Magazine article Arms Control Today

Annan Urges CD to Be Productive in Upcoming Year

Magazine article Arms Control Today

Annan Urges CD to Be Productive in Upcoming Year

Article excerpt

THE 66-MEMBER Conference on Disarmament (CD) began its 2003 negotiating session January 21 with a wish from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a "most productive" year, but its initial five weeks of meetings suggest this year may well be a repeat of the previous four years of gridlock with no negotiations.

One potential impasse, however, was resolved February 14 when Iraq informed Annan of its intention to forgo its turn as conference president, a position that rotates on an alphabetical basis for four-week working periods to all CD members. Two days earlier, Secretary of State Colin Powell had told the House International Relations Committee that the United States felt outraged over the prospect of an Iraqi presidency, adding that Washington would work to prevent Iraq from assuming the position. If the United States failed, Powell pledged, "We would, you know, simply find ways not to participate."

Notwithstanding the averted showdown over an Iraqi presidency, the conference, which operates by consensus, remains dead-locked over what issues to negotiate. The key dispute is still whether negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), which would prohibit the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes, should proceed without negotiations on other subjects, namely the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Speaking February 13, Stephen Rademaker, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, said the United States wants a "clean" agreement simply to begin negotiations on an FMCT. He condemned efforts to link the start of one negotiation with another, asserting that "the practice in the CD of holding vital international security initiatives hostage to win approval for dubious, unpopular, or outdated proposals must end if this body is to have a future."

Yet, other countries, most notably China, desire parallel negotiations on weapons in outer space and are unlikely to accept the U. …

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