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Assembly Committee Must Work to Break Stalemate on Nuclear Arms

The senior United Nations disarmament official has called on the General Assembly’s security committee to break the diplomatic stalemate on nuclear ar ms that led to a failure to achieve progress on the issue at recent international meetings. “It is a secret to no one in this room that collectively we are at present stumbling to meet this challenge,” Under-Secretary for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe said in an address to the panel, known as the First Committee. Echoing previous comments by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Mr. Abe blamed posturing by Member States for the lack of results on the nuclear issue at the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference earlier this year and again at the UN World Summit last month. “It falls in some large measure to this Committee to begin [the] task of trying to pick up the pieces and provide fresh orientation,” he told the body, which includes representatives from all 191 of the UN’s Member States. Specifically, Mr. Abe called for guidance from the Committee on how the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament can achieve progress on negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and other issues, including negative security assurances and even “the fundamental question of complete nuclear disarmament.” Biological and chemical weapons remain major items on the agenda because of their “potentially massive and indiscriminate effects,” he said, adding that growing concern that nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists has also become an important issue for the UN Department of Disarmament. “There are many measures to be taken to establish domestic laws and regulations to criminalize activities concerning proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-State actors and to establish and tighten export and border controls,” Mr. Abe said. He also called for greater attention to the threat posed by conventional arms, noting that “everyday tragedies” that occur around the world “kill thousands of people every year.” To that end, he urged action on a draft international instrument aimed at enabling States to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons.