12 May 2000


12 May 2000

Press Briefing



The issues and negotiations surrounding the Treaty on the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) were still very complex, since there were very strong positions in the field of nuclear disarmament, Abdallah Baali, Permanent Representative of Algeria and President of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, told correspondents today at a Headquarters press conference.

Mr. Baali said the Conference would end next Friday. It had been a very difficult session. In some areas, there had been some rapprochement, while others needed more work. That was what would be addressed in the days ahead. While next week was going to be a very crucial one, everyone was willing to work and cooperate. They all understood that the Conference could not afford to fail, because it would be really detrimental to the NPT and the regime of non- proliferation.

Mr. Baali said that, at this afternoon's plenary, the Chairmen of the main Committees would be reporting on their work, which was now completed. Next week would be spent trying to get an outcome from the Conference. He was still very hopeful that the Conference would end with an approved outcome, such as a programme or plan of action for the coming years in the field of nuclear disarmament, the peaceful use of nuclear energy, security assurances and safeguards.

Mr. Baali said he also intended to hold presidential consultations during the remaining days, with the hope that there would be an approved outcome at the end of the Conference.

Two subsidiary bodies had been established that would also complete their work today, he continued. Because there were prospects of a consensus paper in the two subsidiary bodies, he was going to propose this afternoon that the plenary appoint the two representatives, presiding over those two bodies -- Camilo Reyes of Colombia (Main Committee I and its subsidiary body) and Adam Kobieracki of Poland (Main Committee II and its subsidiary body) -- to continue the work they were currently doing and to report to him by Tuesday morning.

Main Committee I addresses the issues relating to articles 1 and 2 of the NPT. Article 1 concerns the commitment of each nuclear-weapon State party not to transfer to other countries nuclear weapons, nuclear explosive devices, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce non-nuclear-weapon States to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or control over such weapons.

Article 2 concerns the commitment of each non-nuclear-weapon State party not to receive the transfer of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive assistance in their manufacture.

Main Committee II addresses issues related to article 3, which include safeguards, export controls and the physical protection of and activities of nuclear-weapon and other States and nuclear-weapon-free zones. A correspondent wanted to know whether more progress had been made at this Review Conference than at the last one held five years ago, or whether some regression had, in fact, taken place. Mr. Baali said that in the present context both progress and setbacks could be discussed. In terms of progress, the NPT was almost a universal treaty -- 187 countries were party to it. There were, however, four countries which were still outside the instrument (Cuba, India, Israel and Pakistan).

Mr. Baali went on to say that the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) had also been signed by 155 countries. "We are hopeful that this Treaty will enter into force in the coming years", he said. In the field of nuclear disarmament, some progress had been made, as well, since some nuclear-weapon States had taken significant steps. The Strategic Arms Limitation and Reduction Treaty (START II), for example, had been ratified by the Russian Parliament. That meant that START III negotiations could now begin and more could be achieved in terms of disarmament between the Russian Federation and the United States.

[By the terms of START II, United States and Russian Federation nuclear arsenals would shrink by about two thirds by 2003. START III aims at further reductions in the two countries’ nuclear arsenals.]

Addressing the setbacks, Mr. Baali said there had been some problems. The nuclear testing two years ago in South Asia was a blow to the regime of non- proliferation. He stressed, however, that, globally, "we are better off than we were in 1995".

When asked what was the likelihood of the Conference extending beyond next Friday, Ambassador Baali said there was no chance. "We might stop the clock for a few hours, but not for a few days."

Responding to a question on what the specific accomplishments of the two main committees and their subsidiary bodies should be, Mr. Baali said while there were areas where something could be achieved, the positions were still very unclear. "I think we know what we need to achieve, but how we do that we do not know yet." For one, the CTBT had to enter into force. That was something on which everyone agreed.

Mr. Baali said the fissile material cut-off treaty also needed to start and conclude as soon as possible. These were not, however, objectives that could be done during this Conference, but in Geneva at the Conference on Disarmament. Everything here was restricted to parties to the NPT. The issue of India and Pakistan, non-parties to the Treaty, could only be addressed in the larger forum of the Geneva Conference. On Tuesday, however, he would be in a better position to elaborate on the clear practical steps needed. "There is a good chance that we will meet some agreement by then", he said.

A corespondent asked what he thought would be the main accomplishment of the current Review Conference by next Friday. Mr. Baali said there were at least two things that needed to be accomplished by the last day. "We would like to have a programme of action for the next five years", he said, on the issues he mentioned earlier. "We would also like to improve the effectiveness of the review process." There was a preparatory committee that met three times and was supposed to review the work done and also to do some forward planning. The experience of the last five years had proved that the preparatory committee was not functioning properly. As President, he had put some proposals before the Conference to improve the work of the committee. Hopefully, that was something on which there would be agreement, beside the programme of action.

A corespondent asked whether if there was any possibility of consulting the four countries who were outside the NPT, so that their points of view could be incorporated before the final draft. Mr. Baali said that those countries would not be consulted for the final outcome. There was a proposal by one delegation to have consultations with those countries after the Conference, to persuade them to join the NPT.

When asked whether that would beneficial, Mr. Baali said he believed that it was very important to make every effort to have the four non-State parties join the Treaty. They could not stay outside of it forever. "At least, we should encourage them to take steps that move in the direction of strengthening the non-proliferation regime", he stressed.

A number of questions on the current situation in Sierra Leone were also put to Ambassador Baali in his capacity as Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Correspondents noted that there was division in the Security Council meeting last night on the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Mr. Baali said the Mission had not been efficient, first, in ensuring that the Lomé Agreement was respected and, second, in defending itself against acts of violence. African countries believed that UNAMSIL should be strengthened, so that it could be in a better position to implement the mandate entrusted to it by the United Nations.

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For information media. Not an official record.