Unity in Short Supply on U.N. Nuclear Pact

Article excerpt

The world's nations opened a month-long debate Monday over renewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the centerpiece of global arms control.

The United States believes it has enough support to push through an indefinite, unconditional extension of the treaty, which is designed to block the spread of nuclear arms, when the final vote comes.

But some nations prefer periodic five- to 25-year extensions, tied to concrete progress on general nuclear disarmament.

In opening the conference, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali sidestepped the issue but urged the nuclear powers to move toward eventual elimination of nuclear arms:

"No more testing. No more production. . . . Reduction and destruction of all nuclear weapons and the means to make them should be humanity's great common cause."

The nuclear powers are progressing slowly toward a comprehensive treaty banning nuclear tests and are planning negotiations to cut off production of bomb material.

Boutros-Ghali also called on the nuclear powers to strengthen the limited assurances that they have given non-nuclear states that they will not be subject to nuclear attack.

Also speaking Monday was Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who reaffirmed that total nuclear disarmament "remains our ultimate goal." He stressed that the purpose of the treaty "is to preserve the security of all, not the nuclear weapons monopoly of a few."

Hans Blix, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which administers the treaty, made a low-key appeal to governments for more money to monitor nuclear cheaters. "The agency must be enabled, through adequate resources, and strengthened and streamlined safeguards, effectively to verify that non-proliferation pledges are respected."

His agency is taking steps to toughen its inspection process for detecting clandestine nuclear weapons programs. The weakness of that process, seen in Iraq's nearly successful effort to build an atomic bomb, has been a principal flaw in the Non-Proliferation Treaty system. Some Shortcomings

The 1970 pact struck a historic bargain among the world's nations.

The 178 signatory governments are committed to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons beyond five nations that acknowledge having them - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China. …

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