Magazine article Arms Control Today

CD Ends First Session of 1997 without Mandates for Negotiations

Magazine article Arms Control Today

CD Ends First Session of 1997 without Mandates for Negotiations

Article excerpt

THE 61-NATION UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva ended its first 1997 session on March 27 without achieving agreed mandates for negotiations or establishing the necessary bodies in which to conduct them.

Beginning its work on January 21, the world's principal multilateral arms control forum was unable to set an agenda beyond the eight basic items first promulgated in 1978, now considered a formality. Many countries hoped that the CD would keep up the momentum of last year's Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and make rapid progress on a global fissile material cutoff treaty and on an anti-personnel landmines ban. However, competing priorities of the Western nations on the one hand and the non-aligned movement (NAM) states on the other-compounded by the CD requirement to work only by consensus-have prevented formation of any ad hoc committees in which negotiations could begin. The United States and most other Western countries want the CD to focus on what they believe is a more pragmatic agenda, in particular, negotiating a fissile material production ban and a global landmine ban (see ACT, January/February 1996). The NAM, led by India, insists that the immediate aim of the CD should be establishing a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament which would include the fissile material ban.

According to one U.S. official familiar with the CD negotiations, "The countries blocking the fissile material cutoff treaty by linking it to a timebound framework are the same ones trying to protect their own [nuclear weapons] programs. …

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