Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 11:24 UK

Brown bid to halt nuclear spread

HMS Vigilant, one of Royal Navy's Trident submarines
Gordon Brown has committed himself to Trident renewal

Gordon Brown has outlined plans to counter nuclear proliferation and reduce existing weapons arsenals.

The prime minister set out a "road map" for disarmament in which all nuclear states would pledge to reduce their stockpile of warheads.

Under the plan, countries such as Iran will be offered assistance to develop civil nuclear power in return for assurances they will not build bombs.

Mr Brown is under pressure over plans to renew the UK's own nuclear weapons.

The prime minister says he is committed to updating the Trident submarine-based missile system despite its estimated £20bn cost.

Collective action

The Lib Dems have called for it to be scrapped in favour of a less expensive system while the Conservatives, who support Trident, says its future must be considered as part of a comprehensive defence review.

Mr Brown has ruled out unilateral cuts to either the submarine fleet or the UK's 160 warheads and has called for collective action to stop nuclear proliferation.

He set out his proposals in a written statement to MPs designed for debate ahead of talks next April designed to pave the way for a review of the International Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Treaty requires states with nuclear capabilities to move towards getting rid of them and other non-nuclear states to undertake not to try to get them.

But non-proliferation efforts have suffered after North Korea, which withdrew from the Treaty in 2003, conducted several nuclear tests and Iran proceeded with its uranium enrichment programme.

Show leadership

Iran says it needs nuclear power for civil purposes but Mr Brown says the onus must be on countries to prove this is the case rather than for the international authorities to have to try and find out.

He has warned countries such as Iran and North Korea they can expect further sanctions if they continue to defy the UN over their nuclear ambitions.

Mr Brown said: "The world needs a renewed global bargain for nuclear energy. We need this to make the world safer, more prosperous, and better able to combat climate change and to secure the energy supply we need.

"Next year's conference gives us the opportunity I want to renew and re-invigorate the bargain at the heart of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"For nuclear weapon states, this bargain means we have a responsibility to show leadership on the question of disarmament and being at the forefront of developing global solutions to allow wider and safe access to civil nuclear power. For non-nuclear weapon states the bargain means continuing to forego nuclear weapons, while accessing - if they wish - civil nuclear power.

The US and Russia are pursuing bi-lateral talks to scale back their respective arsenals which could lead to the first such weapons reduction treaty since 1991.

Under plans discussed at a summit in Moscow earlier this month, respective stocks of deployed nuclear warheads could fall to below 1,700 within seven years of a deal.

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