|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY CHAIR OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION COMMISSION
Hans Blix, Chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, addressed correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon to mark the release of the Commission’s final report, Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms. He said the report touched on the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, analyzed United States policy on such weapons, and discussed how to deal with future scenarios of a “nuclear renaissance”, among other things. The report had been submitted to the Secretary-General earlier in the day.
During the conference, Mr. Blix fielded several questions on Iran, in particular whether the world should believe its Government’s assurances on the country’s peaceful use of nuclear power. He said he saw no objection to the pursuit of nuclear science in general, and for countries to take pride in their nuclear accomplishments. But, the Commission viewed it as desirable for Iran to refrain from continuing with uranium enrichment.
Elaborating further, he said the incentive to possess nuclear weapons was often linked to a perceived need for protection. Iranians “see 130,000 American soldiers in Iraq and American bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They remember that Mossadegh, the premier, was ousted with subversive methods from outside. It is not inconceivable that certain groups in Iran see security threats from the outside,” he remarked.
Mr. Blix added that “the first line of defence against the spread of nuclear weapons is to make States feel like they don’t need them”. As such, foreign policy, not military action, should be the first barrier to nuclear proliferation and, in fact, negotiations seemed to be the preferred tool for containing nuclear threats, he said, citing North Korea’s talks in Beijing as an example.
He also said the commitment currently being sought from Iran should be widened to include other countries in the region, to produce a significant “weapons-free zone” in the Middle East. The Commission’s view was that such an idea would work, if it was agreed to by “everybody in the region, including Israel, which was assumed to have about 200 nuclear weapons”. He acknowledged, though, that political issues besetting the region must be settled adequately, before such a goal could be realized. Under such a plan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and others would also walk in a weapons-free direction.
Asked by correspondents if he was planning to take the report to Washington, D.C., Mr. Blix said he would be going there next week as part of the report’s June launching, which was targeted at Governments and think-tanks.
Speaking on the report itself, he said it contained 60 recommendations to tackle problems posed by weapons of mass destruction, with a full chapter devoted to the role of the United Nations and the Security Council in that area. For instance, the Security Council had begun to use its authority to urge countries to enact legislation that would criminalize the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by individuals. He called it an “extremely interesting development”, considering that prior conventions ordinarily dealt with States.
Among the Commission’s recommendations was that another world summit be held to make up for the “failure” of the 2005 World Summit to address the question of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. Stringent Cold War-era rules governing the United Nations Conference of Disarmament in Geneva -- the world’s main forum for negotiations on disarmament -- should be modified so that the items could be tabled with a two-thirds majority, rather than requiring consensus.
Regarding United States policy, he said that country’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty could set a domino effect among nuclear-holding countries like China, India, Pakistan and Iran, in ratifying it as well. But, he said he saw “no signs of that in the current [White House] administration”. Another noteworthy initiative of the United States was the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty tabled recently in Geneva, which would prohibit the further production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium.
Commenting on the Commission, Mr. Blix said it had been created as a supplement, rather than a replacement, to current multilateral approaches already in existence, such as Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as the Proliferation Security Initiative, an international effort led by the United States to interdict transfer of banned weapons and weapons technology.
He said the Commission was formed to deal with the “stagnation” in the field of disarmament. The fourteen members were experts in the substance of disarmament, and were not a political team.
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