Conference on Disarmament Begins 2002 Season

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THE UN CONFERENCE on Disarmament (CD) started its annual session January 22 with a message from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urging the 66-member body to overcome its three years of "stagnation" and "prolonged inactivity" during which it has failed to start any negotiations. Yet after its first five weeks of discussions, the conference remains hung up on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, the issue that deadlocked the conference last year.

Most members of the CD, which works by consensus, support or would accept holding talks on the two issues of outer space and nuclear disarmament, and negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would prohibit production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

China, however, insists that the CD must start negotiations on outer space for it to hold negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty-a proposal the United States opposes. Most, if not all, other members also support or would accept outer space negotiations, but few, perhaps only China, are willing to hold up fissile material cutoff treaty negotiations for formal outer space negotiations.

Russia and Pakistan backed the Chinese position last year, but it seems that may no longer be the case. Pakistan has not yet voiced support for China this year, and Russian CD Ambassador Leonid Skotnikov told the conference on January 22 that Russia supported negotiations on a fissile cutoff "without linkages to other issues. …