Nuke-free ME popular at NPT summit
Egypt: Success with Iran depends on creating nuclear-free zone.
ahmadinejad hand clap Photo: AP
UNITED NATIONS –
Against the backdrop of US pressure to stop Iran from developing nuclear
weapons, attention is turning to Israel and the establishment of a
nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
On the second day
of the monthlong UN conference on nonproliferation, Jordan’s Foreign
Minister Nasser Judeh noted a lack of progress on implementing a 1995
resolution calling for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Israel’s
failure to sign the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, he said,
“renders the NPT a source of instability in the Middle East.”
day earlier, the United States reaffirmed its support for a Middle East
free of weapons of mass destruction. The US was one of the original
sponsors of the 1995 resolution.
But a nuanced American position
could impact any final agreement reached at the end of this month’s
conference, especially given the US focus on Iran.
lack of a comprehensive regional peace and concerns about some
countries’ compliance with NPT safeguards, the conditions for such a
zone do not yet exist,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told
reporters in New York on Monday. “But we are prepared to support
practical measures for moving toward that objective.”
Clinton: Iran flouts the rules
Ahmadinejad calls nuclear weapons ‘disgusting’
Monday, the US revealed details about its nuclear arsenal for the first
time. The Pentagon said the US maintained 5,113 nuclear warheads in its
stockpile and has “several thousand” more retired nuclear weapons that
are going to be dismantled. The stockpile represents a 75-percent
reduction since 1989.
“For those who doubt that the United States
will do its part on disarmament, this is our record, these are our
commitments, and they send a clear, unmistakable signal,” Clinton said
during a speech at the NPT conference.
Ahead of the conference,
Egypt said establishing a nuclear-free Middle East was a key to dealing
with Iran. Egypt submitted a working paper at the NPT review conference
that urges signatories to implement the 1995 resolution and asks Israel
to sign the treaty as soon as possible.
“Success in dealing with
Iran will depend, to a large extent, on how successfully we deal with
the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the region,” Egyptian
Ambassador to the UN Maged Abdel Aziz said.
Earlier in the day,
Hisham Badr, Egyptian ambassador to the UN in Geneva, spoke to the
conference on behalf of the New Agenda coalition, made up of Egypt,
Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden.
1995 Middle East resolution is a matter of paramount importance. To
date, no progress has been achieved on the establishment of a
weapons-free zone in that region,” he said. “The conference should renew
its call to Israel as the only state of the region not yet a party to
the treaty to accede to it” promptly and “without conditions,” he said.
is widely believed to have roughly 200 nuclear weapons in its arsenal,
the existence of which it has not confirmed or denied. Three countries –
Israel, India and Pakistan – are not party to the NPT and are not
participating in the review conference.
US officials have said
they support all countries signing the NPT. But at the outset, the
United States and Iran sparred from the podium in the General Assembly
“Regrettably, the government of the United States has not
only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such
weapons against other countries, including Iran,” Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, calling nuclear weapons “disgusting and
'The onus is on Iran'
walked out, including the American delegation and several members of the
In an unusual move, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon left the GA hall
after his own remarks, effectively avoiding the Iranian leader’s speech.
“Let us be clear, the onus is on Iran to clarify the doubt and concerns
about their program,” Ban said during his own address.
Taking the podium on Monday afternoon, Clinton characterized
Ahmadinejad’s speech as full of “wild accusations” against the US and
“Iran will do whatever it can to divert attention away from its own
record and to attempt to evade accountability,” she said. She noted
that Iran is the only NPT signatory found by the IAEA to be in
noncompliance with its nuclear safeguard obligations. “That is why it
is facing increasing isolation and pressure from the international
community,” she said.