Magazine article UN Chronicle

Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban 'Imperative Says Secretary-General

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban 'Imperative Says Secretary-General

Article excerpt

It was "imperative to come up with a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty by June 1996", Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali told the Conference on Disarmament on 19 March. "Nothing should divert you from your goal", he stated, in addressing the world's sole multilateral disarmament negotiating body, as it held the first part of its 1996 session (22 January-29 March, Geneva).

"I fully realize that ... your Conference has a very busy schedule", he said. "That is precisely why I decided to come and visit you. For want to tell you with the utmost solemnity how much importance I attach to the success of your negotiations."

In asking the Conference participants to show "flexibility, open-mindedness, a spirit of compromise and the will to succeed", Mr. Boutros-Ghali urged them not to underestimate the historic work they were in the process of completing. "On the difficult road to nuclear disarmament, your success will be the success of future generations and of the whole human race", he declared.

The General Assembly, by resolution 50/65 of 12 December 1995, had pronounced the conclusion of a universal and multilaterally and effectively verifiable comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty a "task of the highest priority". It called upon all States participating in the 38-member Conference on Disarmament, particularly the nuclearweapon States, to conclude such a treaty, so as to enable its signature by the outset of the Assembly's fifty-first session. The Conference was to continue negotiations on the issue during the second part of its annual session, scheduled to be held from 13 May to 28 June.

`Energetic support'

A comprehensive test-ban would be a "necessary step towards the broader goal of full nuclear disarmament", John D. Holum, Director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, stated on 23 January, as he read out President Bill Clinton's message to the Conference.

In pledging his country's "full and energetic support" for the conclusion by June 1996 of a "treaty so long sought and so long denied", he said such a ban was "vital to constrain both the spread and further development of nuclear weapons. Let us now take this historic step together", he urged.

The Russian Federation had been "consistently in favour of a complete and general nuclear test-ban" and considered such a measure as an "overdue and important step to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and their qualitative improvement", that country's delegate, Grigori Berdennikov, told the Conference on 7 March. Since its independence, the Russian Federation had "not conducted a single nuclear explosion, rigorously observing the moratorium it had declared".

Joelle Bourgois of France on 4 March said her country--with its decisions to end the nuclear tests, adhere to the Treaty of Rarotonga, and close the Pacific nuclear-test sites at Mururoa and Fangataufa--had provided an "exceptional gesture" which illustrated its "confidence in the possibility of success in the negotiations under way".

Zukang Sha of China felt that the Conference was "on the right track" as far as the treaty negotiations were concerned which, however, should be accelerated "so as to make progress at the earliest date". As to a specific date, it could be 30 June, earlier than that or even later, since relevant Assembly resolutions had "not targeted 30 June as an absolute deadline". What was important was to "solve the problems in a pragmatic manner", he stated.

Salman Haidar, Foreign Secretary of India, while welcoming the progress in negotiations on a test-ban, said that "large gaps remain in areas central to the purpose of the treaty". His country, which believed that the ban should bring about a "halt to the qualitative development, upgrading and improvement of nuclear weapons" and mark the "first irreversible step towards genuine nuclear disarmament within a timebound framework", was concerned that "new justifications for retaining those weapons" had been recently put forward and "new roles" were envisaged for them. …

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