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


GA/DIS/3235
17 October 2002

Fifty-seventh General Assembly
First Committee
14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)

BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS, MIDDLE EAST NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED BY 13 TEXTS INTRODUCED IN FIRST COMMITTEE


"Deliberate disease is a real and present danger," the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) was told today during the introduction of 13 draft decisions and resolutions, including on mass destruction weapons and dual-use technologies.

Introducing the text on the Biological Weapons Convention, the representative of Hungary said that the anthrax incidents in the United States last year had demonstrated the potential threat of the misuse of biological technology, should that "genie" escape the bottle.  The destructive potential of deliberate disease as a weapon was second to none.  Writing off that Convention's regime, or declaring it redundant, was an unaffordable luxury, he warned.

The other texts introduced in the two meetings today concerned the Chemical Weapons Convention; reducing nuclear danger; the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East; establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East; the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament; and transparency in armaments.

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The two draft resolutions concerning the Middle East were introduced by the representative of Egypt on behalf of the League of Arab States.  The first covers the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East; and the second the risk of nuclear proliferation in that region.  The latter would call upon Israel to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. 

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Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to continue its second phase of work, namely thematic discussions on regional disarmament, confidence-building measures -- including transparency in armaments  -- and other disarmament measures and machinery, as well as the introduction and consideration of related draft resolutions and decisions.

Introductions of draft texts on the following topics were expected:  the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East; the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East; the Biological Weapons Convention; the Standing Advisory Committee in Central Africa; the United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament for Africa and for Asia and the Pacific; transparency in armaments; regional disarmament; the Chemical Weapons Convention; reducing nuclear danger; the role of science and technology in international security and disarmament; the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development for Latin America and the Caribbean; and the nuclear-weapon-free status of Mongolia.

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Under a draft resolution sponsored by Egypt on behalf of the Arab League of States on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (document A/C.1/57/L.27), the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of Israel's accession to the NPT and placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards.

The Assembly would call upon that State to accede to the NPT without further delay and not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, and to renounce possession of those weapons, and place all its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards as an important confidence-building measure among all States of the region, and as a step towards enhancing peace and security.

A further draft text sponsored by Egypt on behalf of the Arab League on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/C.1/57/L.28) would have the Assembly urge all parties directly concerned to consider seriously taking the practical and urgent steps required for the implementation of the proposal to establish such a zone and, as a means of promoting that objective, would invite the countries concerned to adhere to the NPT.

The Assembly would call upon all countries of the region that had not yet done so, pending the zone's establishment, to agree to place all their nuclear activities under IAEA safeguards.  It would invite the nuclear-weapon States and all others to render their assistance in establishing such a zone and, at the same time, to refrain from any action that ran counter to both the letter and spirit of the present text.

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Thematic discussion and introduction of drafts

ALAA ISSA (Egypt) introduced the draft resolution on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (document A/C.1/57/L.27), on behalf of the Arab League of States and other Member States.  The draft drew attention to the danger of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, and throughout the world.  Nuclear installations not subjected to comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, continued to exist in the region.  The preambular portion noted that Israel was the only State in the region that had not yet acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  It appealed to all States of the region to submit all nuclear activities to comprehensive safeguards, with a view to turning the region into a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

He noted that among the terms of the operative portion of the text was a welcoming of the Review Conferences of the NPT.  It also stressed the need for Israel to accede to that Treaty and submit its nuclear installations to IAEA safeguards.  He would have liked to have recorded progress during the past year and to have been able to take note of steps taken by Israel in the direction of implementing that draft.  Nonetheless, the text was still awaiting implementation. Hopefully, the majority of delegations would, once again, highlight the importance the international community attached to the call for Israel's accession to the NPT.

Next, he introduced the draft resolution calling for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/C.1/57/L.28).  The text reflected the interest of the international community in creating such a zone in the Middle East and seeing specific measures taken by the countries of the region towards that goal.  It also emphasized the overriding role of the United Nations in that pursuit.  It called upon the States of region to take specific measures and refrain, meanwhile, from any military nuclear activities.  It called upon parties outside the region to support that effort, and requested the Secretary-General to submit a report to the Assembly.  He hoped the text would, once again, enjoy consensus. 

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FAWZI BIN ABDUL MAJEED SHOBOKSHI (Saudi Arabia) began by extending condolences to the Indonesian Government and the families who were affected by the Bali tragedy.  He said that the international community had made significant progress in combating terrorism.  However, there was still much to be done.  In that regard, he called on the international community to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.  He also wanted to see universal respect for the IAEA.

He voiced support for the draft resolution put forth by Egypt on the proposed nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Unfortunately, Israel was the only State in the region that had not expressed support for the draft.  He called on other States to convince Israel to accept the idea of such a zone in the region.  He did not want to see a discriminatory policy of double standards, in which the international community condoned nuclear weapons in Israel, but not in other Middle Eastern States.  Reminding delegates that his Government had acceded to the NPT, he expressed concern about Israel’s reluctance to do the same and to submit to IAEA safeguards.

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TAREQ AL-BANAI (Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, expressed support for transparency as a measure that could help consolidate global peace and security.  Transparency must be governed by clearly determined, basic principles, which were all-encompassing and non-selective.  The Register of Conventional Arms was a first attempt by the international community to settle the issues and, although its value in terms of confidence-building loomed large, it had encountered several obstacles stemming from the fact that nearly half the Member States of the United Nations had not submitted data to it.

He said the Register must be expanded to cover current security needs.  Its success would hinge on the readiness of the international community to build greater confidence, flowing from greater transparency that included nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  That would make the Register more balanced and comprehensive, and draw more participants.  So far, the Register had not taken into account the weapons imbalance in the Middle East region.  Regrettably, the Working Group to consider expansion of the Register had failed to attain the goal desired by the League.  Given its concerns and desire to guarantee international participation in the Register, he called for progress along those lines.

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MOHAMMED MANA AL-OTAIBA (United Arab Emirates) said the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones greatly contributed to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and reducing the danger of nuclear war.  It was also a key measure towards the elimination of nuclear weapons and to general and complete disarmament.  The Middle East was ruled by an obvious power imbalance, due to the fact that Israel, an occupying country that practiced terrorism and aggression in the occupied Palestinian lands, possessed a huge arsenal of weapons -- at its forefront, nuclear weapons.  In addition, it refused to join the NPT or subject its nuclear facilities to IAEA safeguards.

He said that such actions created a direct threat to the security of the Arab nations and weakened the credibility and universality of the NPT.  It also hindered the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region, thereby perpetuating the dangerous tension there.  He called for States that possessed nuclear weapons and who were members of the Security Council to undertake their responsibility to ensure the establishment of a zone free of those weapons and other mass destruction weapons in the Middle East.  He also urged the adherence of all parties in the region to the NPT.  Finally, comprehensive nuclear disarmament in the Middle East should not impede gaining knowledge about the peaceful, scientific use of nuclear energy.

MILAD ATIEH (Syria) supported the draft resolution presented by Egypt on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/C.1/57/L.28).  However, he wished to clarify some points.  He said Syria was one of the first States in the region to sign the NPT.  It was, thus, among the first to promote the idea of the Middle East as a region free of nuclear weapons.  He was convinced that the possession of nuclear weapons by any one State in the region would cause serious security threats, not only to Middle Eastern States, but to the entire world.  He reminded delegates that all Arab States had acceded to the NPT.  Israel, on the other hand, had not.  Israel had also failed to adhere to the comprehensive safeguards regime of the IAEA and to subject its nuclear facilities to inspection.  Furthermore, it had refused to abide by any international resolution concerning nuclear disarmament.

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Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, exercising the right of reply, said that earlier this morning, the Egyptian representative had presented two drafts dealing directly with the Middle East.  While he shared his hopes for one of them, namely the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region, he did not share the call for support of the draft on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  He would be part of the consensus on the nuclear-weapon-free zone text and would describe, as usual, his views in detail.  At the same time, one-sided and unbalanced resolutions that aimed at isolating and alienating Israel, such as the one on the nuclear proliferation risk, did not contribute to the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone.

Moreover, he said, such resolutions undermined the confidence and climate of cooperation that were an essential basis for achieving that goal and ignored the complex reality of the region.  Further, such a text could not substitute for the need to conduct direct negotiations, build confidence, reduce threats and establish stable peaceful relations in the region.  He urged those countries wishing to promote a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East to vote against that draft.

Further, countries not willing to participate in the Register of Conventional Arms -- a voluntary mechanism -- took the floor to advance their rejectionist attitude, in order to single out Israel, he said.  Their ambitious proposals regarding the expansion of the Register, in the name of strengthening it, would only undermine it.

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HAMID BAEIDI NEJAD (Iran) said that the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones had been widely recognized as a decisive means for promoting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.  Those zones had become a necessary complement to achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Despite strong calls by the international community to establish such a zone in the Middle East, no practical steps had been taken to do so.  Ridding the region of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons had not been facilitated by the accession of all States in the region to the NPT.  Instead, Israel had opted for a policy of terror, intimidation and expansion.  It pursued an active programme in nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, thereby placing the entire region in insecurity and volatile tension.

He said that Israel was operating a clandestine nuclear weapons programme, which remained unsafeguarded.  It had not allowed any inspector, even from allied countries, to enter the site.  Its policy of rejecting multilateral disarmament agreements had bred regional insecurity.  Iran, as an original State party to the NPT and the biological and chemical weapons conventions, was extremely concerned about that threatening situation.  Ultimately, Israel was trying to justify its false and unverified accusations against other countries in the region.  Israel should first accede to the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  Second, the developed States should refrain from exporting relevant technology and materials to Israel.

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MESHAL ALKUBAISI (Qatar) said that a collective response was required in the face of current challenges to the international community, especially international terrorism.  Disarmament and global security must take on new dimensions, leading to a firm collective commitment and a new approach.  The draft resolution on the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (document A/C.1/57/L.27) asked non-members of the NPT to adhere to it without delay and to take measures to adopt the verification regime.  It also called upon the States of the region to take effective and practical steps towards the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region.

He said that Israel was the only State in the region that had not supported the NPT.  Moreover, there had been no progress in that regard, nor had it subjected its nuclear installations to the IAEA safeguards regime.  In many international forums, Qatar had reiterated its sincere wish to rid the region of mass destruction weapons.  The report of the Secretary-General on the danger of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East recalls that the General Assembly last year reiterated the importance of Israel's adherence to the NPT and of placing its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  The IAEA, at its General Conference in September, had adopted resolution 16 on the implementation of its safeguards in the Middle East.  That text stressed the urgent need for acceptance by all countries of the region.

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TAJOURI SHRADI (Libya) said he supported the draft resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Those zones were key to international peace and security.  There was also a need to eliminate mass destruction weapons, particularly nuclear weapons.  Libya was a party to the NPT and had signed the Pelindaba Treaty to render Africa nuclear-weapon-free.  The call to establish such a zone in the Middle East had been met by Israel's refusal to adhere to the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.  The United Nations had called for it, as had the fifth and sixth review conferences of the NPT.  The international community should insist on implementation by the Israelis, who should also submit a specific time frame for destroying their mass destruction weapons.

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AHMAD HAJIHOSSEINI, Organization of the Islamic Conference, said he was following with interest the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones in Central Asia and the Middle East.  Such zones were positive developments, and he hoped that they would lead to complete nuclear disarmament in the world.  Referring to the Middle East, he regretted the fact that Israel remained the only obstacle standing in the way of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  In that regard, his organization had adopted a resolution urging all States, especially nuclear-weapon States, to exert pressure on Israel to accede to the NPT.  It had also called on the international community, especially the Security Council, to compel Israel to implement IAEA resolutions and subject its atomic facilities to the IAEA’s comprehensive safeguard system.


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