America Appeals for New Treaty Banning Atomic Materials

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The New York Sun

GENEVA – America called for a new international treaty banning the production of atomic materials for weapons while not affecting current stocks of fuel for nuclear reactors.

Against a background of Iran and North Korea both developing nuclear programs, the world needs a rapid agreement to outlaw production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons purposes, America said.

The proposed treaty would ban “the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” the acting American assistant secretary of state for arms control, Stephen Rademaker, told a meeting of the 65-country Conference on Disarmament in Geneva today, according to an e-mailed copy of his speech.

The Conference on Disarmament, set up in 1979, holds an annual meeting in Geneva and reports to the United Nations. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, created in 1957, is a U.N. agency that sets nuclear safety standards and carries out inspections to ensure compliance.

The proposed treaty wouldn’t ban material for non-weapons use, such as naval turbines, and existing stocks wouldn’t be covered, Mr. Rademaker said.

Iran is guilty of “economic illogic” in pursuing nuclear fuels because enrichment “will not make any substantial contribution” to the country’s energy independence, Mr. Rademaker said. Iran is the world’s second-largest holder of oil and gas reserves.

Iran joined the “nuclear club” on April 9 by enriching uranium to adequate purity to run a nuclear power plant, President Ahmadinejad said last month. Iran’s government said it is accelerating uranium enrichment to reach “industrial-scale” output, and ignored an April 28 non-binding deadline by the U.N. Security Council to suspend the program.

Iran claims it is permitted to enrich uranium on its soil, under the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Under the treaty, each signatory has an “inalienable right” to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy, provided it is for “peaceful purposes.”

The Conference on Disarmament must also work for the “irreversible elimination” of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Mr. Rademaker said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il rejected China’s request last month that his country return to six-nation talks on its nuclear program, Japan’s Kyodo News reported May 7, citing unidentified diplomats.

North Korea is refusing to return to the talks until America removes sanctions imposed last year over allegations of money-laundering and counterfeiting by North Korean companies. Talks in Beijing in November ended without an agreement after negotiators in September called for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

America may take a new approach to persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program by starting talks on a peace treaty, the New York Times reported today, citing unidentified government officials and Asian diplomats.

Advisers to President Bush have recommended his administration start negotiations on a treaty at the same time it continues talks within the six-nation forum, the Times reported.

Mr. Bush will agree to the strategy on the condition that North Korea returns to the talks, the newspaper cited the officials as saying. North Korea has long demanded a peace treaty to replace the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

The New York Sun

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