on noncompliance, recalling that Iran and North Korea have ignored Security Council resolutions for years. He urged the international community to bring greater pressure to bear on those two countries.

"There comes a moment when stubborn facts will compel us to take a decision," he said, according to a UN translation. "Let us not accept violations of international rules.... There will come a moment one has to agree and take sanctions."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown similarly said it was time for the council to consider "far tougher sanctions" on Iran. By contrast, Presidents Hu Jintao of China and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia did not mention Iran or North Korea in their statements.

The council further called on all states to implement an additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The 1997 Model Additional Protocol provides the agency with greater inspection authority than it has under the standard safeguards agreements signed with NPT parties, improving the IAEA's ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities.

The council noted that the protocol and the more basic Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement constitute "essential elements" of the IAEA safeguards system. Additionally, the council urged states to take measures that would allow the export of nuclear technology and material only to those countries that have an additional protocol in place. Many non-nuclear-weapon states are reluctant to see the protocol made mandatory and prefer that it remain a voluntary measure.

The council also endorsed a series of measures that would make it more difficult for states to abuse the NPT by importing nuclear material or technology for ostensibly peaceful purposes, only to withdraw from the treaty or covertly develop a weapons program. The resolution encourages exporter states to establish a right to demand the return of all nuclear material and technology if the receiving state withdraws from the treaty or is found by the IAEA to be in noncompliance with its responsibilities. The supplier state should also have the right to demand the return of any special nuclear material - plutonium or enriched uranium produced through the use of imported material or technology, the resolution says.

Similarly, the council urged states to require, as a condition of nuclear supply, agreements that IAEA safeguards should continue to apply to any imported material and technology even if the receiving state terminates its agreements with the IAEA.

The council promised to address "without delay" any state's withdrawal from the NPT and affirmed that a withdrawing state remains responsible for any violations of the treaty committed prior to withdrawal.

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