|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
8th Meeting (PM)
Focus in First Committee on ‘Excessively Injurious’ Effects of Cluster Munitions,
Landmines, Improvised Explosive Devices, Long after Accords Signed, Combat Ends
Small arms and light weapons, cluster munitions, anti-personnel mines, booby traps and other explosive devices were “excessively injurious”, and the human cost of their cascading spread and use far outweighed their military significance, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today.
Underscoring the longevity of cluster munitions and landmines, the delegate of Portugal said that such weapons continued to make victims years after peace agreements were signed and the conflicts in which they were used had ended, affecting military targets and civilian populations “indiscriminately”.
Afghanistan’s representative said that no State had been as affected by landmine use than his country. Over the past 30 years, more than 1 million people had lost their lives or were disabled as a result of landmines, and in 2012 and during the first six months of 2013, landmines had killed or maimed approximately 3,000 people. In recent years, improvised explosive devices used by the Taliban and other armed anti—Government groups had posed a major threat.
Over the past three decades of conflict, he said, Afghanistan had been one of the main victims of illicitly trafficked small arms and light weapons, which had fuelled the cycle of violence in the region and had killed and injured hundreds of thousands of Afghans. However, like many States, his lacked sufficient capacity to exert effective control of illicit arms within its borders. Insisting that “must be stopped”, he asked international and regional partners for support.
The delegate of the Republic of the Congo, who considered small arms as well as anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions “even more deadly” than other types of weapons discussed by the Committee, expressed his belief that a mine-free world could be achieved through cooperation between States.
Echoing that sentiment, Peru’s delegate called small arms and light weapons “the most dangerous weapons of all”. Their destablizing effect, said the delegate, was notorious, and their proliferation was a challenge to developed and developing countries alike.
Austria’s representative said that the Mine-Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions had played a crucial role in strengthening the normative framework for the protection of civilians, through preventing the further loss of life. However, arms technology was undergoing rapid changes, and implication of those developments on international humanitarian law required urgent engagement to ensure that those weapons would not be used in a way that violated universally recognized principles, such as the disproportionate use of force or the obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants.
While the entire international community rightly underscored that there was no scenario in which the use of chemical weapons could be justifiable, it was also important to “think that thought to the end”, he said. As devastating as the effects of chemical weapons were, they were dwarfed by the consequences that the use of nuclear weapons would cause. The conclusion was clear: all weapons of mass destruction were relics of the past and could not be reconciled with today’s understanding of international law and international humanitarian law.
Also speaking were the representatives of Armenia, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Guatemala, Kuwait, Norway, Serbia, Sudan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Viet Nam.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday 16 October, to continue its general debate.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on all related agenda items before it. For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3474.
SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that it was humankind’s common will and desire to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. In that regard, the recent high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament fully reflected pressing needs. Nuclear disarmament negotiations should begin immediately, and long-overdue global legal instruments banning those weapons, as well as negative security assurances against their use or threat of use against non-nuclear-weapon States should be drafted. The United States, as the first country to have used nuclear weapons and the largest nuclear-weapon Power, should take the lead. Progress would lag as long as disarmament was undertaken “purely in the interests of having strategic superiority”.
His Government’s consistent position was for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The nuclear issue in his region persisted, owing to the deployment by the United States of nuclear weapons in the Republic of Korea. The peninsula was a “global hotspot” with serious implications for both regional and global peace and security. The United States was misleading public opinion, by spreading false allegations about provocations and threats from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, while at the same time, establishing it as its “pre-emptive strike target”. The reality of who was encouraging confrontation and tension in the region was “more than clear”, he said, adding that the United States should abandon its hostile policy. His country would try every effort to safeguard peace and security on the Korean peninsula, as doing so was a “lofty obligation”.
ABDULAZIZ A M A ALAJMI( Kuwait) said that the use or even threat of use of nuclear weapons posed an exceptional danger that went beyond regional stability and peace to threatening life on the planet, itself. Kuwait had signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the comprehensive safeguards agreement of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. It was necessary to deal in a balanced manner with the three elements of NPT, especially the right for all States to develop and use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, in accordance with IAEA. Kuwait, a non-producer of arms, had deliberately joined those Conventions out of a belief that the human element and in the survival of humankind would prevail over use of those instruments that could cause its extinction.
He said that the chronic challenges in the Middle East region had damaged the vision of its future and destroyed economic conditions there. A lack of confidence resulted from Israel’s defiance of international legitimacy. The conference to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction must be convened as soon as possible, this year. He supported ongoing efforts to resolve the nuclear issue in Iran peacefully, and he called on that country to cooperate fully with international efforts, as a means to secure peace in the Arab Gulf region. Adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty reflected the will of the international community to limit the destructive presence of conventional weapons. He hoped that the Committee would be transparent and persistent in its work, thereby contributing to international peace and security.
KNUT LANGELAND ( Norway) welcomed the growing awareness of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. The adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty was historic, and followed many years of hard work, including two failed attempts to conclude it. Norway attached great importance to the Treaty’s humanitarian dimension and felt that, while “nothing is perfect”, that “humanitarian instrument” had the potential to reduce human suffering. The task ahead was for full and effective implementation. He paid tribute to civil society during the process.
He said that conference in March, hosted by his Government on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons had been attended by 128 States, which concluded that no State or international body would be able to address the humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in “any meaningful way”. In factual terms, the meaning of “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” had been established. He welcomed Mexico’s offer of a follow-up conference, adding that the issue was one of great relevance for all Member States. Multilateralism in nuclear disarmament remained plagued by its long-lasting impasse. Among other measures, he called for full universalization of the IAEA’s Comprehensive Safeguards and Additional Protocol, and underscored the need to resolve all outstanding proliferation concerns, including in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The use of chemical weapons was utterly unacceptable, he said, adding that their recent use illustrated the urgent need to strengthen the norm against that category of weapon of mass destruction. With that in mind, Norway underlined the need for full universalization of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, and urged all States that were not party to those treaties to join them.
HASSAN HAMID HASSAN (Sudan), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Africa Group, said the world was seeking to create a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Unfortunately, the conference due to take place in 2012 had not been held, and he called for its convening this year, especially given the region’s turbulence. In 2004, Khartoum had hosted the first conference of African National Institutions for the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, in support of the creation of a chemical—weapon—free zone in Africa. He stressed that the right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes must be upheld.
He said his country had felt the impact of small arms and light weapons, which was exacerbated by tribes warring over water and grazing grounds. The spread of those weapons benefitted terrorists and criminal networks, and Sudan was doing much to combat that phenomenon, in the African Union and the League of Arab States and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development. The country also was engaged in bilateral contacts with its neighbours, especially the Central African Republic and Chad, to ensure border security. Within Sudan, there was a five-year plan to combat those weapons, which included posted online weapons databases, reviewing the provision of weapons permits, capacity building of related and border institutions, coordination of regional and subregional organizations, and strengthening of the identification and marking system. Development was a key factor in combating the widespread use of small arms and light weapons, he said, adding that the Security Council should not just send expert groups, because those prioritized the symptoms of conflict rather than its root causes.
ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that since the fall of the Taliban regime, his Government had initiated several measures at the national level to combat the production and trafficking of substances that could be used to make chemical and biological weapons. In 2010, President Hamid Karzai had issued a decree banning the import, export and transport of ammonium nitrate, and it was important that Afghanistan received support in that regard at the national and international level.
He voiced support for the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. The outcome document adopted last year at the Second Review Conference was an effective framework for concrete action. Yet, challenges remained. Many States lacked sufficient capacity to exert effective control of illicit arms within their borders. Terrorists’ access had fuelled violence in Afghanistan and the wider region. Afghanistan had experienced close to three decades of conflict, during which time, millions of illegal arms and light weapons were imported or trafficked into the country, causing the death or injury of hundreds of thousands Afghans. In response, his country had implemented security sector reforms, which focused on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, and the disbandment of illegal armed groups.
No State had been as affected by landmines use than Afghanistan, he said. During the past three decades, more than 1 million people had lost their lives or were disabled as a result of those weapons, and that widespread destruction and loss of life continued today. At present, armed militant groups still used mines to threaten stability, safety and development in his country. In 2012 and during the first six months of 2013, landmines had killed or maimed approximately 3,000 people. The continued use of those weapons by the Taliban was very serious, threatening lives and prosperity. In recent years, improvised explosive devices used by the Taliban and other armed anti—Government groups had posed a major threat. He called on international and regional partners to help to thwart their use.
MR. AHIDJO (Cameroon), associating himself with the Non—Aligned Movement, the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said he joined others in expressing concern about the challenges of disarmament and international security. Calling nuclear weapons an “existential threat to humanity”, he said that the system for their control was not yet complete and CTBT had not yet entered into force. Mines and cluster bombs, among other weapons, continued to “maul” and fuel armed violence, and he urged that instruments to tackle those challenges be put into effect. He welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty and hoped that that new legally binding tool would help to combat the illicit arms trade, thereby contributing to international stability and security, and easing human suffering. He attached great importance to multilateralism in disarmament, and noted an “African desire” for a continent free of weapons of mass destruction. Cameroon was committed to contributing to a peaceful world. The constant list of challenges called urgently for progress, he concluded.
ÁLVARO JOSÉ COSTA DE MENDONÇA E MOURA.(Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty as an important sign that multilateralism worked and that international community could achieve results through dialogue and negotiation. Drawing attention to the issue of cluster munitions, he said those weapons indiscriminately affected both military targets and civilian populations, and claimed victims years after conflicts had ended. For that reason, his country, together with Japan and Ghana, had promoted the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was the only legally binding instrument governing the use of those weapons. Landmines, likewise, had long—lasting effects, and Portugal looked forward to contributing to a new set of “ambitious commitments” to curb their use.
Calling the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament “agonizing”, he said the fact that a “significant number” of States were barred from constructive participation only added to the situation’s untenable nature. Portugal called for a special rapporteur to examine the modalities for enlarging the Conference. His country shared international concerns about the nuclear programmes of Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which must be fully addressed. He welcomed recent talks between Iran and ‘E3+3’ as well as IAEA, but cautioned that “words must be matched by deeds”. The world waited apprehensively for assurances that atomic energy was used strictly in line with NPT.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica) said that the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty this year had planted a renewed optimism for the international community’s capacity to confront humanity’s greatest challenges. But even more than that renewed spirit was that fact that the world now had the first ever treaty establishing legally binding obligations for States to guarantee responsible, efficient and transparent controls for all types of international transfers of conventional weapons, ammunition, parts and components. The Treaty already had 113 signatures and seven ratifications. He hoped that trend would continue towards the 50 ratifications needed for its entry into force. Costa Rica had ratified the Treaty on 25 September.
Regarding the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he said that at the Fourth Meeting of States Parties held in Zambia this year, the international community had condemned the use of those weapons in Syria and reiterated their commitment to work towards their elimination. The next and Fifth Meeting of States Parties would be held in Costa Rica’s capital in September 2014 and would emphasize the need to place human beings and humanitarian issues at the centre of the debate — from protection to prevention, to victims’ assistance and access to international cooperation for the Convention’s implementation. Also worrying was the sustained use of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, for targeted attacks, which had extremely destructive collateral effects.
He celebrated the awarding of the Nobel Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and called for States that had not yet done so to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. For Costa Rica, not only chemical weapons but all weapons of mass destruction were contrary to international humanitarian law. Costa Rica had the honour of presiding over the Open—ended Working Group, and the result represented the achievement of a delicate balance between widely differing positions on nuclear disarmament, and provided a way to help negotiate the subject in a multilateral manner. Costa Rica was a small, democratic, disarmed and civilian country, and the multilateral system and international law were its only instruments of defence.
MILAN MILANOVIC ( Serbia) strongly opposed the use of chemical weapons, which was a serious violation of international law. As a State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, his country was in favour of those weapons’ total elimination and he supported the adoption of Security Council resolution 2118 (2013). It was regrettable that nuclear weapons still existed in the world, and even with a considerable reduction in nuclear arsenals, a lot remained to be done in that field. The NPT remained a vital instrument in strengthening international security, and, as such, it should be enhanced through full compliance by all States parties. Also vital was the entry into force of the CTBT, as that was another important international instrument in reaching the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Serbia was among the few United Nations members to have adopted the National Action Plan for implementing resolution 1540.
His delegation believed that productive multilateralism had an indispensible role in addressing challenges in the field of disarmament and international security. However, there was an ongoing stalemate in the multilateral disarmament machinery, and the international community must remain committed to revitalizing those negotiating bodies. He hoped that the member States of the Conference on Disarmament would finally consider another essential issue, namely, enlargement of that body. Every State should be given the opportunity to participate in future talks on revitalization and share in that responsibility.
RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ (Republic of the Congo) said that the recent High-level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament had “sounded a warning bell”, while at the same time, serving as a reminder that the disarmament movement was a “legitimate claim supported by all”. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction posed a real threat to peace and security, indeed, “to our very existence”, and the risk of their acquisition by non-State actors and terrorists exacerbated that threat. Universal mechanisms must be strengthened, and the relevant negotiations continued, starting with the timely convening of a conference on a nuclear—weapons—free Middle East. His country supported efforts at every level for an instrument banning the production of fissile material.
Powers that possess chemical weapons must invest in their dismantling, he continued, adding that some States had shown “torpor” on the issue. States should accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Regarding conventional weapons, including small arms, light weapons, anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, were “even more deadly”. He said that the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons was an essential tool. The total elimination of anti-personnel mines was another challenge, but with cooperation, a mine—free world could be achieved.
PAJO AVIROVIKJ (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), associating himself with the statement by the European Union, welcomed the milestone adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty. His country advocated the adoption of the “highest common standards” for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. It was already a signatory of that Treaty, which would be before parliament for ratification shortly. Citing the recent unified international response to the Syrian crisis, he said that multilateralism remained the best approach to security, including in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation. As such, NPT was the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime, and he called for full compliance with its provisions. CTBT was also essential, and he urged pursuit of its early entry-into-force and universalization. Much remained to be done to strengthen nuclear security, but a nuclear-weapon-free world was viable.
ALEXANDER KMNETT ( Austria) strongly condemned the third nuclear test carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and urged that country to change its course of action. His delegation was also concerned over the nuclear issue in Iran, and urged that Government to follow through on the recent positive signals in a way that addressed all the concerns of the international community. The most troubling development, however, had been the use of chemical weapons in Syria. While nothing would undo that indiscriminate killing of civilians with a weapon of mass destruction, it was important to focus on preventing such acts from being repeated in the future. The devastating effects of chemical weapons were dwarfed by the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, which were still considered by some to be legitimate and “ultimate guarantors of security”.
He said that the inconsistency of that thinking was obvious, and the conclusion was clear: all weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, were relics of the past and could not be reconciled with today’s understanding of international law and international humanitarian law. Austria remained fully committed to NPT and believed the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan set the right course.
On other matters, he said that the Mine-Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions had played a crucial role in strengthening the normative framework for the protection of civilians, through preventing the further loss of life. Prevention and accountability for deliberate targeting of civilians during war, as well as disproportionate collateral casualties as a result of military action, were at the centre of Austria’s concern. Today, arms technology was undergoing rapid changes. The use of armed drones in conflict situations was increasing, and, in a not too distant future, fully autonomous weapons systems could become available. The implications required urgent engagement by relevant United Nations forums to ensure that those weapons were not used in a way that violated universally recognized principles, such as the disproportionate use of force or the obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants.
GAREN NAZARIAN ( Armenia) stated that the past year had demonstrated the complexity of contemporary conflicts. Armenia attached great importance to United Nations efforts to create an “atmosphere of confidence”, which was essential to contain international and regional threats, and manage instability. Unconditional implementation and strengthening of existing disarmament and non-proliferation agreements should be a priority. The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was a pillar of the region’s security architecture, and had played a key role in reducing military equipment in the region to a “remarkably low level”. It had created a “culture of arms control”, but more recently, it had been experiencing serious implementation problems, and, as such, Armenia recommended a “thorough reassessment” of the European security environment.
He said the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons was the only global instrument in its field, and, as such, a “universal starting point” for responding to the challenges posed by illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Likewise, Armenia regarded the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Mine-Ban Convention as important instruments to achieve eradication of these “excessively injurious” weapons.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU(Benin), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and African Group, said the global threat of the illicit small arms and light weapons trade, and the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons, was clear to all. Human error and natural disasters could cause accidents and wipe out the possessors of nuclear weapons, as well as those surrounding them, many of whom might not even know those weapons were so near to them. He asked the Un ited States and Russian Federation to undertake deeper cuts. Strides had been taken to rid the world of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, but humanity would never be truly safe unless robust action was undertaken multilaterally. Bodies established for multilateral cooperation must duly understand what was at stake, as well as their responsibility. In that light, Benin was concerned about both the Disarmament Commission and Conference on Disarmament.
He reaffirmed the importance and pertinence of CTBT, noting that the system it would establish allowed for the provision of seismic and hydro-acoustic data, which, by early warning, could mitigate the damage from tsunamis and other natural disasters. The inability to have held the international conference on a zone in the Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction called into question the initiative’s credibility. He voiced his strong commitment to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for all, under the strict control of IAEA.
ANTONIO PEDRO MONTEIRO LIMA ( Cape Verde), associating himself with the African Group, stated that successful multilateralism and international cooperation were crucial to achieving disarmament and international security goals. He welcomed the General Assembly high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament in September, and, earlier this year, and the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty. Fully implemented, it would lead to the effective regulation of the arms trade and have significant impacts on armed conflicts, particularly in Africa. Regional organizations had a vital role to play. The Treaty would also help to discourage terrorism, urban violence and insecurity, as well as drug trafficking and international crime-related activities.
He said that with more than 20,000 nuclear warheads still in existence, the impact of their use would be “colossal” for humankind and the global environment. Cape Verde strongly condemned all nuclear tests, and, as an island State, rejected such tests in the oceans or high seas, which affected the marine biodiversities and ecosystems. Cape Verde welcomed Security Council resolution 2118 (2013), adopted by consensus in September, against the use of chemical weapons and on the dismantlement of Syria’s arsenal. His country supported not only a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East but also a nuclear-weapon-free world.
JORGE MEDINA (Peru), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that he would consider small arms and light weapons to be the most dangerous of all. Their proliferation produced challenges to Governments in developing and developed countries alike, and their destabilizing effect “notorious”. Citing several initiatives Peru had undertaken in that area, he said his country had strengthened its national capacity and, aiming to control those weapons, had signed the Arms Trade Treaty. The international community’s efforts should not slow with adoption of that Treaty, he said, adding his hope for its prompt entry into force.
He reiterated his country’s long-standing commitment to the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons and would work with all States towards the 2018 Review Conference. Noting the creation of an Informal Working Group to motivate the Conference on Disarmament, he expressed hope it could resume its role. He highlighted the work of the United Nations Regional Center for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which was based in his country. The Centre had an important role, along with States in the region, to develop disarmament initiatives. Peru, he added, was staunchly committed to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
MARÍA SOLEDAD URRUELA ARENALES (Guatemala), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Caribbean Community, welcomed the Arms Trade Treaty as nothing less than an historic event and a milestone in international diplomacy. That Treaty could significantly reduce the human cost of arms proliferation at the global level by preventing providers from benefiting from the weakest points in the illegal arms provision chain. It also established the responsibilities that the actors involved in each link of that chain must shoulder. Her delegation would have liked the Treaty to have greater coverage regarding ammunitions, munitions and weapons parts, but it still had the potential to make a real difference and ensure that exporting, importing and transit countries maintained standards. Indeed, the Treaty could be a powerful tool to eradicate the illegal arms market, she said, urging the international community not to squander the momentum.
Combating arms trafficking, she said, was foremost on her country’s agenda. The prevalence of conventional arms in the region was driven by a lack of socio—economic opportunity, the inability of Governments to guarantee the rule of law and transnational organized crime. She welcomed the Security Council’s recent adoption of resolution 2117 (2013) on small arms and light weapons, which was the first to recognise the responsibility of States to protect their civilian populations from those weapons’ effects and the link between those weapons and sexual and gender-based violence. She regretted the lack of similar optimism when it came to nuclear weapons, where progress was more urgent than ever. Guatemala, as a State party to NPT, supported all of its provisions; it was also proud to be a party to the Treaty of Tlatelcolco. She urged ratification of CTBT by all remaining “Annex II” countries to enable that Treaty to enter force.
LE HOAI TRUNG ( Viet Nam), aligning with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that conflicts and their inhumane use of weapons were still raging across regions, and it was the international community’s collective responsibility to address those issues, especially in light of the fact that multilateral negotiations related to disarmament were stalled. Still, there was room for cautious optimism. At the same time, the international community must not lower its own standard of success and intensify efforts to move the multilateral disarmament agenda forward.
He said that Viet Nam’s foreign policy was one of peace and disarmament, shaped by decades of war and human suffering. While nuclear non-proliferation was an important NPT pillar, the ultimate goal was nuclear disarmament. Outstanding issues included negotiations for a nuclear disarmament convention and legally binding fissile material cut-off treaty. Pending that, it was critical to bring into force existing international instruments, especially CTBT, and he called on States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify those texts. Substantive results in multilateral disarmament were feasible; their deliverance rested on the international community’s collective action.
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