Vienna (AFP) May 9, 2007
The United States warned Wednesday about the danger of Iran possibly withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the world's basic agreement against the spread of nuclear weapons. "Disturbingly, since Iran's multiple and ongoing violations of its NPT obligations have come to light, its leaders have hinted that they too are considering withdrawal" as North Korea did from the treaty in 2003, US special representative Christopher Ford told a conference of 130 nations on improving the global pact.
Ford said "withdrawal from the treaty cannot be seen as excusing prior violations or ending international efforts to take any appropriate measures to address violations committed prior to withdrawal."
He said UN-given equipment could be taken back from a state pulling out of the NPT and the state could automatically be referred to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.
The conference in Vienna on the 189-nation NPT is considering ways to fix the landmark treaty, which came into effect in 1970 and which many complain has a flaw since it allows states to peacefully develop technology that can also be used to make atom bombs.
North Korea developed nuclear weapons after withdrawing from the NPT.
The United States charges that Iran is secretly developing the atomic bomb.
Although Tehran says its nuclear program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity, it is under UN sanctions for defying a Security Council call for it to stop enriching uranium, which can be used as raw material for the bomb.
Iran has said it will honor NPT safeguards and not withdraw from the treaty, although officials have hinted a pull-out could happen if the crisis escalated.
The UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency had in February 2006 found Iran in violation of NPT safeguards for hiding sensitive nuclear work.
A Western diplomat told AFP the United States had brought up the withdrawal issue Wednesday to make sure Iran could not block this being part of the official record when the conference's conclusions are drawn on its closing day Friday.
The two-week meeting which opened April 30 has already been crippled by procedural wrangling. It is the first of a series of conferences to prepare for an overall review of the NPT in 2010.
French ambassador Jean-Francois Dobelle on Wednesday said "it may be considered that Iran is failing to comply with any of the conditions laid down in Article IV (of the NPT) for entitlement to exercise its right to nuclear energy."
Other speakers stressed the obligations of nuclear weapons states to give security guarantees to nations that forego developing atomic weapons.
"What is also required is for such states not to feel threatened by nuclear weapons," said South African ambassador Abdul Samad Minty.
"The granting of legally binding security assurances" would fulfill "the undertaking which should be given to the states that have voluntarily given up the nuclear-weapons option by becoming parties to the treaty," Minty said.
South Korean ambassador Dong-hee Chang said that since there was disagreement on such guarantees, called negative security assurances, states should strive to set up regional nuclear weapons free zones.
Meanwhile, former chief UN nuclear inspector Hans Blix told AFP here that world powers should agree to nuclear talks with Iran without imposing preconditions about Tehran's atomic work.
"You have carrots and sticks. In most cases, carrots are more effective than sticks," said Blix, who in 2002 headed a UN team tasked with conducting inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
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"You have carrots and sticks. In most cases, carrots are more effective than sticks," said Blix, a former head of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who was named head of a UN team in 2002 tasked with conducting inspections for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The United States and Britain led an invasion of Iraq in March 2003, using weapons' fears to justify the operation. Blix later accused the US and British governments of exaggerating Iraq's weapons' threat to help build a case for war.
Weapons of mass destruction were never found in Iraq.
Blix is now chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC), an independent body which works to limit the dangers posed by WMD.
He said he was "critical" of demands by the US and other world powers that Iran must first suspend uranium enrichment, which makes fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but also the raw material for atom bombs, before talks on defusing the crisis can begin.
The US charges that Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, but Iran says its atomic programme is a peaceful effort to generate electricty.
"I'm critical about making it the precondition for any talks, that Iran should suspend its enrichment programme because it is the enrichment programme that is the core of the negotiations," Blix said.
He said the United States, Europe and other nations seeking to talk with Iran should instead propose giving Tehran security guarantees, that Iran would be free from attack, and a promise to formal US diplomatic recognition of the Islamic Republic, if Iran were to halt suspect nuclear fuel work.
Such incentives could be convincing since they go to the heart of basic Iranian concerns, "what makes them tick," Blix said.
He dismissed the idea of a US military attack on Iran saying the "US public is a bit tired of military adventures."
Blix was speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Vienna to consider how to reinforce the 189-nation Non-Proliferation Treaty, the world's basic agreement on fighting the spread of nuclear weapons.
He said the NPT "has been in many respects a success" but was threatened by nuclear-weapons states not keeping their promises to move towards disarmament.
"The main problem relates to the actions of disarmament," Blix said.
The NPT, which went into effect in 1970, is a pact between non-nuclear-weapons states promising not to seek the bomb and nuclear weapons states pledging to begin talks on disarmament.
Blix also warned here that the NPT was threatened by a failure to make sure that outer "space should be for peaceful purposes."
The world's "outer space treaty is 40 years of age" and "should be reviewed," Blix said.
He said it "seems perverse that there is an army of engineers working to improve our mobile phones and another army of engineers working hard to find a way to shoot down objects in space."
"We are in jeopardy," Blix said.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Kuwait City (AFP) May 9, 2007
Kuwait's government on Wednesday briefed MPs on contingency plans to face a possible outbreak of Iran-US hostilities over Tehran's nuclear programme, a senior minister and lawmakers said. A government emergency team briefed parliament's foreign relations committee on the possibility of Kuwait being attacked or targeted by terrorists if Washington strikes Iran, committee chairman Mohammed al-Sager told reporters.
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