Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 17:35 UK

Hague warns of nuclear insecurity

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, centre, visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facility on 8 April 2008
Each crisis, such as with Iran, should not be seen as one-off, Mr Hague said

The world faces a "new age of insecurity" unless the brakes are put on nuclear proliferation, warns shadow foreign secretary William Hague.

Tackling each profileration crisis "as a one-off" is not enough to give protection from the dangers of nuclear weapons, he said in a speech.

Wider counter proliferation issues should not be neglected, he added.

He urged Britain and the US to work together to revive the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Under the treaty (NPT), a country has the right to enrich its own fuel to a level suitable for civil nuclear power, and not the higher level needed for a nuclear weapon, under inspection from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

A conference of the 5 nuclear weapons powers
A new drive to revive the NPT
A new Security Council resolution to close loopholes in the NPT
A mechanism to bring the dangerous nuclear fuel cycle under international control
Strengthen the IAEA
Clamp down on trafficking in nuclear technology and materials
Isolate proliferators from the international financial system
A stronger international strategy to deal with Iran

Addressing the Institute for Strategic Studies in London, Mr Hague urged governments not to deal with each proliferation crisis - such as in Iran - "as a one-off".

"With every prospect of the pace of nuclear proliferation increasing, we must lift our gaze to look at the coming crises, not just the current one," he said.

"The certainties of the Cold War, when nuclear weapons were concentrated in the hands of a few and mutually-assured destruction prevailed, have been replaced by a far more unpredictable array of threats.

"We are facing a new era of nuclear insecurity which left unchecked, could lead to the unravelling of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has been a fundamental pillar of our global security for the last four decades.

"We therefore must act now while time is still on our side and while there is a remaining chance of turning this tide."

'Moral authority'

Finding a more comprehensive approach to nuclear proliferation is "by far the biggest challenge we face today", he said.

"There is an urgent need for a concerted effort to put the brakes on nuclear proliferation, without which steps towards reducing nuclear stockpiles worldwide will have little effect."

He said a consensus between the US and Britain would combine the influence of one of the world's most powerful nuclear weapons states with the "moral authority of the UK".

He urged Britain to "seize the opportunity" of the imminent arrival of a new US administration to push UK ideas.

His eight point strategy includes calling a conference of the five recognised nuclear weapons powers, a drive to revive the NPT and steps to clamp down on the trafficking in nuclear technology and materials.

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