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The Penninsula: Some hope in wreckage of failed nuclear treaty talks

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unhappycamper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-26-05 07:36 AM
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The Penninsula: Some hope in wreckage of failed nuclear treaty talks
Some hope in wreckage of failed nuclear treaty talks

IT IS hard to find much room for disappointment about the attempt to fix the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at the New York meeting which ends on Friday. Expectations for the month-long gathering could not have been lower. Well, expectations have been met. Nothing has been agreed, and with three days to go, it looks as if nothing will be. However, this is not the same thing as complete failure. At least three suggestions have been put forward which must be the shape of any future talks.

The NPT has been called the worlds most successful arms control treaty. Many also think it is damaged to the point where it has stopped working. Both these things are true. It has worked in the sense that only nine countries have nuclear weapons: the US, Britain, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel (assumed) and North Korea (so it claims). When the treaty came into effect in 1970, many predicted that there would be ten times as many nuclear powers by the start of the 21st century. That has not happened. The treaty, which now has 187 signatories, can take much of the credit.

But its grip is breaking down. North Korea has advertised one central weakness: a state can quit the treaty with only 90 days notice, giving others no time to respond. Six-nation talks about North Koreas programme have made almost no progress since 2003, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London think tank, said on Tuesday. Iran has advertised the other weakness: a state can get to the brink of making weapons within the letter of the NPT. Yesterday in Geneva, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his French and German counterparts were trying to persuade Iran to drop its most controversial work. Iran argues the research is legal under the NPT; the West argues that the 20-year covert programme suggests Iran plans to make weapons.

Tuesday Hossein Mousavian, one of Irans top nuclear negotiators, put the chances of success in the talks at 50-50. He apparently meant this as a warning, although the dispute has been so bitter in the past month, that the odds he gives almost sound encouraging. These two disputes have overshadowed the New York talks this month. The mood of pessimism is entirely understandable. But at least there are the three suggestions for the way forward:

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