UN nuclear conference in 4th day without agenda
UNITED NATIONS: A monthlong conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty dragged into its fourth day Thursday still without a complete agenda, in an impasse over diplomatic language that mirrors the tense international showdown over Iran’s nuclear program.
A day earlier, backroom talks on final bits of wording were said to be close to agreement. But on Thursday morning a neutral participant, speaking privately, said it was “looking very bad.”
A prolonged deadlock might keep the twice-a-decade global gathering from dealing with all but the least contentious issues surrounding the 1970 treaty, by which more than 180 nations pledge not to pursue nuclear weapons, in exchange for a pledge by five nuclear-weapons states — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — to negotiate toward nuclear disarmament. .
The United States wants the conference to focus on Iran’s program to enrich uranium via centrifuges, a process that produces fuel for nuclear power plants or, if intensified, material for nuclear bombs. The Iranians say their centrifuges are meant solely for civilian use, but Washington contends the program is a cover for plans to build nuclear weapons.
Iran is in intermittent negotiations with the European Union, which seeks to have Tehran shut down the centrifuge program in exchange for economic and other incentives.
Conference organizers report Iran was balking at an agenda focus on “developments” relevant to treaty implementation _ understood by all as diplomatic code for its current flirtation with sensitive nuclear technology.
Last year, the Americans blocked agreement on a 2005 conference agenda by objecting to a proposed focus on commitments made by nuclear weapons states at the 2000 treaty review, to take specific steps toward disarmament, such as activating the nuclear test-ban treaty. The steps by US President George W Bush’s administration, in some cases, have been backward — by rejecting that treaty, for example.
Compromise language evidently was found in that area, but Rebecca Johnson, editor of the journal Disarmament Diplomacy, said the United States “opened a can of worms” by stalling the agenda in 2004 — when it was to have been adopted — and then proposing the wording that prompted Iranian objections. .
If the impasse persists, the conference may be unable both to address the nuclear fuel-cycle issue and assess what progress nuclear states are making toward disarmament.
Proposals have been made to establish international guarantees or controls over nuclear fuel production, to keep sensitive enrichment technology out of the hands of nonweapons states. For their part, nonweapons states want to promote such steps toward disarmament as the test-ban treaty, and a treaty that would end production everywhere of fissile material for nuclear bombs. app