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Australia says timing right for new nuclear talks

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Oct 20, 2008
Australia hosted the first meeting of a new international nuclear non-proliferation body Monday, with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith saying he was hopeful of progress on disarmament.

Members of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, first proposed by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in June, met for the first time in Sydney for two days of talks early Monday.

The commission, chaired by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans and Japan's former top diplomat Yoriko Kawaguchi, is tasked with reinvigorating the global debate on the spread of nuclear weapons and disarmament.

"We think the timing might just be right for some success in this area," Smith told reporters in Canberra. "It's a very strong commission."

Smith said the Australian government would give 3.8 million dollars (2.66 million US) to the body, which was proposed by Rudd following a visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the site of the world's first atomic attack.

The commission will focus on the success of a 2010 conference on the 40-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and promote discussion on the need for disarmament and to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Smith said he and Rudd had met with the body's commissioners, who include former US secretary of defence William Perry and Norway's former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, in Sydney on Sunday.

"We made the point to them... we see this as a genuine second track, or non-government dialogue which will encourage a sharp focus by the international community on short-term good results from the NPT conference but also to start moving forward again on nuclear disarmament," Smith said.

Asked whether any nuclear-armed nations would abandon their nuclear weapons, Smith said: "We certainly hope so.

"I don't use the phrase forseeable future, but it's the Australian government's long-term objective that the manufacture, the possession of nuclear weapons, cease," he said.

Other commissioners include former Indonesian foreign minister Ali Alatas, Alexei Arbatov from Russia, Jehangir Karamat from Pakistan, Franżois Heisbourg from France, Klaus Naumann from Germany, Ernesto Zedillo from Mexico and Wang Yingfan from China.

Four members were unable to make the Sydney meeting -- Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, South Africa's Frene Noshir Ginwala, India's Brajesh Mishra and Shirley Williams from the UK.

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Tehran mayor backs talks with US
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 17, 2008
The mayor of Tehran, a possible contender for the Iranian presidency, said Friday his country would welcome talks with the United States as supported by White House contender Barack Obama.

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