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ARMS CONTROL
Overview Mechanisms The record
 
The UN was set up shortly after the first atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Controlling the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons was one of the main challenges for the UN during the Cold War. In May 2000, the world's five strongest nuclear powers agreed to eliminate their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. But with no timetable for disarmament, and many more countries developing weapons of mass destruction, the danger is far from over.

ARMS CONTROL
OverviewMechanismsThe record
 
The UN has helped negotiate two major arms control treaties: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The NPT has been signed by 187 countries, and includes a commitment from the nuclear powers to disarm. It also obliges the nuclear powers never to transfer their nuclear technology to other countries, and forbids other countries from acquiring nuclear capability. The CTBT bans nuclear test explosions. The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency inspects nuclear reactors in 90 countries to ensure that nuclear materials are not diverted for military purposes. The UN also keeps a register of conventional arms, and publishes an annual register of arms imports and exports.
ARMS CONTROL
OverviewMechanismsThe record
 
Although the signing of the NPT was a major step forward, the agreement has not been signed by India, Pakistan, Cuba or Israel. India and Pakistan also refused to sign the CTBT, and conducted tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998. There are fears that other countries are secretly developing nuclear weapons.
Before being expelled from Iraq in 1998, IAEA inspectors managed to find and destroy a number of nuclear facilities that they said were being secretly used to build weapons. IAEA inspectors have served as the world's "eyes and ears" in North Korea, inspecting its nuclear reactors and ensuring that it adheres to its pledge not to produce plutonium, a key ingredient in nuclear bombs.
The UN is also leading an international effort to clear landmines, and more than 40 countries have ratified the UN's mine ban treaty, banning the use, production, stockpiling, sale, transfer, and export of antipersonnel landmines.
In his millennium report, Secretary General Kofi Anan has urged member states to control small arms transfers more rigorously and recommit themselves to reducing the dangers both of existing nuclear weapons and of further proliferation.