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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK

World: Americas

Analysis: US moral authority compromised

Republicans say rogue states wouold ignore a test ban treaty

By Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

The inability of the United States Senate to raise sufficient votes to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has dealt President Clinton's arms control policy a grievous blow.

The vote - motivated largely by domestic political considerations - could have a very damaging impact upon American leadership.

For in large part leadership depends upon force of example.

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And if the CTBT is not seen by US lawmakers as worth ratifying, it is hard to see other countries like India, Pakistan and Israel rallying behind the treaty regime.

They along with the US and the other four declared nuclear powers Britain, France, China and Russia, must all ratify before the treaty can come into effect.

Only two of the nuclear powers - Britain and France - have actually done so.

The Test Ban Treaty seeks to outlaw all nuclear weapons testing.

It would establish a chain of seismic monitoring stations and other verification measures to ensure that its terms were not being broken.

Less-safe world?

It is seen as the cornerstone of efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons - the idea being that if a would-be nuclear weapons state cannot test its new bombs, its ability to build a credible deterrent will be compromised.

So is all lost? Has the US Senate's decision inevitably created a less-safe world?

By and large countries that sign international treaties honour their terms even if the agreement has not yet come into force.

None of the five declared nuclear powers are likely to resume testing. And the US will continue to press upon countries like India and Pakistan the need for nuclear restraint.

But America's moral leadership has undoubtedly been compromised by the Senate decision and the whole nuclear non-proliferation regime could well have been weakened.

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