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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-eighth General Assembly
First Committee
9th Meeting (PM)
GA/DIS/3255
15 October 2003


NON-PROLIFERATION FRAMEWORK BESET BY CRISIS OF IDENTITY, RELEVANCE, EFFECTIVENESS, DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE TOLD


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Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on all disarmament and related international security items.

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Statements

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ARYE MEKEL (Israel) said that the menace posed by Saddam Hussein to the peoples of the region and to international stability had been removed.  At the same time, however, the continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means, and actions by some States to violate their international commitments, was now widely recognized.  That reality, together with the fear of terrorism directed at civilians by means of MANPADS, for example, and, in particular, the possibility that terrorists would start using nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, presented innocent civilians worldwide with a more concrete threat.  Hopefully, the world was now on the verge of a conceptual change, which, next year, would produce more focused and practical actions to overcome those very real threats.

He said that the continued proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles, together with the reluctance of certain States to comply with their international commitments, gravely harmed the credibility of disarmament and arms control efforts and their ability to promote security and stability in the Middle East.  The time had come to admit that not all States had equally noble intentions when they committed themselves to arms control treaties.  Regrettably, some joined those arrangements only to obtain technology for military purposes under false pretexts.  In the attempt to promote multilateral agreements, however, it should be remembered that those were not, in themselves, the goal, but merely one means to an end.

The reality of the Middle East was unique, he said.  Israel must face countries and organizations that had declared intentions to destroy it, as well as enemies that were constantly acting to terrorize and harm Israel’s civilian population, and neighbours that had never given up their ambitions to develop their weapons of mass destruction capabilities, either clandestinely or openly.  In the face of attempts to undermine, weaken and limit Israel’s ability to defend itself, the process of building confidence, reconciliation and hope was absent and the unavoidable result was less security and less stability.  In that reality, the options of unilateral transparency, unilateral disarmament, and unilateral arms limitations could not contribute to peace, security and stability, and might actually escalate conflict.

He said that if there was to be any chance of common security, arms control and disarmament in the Middle East, all peoples of the region must come to terms with the existence of the State of Israel, establish a stable relationship of peace and conciliation and cease their political and military attempts to threaten its existence.  The next step would then be to embark on a joint process for regional security building.  Concurrently, it was important to act with courage and determination with regard to the trend toward proliferation among the States of the region, as well as their reluctance to comply with their arms control commitments, and their tendency to shelter and support terrorist organizations. 

For its part, Israel had consistently attached great importance to the proliferation challenge and had placed it high on its security policy priorities, he said.  Accordingly, Israel fully supported the efforts of potential suppliers to enhance cooperation and coordination, in order to improve export controls over sensitive items.  Over the years, the Committee had become an arena for wrangling between different interest groups and States.  That situation was particularly true in the case of Israel, where resolutions had usually amounted to no more than counterproductive condemnation, which was divorced from the reality in the region.  The Committee should reassess its approach, so that the real threats posed to the security of humankind were effectively addressed. 

ALI HACHAMI (Tunisia) ...

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Regarding nuclear-weapon-free zones, he said that, as long as the States involved freely arrived at their own agreements, they represented an important method to promote non-proliferation.  Unfortunately, however, in the Middle East, Israel, despite numerous appeals from countries of the region and the General Assembly, was preventing the establishment of such a zone.  Thus, Israel was posing a serious obstacle to disarmament and lasting peace in the region.  In that regard, he called on the international community to take credible steps to persuade Israel to disarm.  Double standards, after all, would not help the region.  Turning to his own subregion, he informed delegates that his Government was playing an active role in the Arab Maghreb Union and working towards a stronger partnership in the Mediterranean.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) ...

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He said that those States that had acquired such weapons outside the NPT regime were being deliberately ignored and given support, at a time when Member States were being prevented from using technology for peaceful and development purposes.  He supported the holding of the fourth special session on disarmament to evaluate implementation from the first.  The Middle East was distinguished by “something horrifying”, in terms of the threat to regional and international stability and security.  Israel possessed a huge arsenal of conventional and non-conventional weapons and it continued to occupy Arab territories and wage wars on Arab States.  Its expansionist and aggressive policies against Arab States were entrenched and its continuous rejection of the NPT and safeguards regime of the IAEA threatened global security. 

All of the countries of the region had adhered to the NPT, except for Israel, which had also impeded the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone there, he said.  Syria had presented its initiative before the Security Council last June to eradicate all forms of mass destruction weapons from the region.  He reaffirmed Syria’s call, once again, to the international community to support that initiative and give it the necessary momentum to bring it about.  In light of Israel’s rejection of the relevant Council resolutions and the outcome of the Madrid Conference and the Arab initiative, adopted at the Beirut summit in 2002, its continued aggressive expansionist policies and exportation of its internal crises, Syria had taken refuge at the United Nations, as the appropriate forum to condemn Israel and deter it from continuing its aggressive policies.

TAREQ ALBANI (Kuwait) ...

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Turning to his own region, he noted with concern that Israel was the only State in the region that possessed nuclear weapons, had not acceded to the NPT, and jeopardized regional balance.  In addition, it continued to violate several international resolutions, despite numerous appeals to disarm and follow international norms.  Moreover, because the Iraqi regime, which had possessed weapons of mass destruction and caused countless deaths, did not exist anymore, Israel remained the only obstacle to a Middle East completely free of weapons of mass destruction.  In that context, he appealed to Member States to stop providing technological assistance to Israel’s nuclear programme.  He also urged other States that wanted to develop nuclear programmes to refrain from doing so.

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ABDULLAH AL-AIFANKSHI (Saudi Arabia) ...

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He said he viewed with profound concern the crisis facing the Conference on Disarmament.  His Government had devoted full attention to abolishing weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East, including from the region of the Arab Gulf.  A source of real surprise, at a time when the IAEA was intensifying its monitoring and control of the relevant activities of States parties to the NPT, was that Agency’s failure to address Israel’s rejection of the NPT.  Hence, its nuclear programmes were still outside the full-scope safeguards of the IAEA.   It was very important to set benchmarks to bring about advances in the disarmament of mass destruction weapons.  He, therefore, called upon all States outside the NPT to start taking the necessary step towards adherence to it, and to subject their nuclear facilities to international safeguards and controls.

He said the Middle East had been unable to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone because of Israel’s rejection of the voices of wisdom and reason emanating from numerous conferences and regional groups to refrain from developing and producing those weapons.  Israel was the only State in the region that possessed nuclear and chemical weapons programmes outside international controls.  That Israeli position, and all justifications presented by it, had blatantly contradicted its claimed wish for peace.  Real peace must be based on confidence and good will among the countries of the region, and not on the threat of nuclear weapons.

He said that the escalation of Israel’s brutally repressive policies in the occupied Arab territories had returned the region to a state of crisis and tension and had obstructed efforts to evolve a just and lasting peace.  He called upon Israel to take the necessary practical steps, on an urgent basis, to adhere to the NPT and to subject its nuclear facilities to full-scope IAEA safeguards. 

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ALPHA OUMAR DIALLO (Guinea) ...

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Regarding the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, he appealed for further consultations in order to create new ones, such as in the Middle East.  ...

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ALI AL-AYASHI (Yemen) ...

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Turning to his own region, he said that, despite all efforts to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, Israel not only possessed such weapons, but also kept its reactors outside the international safeguards regime.  In that context, he called on the international community to pressure Israel to accede to the NPT and respect IAEA safeguards.

In his own country, he said the most pressing problem involved small arms and light weapons.  Bolstered by Yemen’s colonial history and the social characteristics of the Yemeni people, such weapons often fell into the hands of young people.  In that regard, he called for legal frameworks and regulations that would control the trade of such weapons and for the press and media to stop enhancing a culture of arms and violence.  While acknowledging that illegally trafficked small arms often fuelled conflicts, he was careful to state that they did not cause them.  Instead, conflicts were often caused by economic, social, financial, religious, ethnic, and educational problems.  That was clear in the current Palestinian situation.

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