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The BBC's Jonathan Marcus
"An important symbolic step"
 real 28k

Sunday, 21 May, 2000, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Nuclear powers agree to disarm
Nuclear missile
Still no timetable for scrapping nuclear weapons
The five recognised nuclear powers have given an "unequivocal" undertaking to scrap their nuclear arsenals at an unspecified future date.

The agreement - which came at the end of a conference reviewing the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - brought a rare consensus on a global disarmament agenda.

The United Nations welcomed the commitment, although environmentalists said it would not produce any real action.


The agreement
Moratorium on tests
Reduction of tactical weapons
Greater transparency
Uranium and plutonium off warheads
Implementation of Start II
Israel singled out

The BBC's defence correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, says the pledge to disarm is an important symbolic step, but that a nuclear-free world is unlikely to become a reality soon.

The conference's final document, approved by 187 countries, puts pressure on four states who remain outside the treaty - Israel, India, Pakistan and Cuba - to accede to it.

It is widely accepted that until they do, the commitment by the US, Russia, China, France and the UK to give up nuclear weapons will not be carried out.

No timetable

The environmental pressure group Greenpeace said the nuclear states' pledge to disarm merely reiterated a promise they made when the treaty was first signed, 30 years ago.

The group's disarmament co-ordinator, William Peden, told the BBC that on the record of the last three decades it was unlikely they would ever give up their weapons.



[The agreement] marks a significant step forward in humanity's pursuit of a more peaceful world - a world free of nuclear dangers

Kofi Annan

But UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed it as a "significant step".

And a group of countries who form the New Agenda Coalition said the agreement was "an important landmark on which to build a nuclear weapons-free world".

The coalition - including Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden - had criticised an earlier version of the pledge for describing the elimination of nuclear weapons as an "ultimate goal".

Concerns

The BBC's UN correspondent says that significant concerns remain.


Mushroom cloud
The accord is aimed at committing nations to disarming
India, Pakistan and Israel show no sign of abandoning their nuclear weapons programmes, and Washington's interest in a national anti-missile defence shield threatens to destabilise the present nuclear balance.

The conference's final document for the first time singled out Israel, which is believed to have nuclear weapons, for not signing the treaty and for not placing its nuclear materials under "comprehensive" international safeguards.

Disarmament agenda

The delegates also agreed on a moratorium on weapons testing, further reductions of tactical nuclear weapons and greater transparency by the nuclear powers on reporting about their arsenals.

They agreed to remove plutonium and uranium from nuclear warheads and to negotiate within the next five years a treaty banning production of fissile weapon materials.

In addition, the final document called for diminishing the role of nuclear weapons in national security policies and committed the US and Russia to cut their long-range nuclear warheads.

Washington and Moscow are thought to have more than 30,000 strategic, tactical or stockpiled warheads between them.

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See also:

04 May 99 | South Asia
Mandela calls for nuclear disarmament
19 May 00 | South Asia
Germany: "India should back test ban"
02 May 00 | Americas
Nuclear powers promise to disarm
02 May 00 | World
The world's nuclear arsenal
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