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US raises stakes on global arms control deal

by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Jan 27, 2011
The United States on Thursday signalled that deadlock in global arms control talks should be broken this year to get a deal banning the production of new nuclear bomb-making material off the ground.

Top US disarmament negotiator Rose Gottemoeller suggested that it might be the best opportunity for more reluctant states to keep leverage in drawing up a Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty, which is supported by the major nuclear powers.

Pakistan this week reiterated its lone public opposition to starting negotiations on a treaty in the Conference on Disarmament, after two years of deadlock in the consensus-bound 65 nation body.

"Let me just place full emphasis and priority today on my main message, which is to launch the negotiations this year on a Fissile Material Cut off Treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament," Gottemoeller told journalists.

"I think that is a kind of general timeframe," she said, while adding that it was not a "specific deadline".

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control told the conference on Thursday that waiting indefinitely was "not a viable option."

"If we cannot find a way to begin these negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, then we will need to consider options," Gottemoeller said.

She nonetheless insisted that Washington preferred a deal through the Geneva-based body, stressing that its consensus rule gave all countries equal weight -- including in defining the scope of fissile material rules.

"I for one hope that Pakistan will take this as a serious effort to verify their concerns," the US official added in a media briefing.

Washington also supported starting discussions by technical experts on the sidelines to lay some groundwork on an FMCT in the meantime.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned on Tuesday that the deadlock in Geneva threatens international security by increasing the risk that weapons might fall into the wrong hands.

The FMCT is widely regarded as a key building block in stemming the spread of nuclear weapons.

Pakistan, an atomic weapons state, fears neighbour India's bigger nuclear arsenal. Islamabad also wants to deal with existing stockpiles of nuclear material.

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