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


GA/DIS/3229
7 October 2002

Fifty-seventh General Assembly
First Committee
7th Meeting (PM)


MULTILATERAL DISARMAMENT SETBACKS, MIDDLE EAST NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION,
NUCLEAR WASTE TRANSPORT IN CARIBBEAN AMONG ISSUES
RAISED IN FIRST COMMITTEE DEBATE


Multilateral disarmament setbacks and calls for resolute determination to reverse them, the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, and the threat of nuclear waste accidents in the Caribbean Sea were among the issues discussed this afternoon in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), as it began the second week of its general debate.

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The representative of Libya called "alarming" the lack of results in implementing the aims of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, (NPT).  The number of countries with nuclear weapons had grown, as had the number of the nuclear warheads they possessed.  Their destructive capability could annihilate the world a thousand times over.  All commitments under the NPT, as well as the final documents of its review conferences, must be upheld.  That included multilateral agreement on security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Also regretting the lack of progress towards achieving universality of the NPT in the Middle East the representative of Egypt said it remained a priority for his country, especially since the region had witnessed more violence during the past year than anyone thought possible.  The credibility of the non-proliferation regime in the Middle East and beyond depended, to a significant extent, on future action by the international community and by the Security Council towards realizing their wider objectives of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East. 

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Background

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The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on a wide range of disarmament and arms control measures, as well as developments in international security.

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Statements

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AHMED OWN (Libya) said that more than three decades had passed since the entry into force of the NPT and six review conferences had been held, yet the results achieved thus far had been "alarming" and portended catastrophe for all States.  The number of countries with nuclear weapons had increased, and the number of nuclear warheads they possessed could annihilate the world a thousand times over.  All commitments and undertakings made under that Treaty, as well as the final documents of its review conferences, must be upheld.  Multilateral agreement on security assurances to the non-nuclear-weapon States parties to the NPT must be concluded and a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East must be established. 

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IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) ...

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He praised the idea of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  Unfortunately, however, in the Middle East, Israel had refused to support the idea of such a zone.  Israel had declared that General Assembly resolution 56/21 had not adequately reflected the Israeli position, as if the Israeli position were more important than that of the General Assembly.  He reminded delegates that all of the countries in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, had acceded to the NPT.

He also described links between disarmament and development.  He said that vast sums of money throughout the world were being devoted to military expenditures.  That was unfortunate, given the amount of global poverty.  Also, he cited mines as a particularly serious problem, especially in the agricultural regions of southern Lebanon.  Those mines -- the result of Israeli occupation, -- interfered with the work of local farmers and thus negatively affected production.

ALAA ISSA (Egypt) welcomed the endeavours of the five Central Asian States to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in their region, as well as Cuba's intention to adhere to the NPT.  While Cuba's decision highlighted the critical importance of the NPT as the cornerstone of both nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, the urgent goal of achieving universality of the Treaty remained elusive, both in South Asia and in the Middle East, and nuclear disarmament efforts lacked the necessary momentum.  The five nuclear-weapon States had a moral and legal responsibility to pursue the elimination of their nuclear arsenals.  In that context, Egypt, along with its partners in the New Agenda Coalition, would present a draft resolution addressing the "laxity" that had crept into nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

[The New Agenda Coalition is a group of seven countries -- Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Sweden, New Zealand and South Africa -- which introduced a resolution at the fifty-third General Assembly session aimed at a nuclear-weapon-free world].

He said he deeply regretted the lack of progress towards achieving the universality of the NPT in the Middle East, an objective that was overwhelmingly supported by the wider international community.  The Middle East had witnessed more violence during the past year than anyone thought possible.  Universal adherence to the NPT in the Middle East remained a priority for Egypt, which would continue to pursue that course through the introduction of the relevant resolution.  He welcomed the announcement by Iraq to allow the resumption of arms inspections on its soil by the United Nations and its cooperation in those efforts.  Those were essential steps towards the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iraq more than a decade ago. 

Efforts to be pursued in Iraq had been mandated by the Security Council in 1991 as steps towards the goal of establishing a zone free of mass destruction weapons and missiles for their delivery in the Middle East, he continued.  The credibility of the non-proliferation regime in the Middle East and beyond depended, to a significant extent, on future action by the international community and by the Security Council towards realizing their wider objectives of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  The updating of strategic doctrines in a manner that set out new rationales for the continued retention of nuclear weapons, their development and deployment, and even their possible use, was among the more serious challenges.

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Right of Reply

The representative of Iraq, replying to the statement made today by the representative of Australia and to his "false accusations" against his country, said he wished to make clear some facts.  First, Iraq had not contravened international norms or instruments.  Iraq was committed to all international disarmament treaties and to the resolutions of the United Nations and Security Council.  The fact that the United Nations inspectors left Iraq was not based on a decision from Iraq or the United Nations Secretary-General, or by a resolution of the Security Council.  That was a unilateral decision made by Richard Butler -- incidentally, an Australian -- then the Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM).  Moreover, that decision had been made in coordination with the United States and the United Kingdom, in order to prepare for the attack against Iraq in December 1998. 

Second, he said, Iraq voluntarily, without a Security Council resolution, had declared its unconditional acceptance of the return of United Nations inspectors to Iraq, in order to prove to the world that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Iraq negotiated with the United Nations in Vienna in order to put in place the final arrangements for the return of the inspectors.  However, the United States opposed the return of the inspectors.  They also opposed the agreement reached with the United Nations in Vienna.

Third, Iraq was not the one threatening international peace and security, he said.  Those who threatened international peace and security were those preparing themselves for war against Iraq and for war against peoples and countries that opposed their aggressive policies.  Why was the Zionist entity in the Middle East not branded as a threat to international peace and security? he asked.  Didn't the daily attacks on the Arab States and the Palestinian people and its possession of all sorts of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons represent a threat to international peace and security?  Was that taking place with the support of its United States?

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