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Obama pledge on nukes wins praise at UN

Obama pledge on nukes wins praise at UN

President Barack Obama's pledge to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons won praise Monday from China and key developing countries, and spurred hope that Washington's policy shift and new U.S.-Russian cooperation will end a long deadlock on global disarmament efforts.
But at the start of a U.N. meeting helping to lay the groundwork for a 2010 conference to review and possibly strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, representatives of countries that do and don't possess nuclear weapons tempered their welcome saying they want to see results.
Nonetheless, there was widespread recognition _ even from Iran _ that Obama's engagement with the Russians was an important reversal from policies of the Bush administration, which didn't seek negotiations on major arms control cuts and angered Moscow by announcing its intention to install a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
By contrast, in a joint declaration on April 1, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered negotiators to start work on a new treaty to reduce their nuclear stockpiles as a first step towards "a nuclear-weapon-free world." The U.S. president also promised to seek speedy Senate ratification of the nuclear test ban treaty and to launch a global effort to secure nuclear material.
Cheng Jingye, director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Arms Control and Disarmament, welcomed the U.S.-Russian agreement to begin negotiations on a new START treaty.
"We hope the two countries will further reduce their nuclear arsenals in a verifiable and irreversible manner," Cheng said. He also called for a new treaty banning the deployment of weapons in outer space "at an early date."
Cuba's U.N. Ambassador Abelardo Moreno, whose country currently heads the 118-nation Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries, called the U.S.-Russian agreement to work toward disarmament "a welcome gesture" which could make progress on a key pillar of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty "long neglected by key states."
"Concrete steps towards total elimination of nuclear weapons by nuclear weapons states should follow in an irreversible, verifiable and transparent manner," he said.
The treaty, known as the NPT, requires signatory nations not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five nuclear powers _ the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China _ to move toward nuclear disarmament. It also gives all treaty members the right to develop peaceful programs to produce nuclear power.
After nearly 40 years, the NPT remains the cornerstone of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and promoting disarmament.
The last NPT review conference in 2005 failed to make substantive progress because of bickering over procedural issues, and speaker after speaker on Monday called for a success next year.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Hosseini noted the U.S. pledge to move towards nuclear disarmament but said that over the past 40 years "such pledges" haven't been kept.
"It is essential that the words be translated into actions and implementation in a transparent, verifiable and irreversible manner," he said.
At the top of the list the U.S. could take to reverse its "non-compliance" with the NPT, Hosseini said, is to abandon its policy of nuclear deterrence and an "aggressive" Pentagon review of U.S. nuclear policy _ and stop all nuclear cooperation with Israel, which along with India and Pakistan, is not an NPT member.
Suspicions bred by Tehran's nearly two decades of clandestine atomic activities led the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Hosseini accused nuclear states of refusing to transfer nuclear technology as required under the NPT and insisted Iran is entitled to continue enrichment under the treaty for its "peaceful nuclear activities."
Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, the Foreign Ministry's chief of security and disarmament issues, expressed "serious concern" about the outstanding issues surrounding the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.
"We believe that today we have a unique window of opportunity to launch negotiations with Iran in the spirit of mutual respect and equality" _ based on proposals by Russia, China, the U.S., Britain France and Germany _ "to restore confidence of the international community in the exclusively peaceful nature of (the) Iranian nuclear program," he said.
Antonov called North Korea's decision to withdraw from six-party talks on its nuclear program "a mistake" and urged Pyongyang to restart negotiations.
As for the U.S.-Russian agreement, Antonov said, "the ambitious goal of reaching `nuclear zero'" concerns every member of the NPT and also requries tackling other issues including settling regional conflicts and ensuring that all treaties are implemented.


Updated : 2021-08-02 15:57 GMT+08:00