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


GA/DIS/3087
22 October 1997

RISKS OF MIDDLE EAST NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
HIGHLIGHTED IN FIRST COMMITTEE

Israel Says True Risk of Proliferation Stems from Iran, Iraq;
Other Speakers Cite Israel's Failure to Sign NPT, Abide by IAEA Safeguards

Allegations about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East were highlighted this morning in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), as the Committee continued its general debate.

The representative of Israel told the Committee that the agenda item on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East singled out Israel and diverted attention from the true risk of proliferation in the region, which derived from the activities of Iraq and Iran. Those States were engaged in clandestine efforts to preserve or to acquire nuclear-weapon capabilities.

Iran represented the greatest threat to security and stability in the Middle East and beyond, he continued. Its weapons programme extended far beyond the geographic confines of the region and threatened the security of other Members. Yet, the international community refused to speak out against Iran's policies, which included calls for the destruction of Israel.

However, concern over Iran's drive to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons should not divert attention from Iraq's defiance of United Nations resolutions and its persistent efforts to conceal its capabilities in the area of weapons of mass destruction, he said. Attempts to normalize relations with Iraq undermined the overriding objective adopted by the international community to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Iraq said that his country had complied with its United Nations obligations. While there were gaps in the available data, nothing had indicated that Iraq had succeeded in producing nuclear weapons. If Israel was "bemoaning insecurity in the region and seeking disarmament", then what could it say about its acquisition of hundreds of atomic bombs and huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, as well as ballistic weapons? he asked.

The representative of Iran, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that he categorically rejected the "baseless points" raised by the representative of Israel against his country. Israel was trying to divert attention from its nuclear threat and its militaristic policies by making unfounded claims.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Bahrain, Bolivia, Turkey, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Libya, Syria, Cuba, United Republic of Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, as well as by the observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 23 October, to continue its general debate.

Committee Work Programme

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general exchange of views on a wide range of disarmament initiatives and a number of international disarmament agreements.

In the context of assurances to non-nuclear weapon States, the Committee is expected to focus on the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones. Such zones have already been created by the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco); the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga); the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Bangkok); and the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty). Committee drafts are anticipated for the establishment of similar zones in South Asia, Central Europe, and the Middle East.

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DAVID DANIELI (Israel) said that the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel proposed to the General Assembly a binding code of conduct for relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Such a code would facilitate uninterrupted negotiations and crisis management, promote dialogue, and contribute to renewed trust and confidence between the leaders and the people.

A similar code of conduct could advance regional security and arms control between the parties of the Middle East, he continued. Israel aspired to achieve a regional security framework to provide a cooperative multilateral response to regional security problems. Regional security dialogue and a gradual implementation of confidence-building measures, in tandem with the bilateral process between Israel and its neighbours, would pave the way for more ambitious arms control and disarmament measures. Ultimately, it was the progress towards a more peaceful, stable and secure region that would govern the pace and the scope of regional arms control measures.

The region still lacked formal mutual recognition by and between all States, agreed mutual borders and a common acceptance of peaceful means as the only tools of regional policy, he said. A multitude of conflicts and hostilities characterized inter-regional relations, accompanied by shifting regional alliances and rivalries. There also existed a lack of common understanding regarding the delineation of the region for regional security and arms control purposes. Multiple structural imbalances also prevailed. Yet, it was hoped that all States in the Middle East might move from viewing their security perceptions as a zero-sum game to an evolving cooperative structure.

He said that he regretted that the promising work of the Multilateral Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS), established in the context of the peace process in Madrid in 1991, had been halted by overly ambitious and politically unrealistic agenda objectives. All concerned were called upon to demonstrate the flexibility needed to resume the talks. His Government attached considerable importance to the participation of Syria and Lebanon in the working group towards confidence-building and conventional arms control. Further, it had participated and supported efforts by the international community to curb the proliferation of conventional as well as non-conventional weapons and, where appropriate, to endorse global agreements as a complement to regional ones.

Repetition of arguments and counter-arguments would not advance the issue of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, he said. The regional parties did not see eye to eye on some very basic premises nor on the prerequisites and guidelines or the modalities of establishing such a zone. While all supported the goal, some agreed that it must take into account specific regional characteristics, but that alone served as too narrow a basis for a common approach to that complex task. Moreover, there had been no promising recent developments to make the establishment of that zone more attainable in the future. Certainly not the advocacy of the destruction of Israel by some and the relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by several regional States which, at the same time, had pledged to forsake their possession.

His Government's position was clear, he said. After peaceful relations and reconciliation were established among all regional States, Israel "will most definitely want to see the establishment in the Middle East -- through direct negotiations among all its members -- of a zone free of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as ballistic missiles, based on mutual and effective verification". There was no reason to change that position. What should be changed in the Middle East was the general state of military threat and instability, violence and unwillingness to renounce the use of force as a legitimate instrument of policy.

The agenda item on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East reflected a transparent political motivation to single out Israel, he said. It was intended to divert attention from the true risks of proliferation in the region, deriving from such regional States as Iraq and Iran, which were engaged in ongoing clandestine efforts to preserve or to acquire military nuclear capabilities. No carefully worded, so-called "mild resolution" addressed to his country could conceal that fact.

While his country had voted in favour of adopting the NPT in 1968 and had welcomed the Treaty's indefinite extension, the NPT was not an adequate response to its security problems and regional concerns, he said. In his region, NPT membership by itself was not a panacea, as events had proven time and again and Israel's attitude towards the NPT had become, unjustifiably, a major subject of criticism in annual resolutions. No other member State, including those for whom national security reasons prevented their joining the NPT, had ever been subject to such repeated condemnatory resolutions. All delegations were, therefore, called upon to resist the annual temptation to demonstrate their support of the NPT in terms of Israel's condemnation.

If the Committee wished to be relevant to the evolving situation in the Middle East, it should address itself to the dangers posed by Iran and Iraq, he said. The Iranian leadership continued to speak in terms that threatened Israel and called for its destruction. Yet the international community remained deaf and refused to speak out against Iran's policies, declarations and actions. Iran represented the greatest threat to security and stability in the Middle East and beyond. The ramifications of its weapons programme extended far beyond the geographic confines of the region and threatened the security of other members. It was incumbent upon all member States to exercise the full weight of their influence and to take concrete steps before it was too late.

Furthermore, he said, concern over the Iranian drive to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons should not divert attention from Iraq's continued defiance of Security Council resolutions and its persistent efforts to conceal its true capabilities of weapons of mass destruction. Attempts to normalize relations with Iraq undermined the overriding objective adopted by the international community to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

BIBI SHARAF AL-ALAWI (Bahrain) said the danger of the use of nuclear weapons had been much reduced by the end of the cold war and there was, therefore, no need for States to maintain nuclear arsenals. Priority should be given to the substantial reduction of such weapons, as a first step towards their complete elimination. She endorsed the ruling of the International Court of Justice calling for negotiations to that end.

It was important to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, she said. She supported efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention and last month her country had ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. It was also a party to the NPT, which should be recognized without reservations. That Convention should be durable and respected by the international community. She supported the convening of a fourth special session of the General Assembly on disarmament, which would be an appropriate structure for disarmament as the world approached the twenty-first century.

The creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones was one of the steps towards the guarantee of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and a positive step towards general and complete disarmament, she said. Her country supported all such steps, including the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. There should be no weapons of mass destruction in that region. She called on Israel to comply with the safeguard standards of the IAEA.

She supported the banning of anti-personnel landmines and commended all efforts currently underway to eliminate such weapons. International cooperation in arms control was always vital, she added, especially in the current world situation in which countries were so economically integrated.

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KHALIL ABOU-HADID (Syria) ...

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He said that technical assistance to certain non-nuclear-weapon States that were parties to the NPT, with respect to the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, had been impeded by certain nuclear-weapon States. Yet, those States had offered such technology to Israel, which had refused to accede to the NPT, thereby facilitating Israel's nuclear capacity. The universality of the NPT was a prerequisite for its credibility. While the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones in various regions was a positive step, the region of the Middle East was, unfortunately, very far from achieving that objective because of Israel. Israel was the only country in the region that refused to accede to the NPT and to place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. Its acquisition of chemical weapons in that very sensitive region would always be a source of potential suffering.

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ALI AL-SAEID (Kuwait) ...

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As a party to the CTBT, he appealed to all States to ensure its entry into force as quickly as possible. The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones had been impeded by Israel's refusal to respond to the wishes of countries in the Middle East, and by its refusal to accede to IAEA safeguards. Israel should be further pressured into favouring the idea of such a zone, in order to lessen the dangers to regional peace and security. He appealed for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction -- including biological and chemical weapons -- from the Middle East. With regard to the use of such weapons in the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, efforts towards non-proliferation in the Middle East and efforts by the United Nations Special Commission set up under Security Council resolution 687 (1991) in connection with the disposal of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction towards regional peace and security were to be commended.

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