UN committee adopts draft treaty against nuclear terrorism

Rohan Perera briefs journalists

1 April 2005 – After seven years of negotiations, a United Nations committee today adopted a draft international treaty to fight nuclear terrorism, with Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling on all states to sign on to pre-empt what he called "one of the most urgent threats of our time" that with one attack could change the world forever.

The draft adopted by consensus defines acts of nuclear terrorism and strengthens the international legal framework to combat it, requiring those who threaten or commit such crimes to be extradited or prosecuted and encouraging exchange of information and cooperation among states and a broad range of mutual assistance obligations.

"The Nuclear Terrorism Convention will help prevent terrorists from gaining access to the most lethal weapons known to man," Mr. Annan told the Ad Hoc Committee established by the General Assembly in 1996 to draw up an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings and entrusted in 1998 with drafting an international convention for the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

The draft aims to deal with both crisis situations by assisting states in solving situations created by terrorist groups possessing nuclear material, and post-crisis situations by rendering the nuclear material safe in accordance with safeguards provided by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Committee chairman Rohan Perera of Sri Lanka told a news conference.

The text will now go to the full General Assembly within the next two weeks or so for adoption and will open for signature on 14 September at the high-level plenary meeting scheduled for the Assembly's 60th session.

"Nuclear terrorism is one of the most urgent threats of our time," Mr. Annan said. "Even one such attack could inflict mass casualties and change our world forever. The prospect should compel all of us to do our part to strengthen our common defences."

He also called on the Committee to finalize work on the convention on terrorist bombings. "I remain confident that you will be able to complete that work before the end of the 60th session of the General Assembly," he said.

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