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


GA/DIS/3205
16 October 2001


Fifty-sixth General Assembly
First Committee
10th Meeting (PM)

RISK OF UNAUTHORIZED NUCLEAR-WEAPON USE, MIDDLE EAST SECURITY

AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED IN FIRST COMMITTEE’S GENERAL DEBATE


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate this afternoon, with the representative of India warning that thousands of nuclear weapons were maintained in a state of hair-trigger alert, with possible disastrous consequences, and given the audacity and scale of the recent terrorist operations the urgency for action was greater than ever.

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The representative of Israel called terrorism a "strategic weapon" that had forced the international community to address a "profound and unequivocal" global security challenge. For Israel, that new global reality had added another complex dimension to an already fragile regional stability. It had been confronting an intense combination of threats across the spectrum of its national security -- from terror, to increasingly sophisticated conventional arms, to the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles -- which had led to extensive preparation to prevent the exposure and vulnerability of its citizens to imminent and potential dangers.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates said that many regions had bolstered international peace and security by establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones. That initiative had so far failed in the Middle East, however, because of Israel’s continued possession of nuclear military reactors outside the framework of the control system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Israel had retained its nuclear programme in order to guarantee its military superiority and continue its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands, despite international law and the threat that policy posed to peace and security.

Iraq’s representative said the Arab region suffered from a great imbalance in armaments, where the Zionist entity that occupied Palestine possessed all the weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had suffered the use of depleted uranium shells against it in 1991 by the United States and the United Kingdom, leading to the death of more than 50,000 children in the first year. Depleted uranium was a generation of radiological weapon that destroyed lives and the environment, and produced toxic and chemical effects. In view of the danger of that weapon, negotiations should start in the Conference on Disarmament on a treaty banning its development, production, stockpiling, and use.

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The Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 17 October, to conclude its general debate.


Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on a wide range of disarmament and arms limitation measures. Questions of global stability and strategic security will also be examined in the context of the recent terrorist attack on the United States.

Today's debate was expected to focus on a number of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agreements, among them the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). At the 2000 Review Conference, the nuclear-weapon States agreed to an "unequivocal undertaking" to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

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Statements

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ABDULAZIZ NASSER R. AL-SHAMSHI (United Arab Emirates) ...

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Nuclear-weapons States were called upon to take their full responsibilities in implementing their obligations, as stipulated in a series of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation treaties, and especially under article 6 of the NPT, he said. While many regions had bolstered international peace and security by establishing nuclear-weapons-free zones, the Middle East had not yet been able to do so. That failure was due to Israel’s continued possession of nuclear reactors outside of international controls, in order to guarantee its military superiority over Palestine, despite the threat that posed to international peace and security.

The United Arab Emirates had joined the CTBT, NPT and Chemical Weapons Convention to show its commitment to building a nuclear-weapon-free zone that would be the cornerstone of regional stability, he said. The international community must pressure Israel to join the NPT and discontinue its financial, technological and scientific aid for the development of dangerous Israeli nuclear installations. International efforts to establish peace and provide relief to areas destroyed by wars -- such as Palestinian lands, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Somalia -- should be supported. The establishment of international peace and security was the joint and collective responsibility of the nuclear-weapons States. To help create an environment free of all threats, nuclear-weapons States must start serious multilateral talks to eliminate their nuclear arsenals and stockpiles.

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JEREMY N. ISSACHAROFF (Israel) said that terrorism was a strategic weapon that not only attacked the fabric of freedom and democracy, but also undermined the basic assumptions regarding the use of military force and the nature of enemies. The dynamics of terror had required an entirely new thought process. Terror did not take issue with people's politics; it assailed their very existence by targeting defenceless civilians as a tool of intimidation and chaos. The international community must now address a "profound and unequivocal" challenge to global stability.

The world must adjust its thinking and prepare for every eventuality, for there were none now that could be ignored, he said. For some countries, such as his own, the new global reality added another complex dimension to a regional stability that had always been "fragile at best". It was already confronting an intense combination of threats across the spectrum of its national security -- from terror, to increasingly sophisticated conventional arms, to the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. Those threats had obliged extensive preparation to prevent the exposure and vulnerability of its citizens to imminent and potential dangers.

Continuing, he said that suicide bombers, cross-border terrorist and rocket attacks and potential missile bombardments of the type it had endured in the Gulf War, had all been directed at civilians. In terms of appropriate countermeasures, Israel would continue to the necessary steps to ensure its security. States should also contend with threats, where possible, however, through diplomatic and normative action. Numerous international conventions, regional agreements, bilateral treaties and even unilateral policies should seek to enhance security between States and reduce tensions.

Effective arms control measures, he said, could only be achieved and sustained in a region where wars, armed conflicts, terror, political hostility, incitement and non-recognition were not features of everyday life. Accordingly, the political reality in his region mandated a practical step-by-step approach, culminating in a comprehensive peace and the eventual establishment of a mutually verifiable zone free of ballistic missiles and of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. That zone should emanate from, and encompass all of, the States of the region, by virtue of free and direct negotiations between them. It was in that spirit that Israel had joined consensus in the Committee for more than 20 years on the resolution regarding the establishment of a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone.

Israel had taken certain steps parallel with its efforts to advance the peace process with its Arab neighbours, he said. That had been done even as threats to Israel were emerging from other countries seeking to develop long-range ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction capabilities, in conjunction with their extreme political hostility and antagonism to Israel. The use of chemical weapons by countries in the Middle East against civilian populations was a matter of historical record. In that context, Iraq had yet to comply with all the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. Indeed, keeping Iraq from reconstituting its weapons of mass destruction and missile capabilities would remain a critical strategic factor in the quest for any regional stability in the Middle East.

He said that, in addition, Iran had done nothing to conceal its unconditional hostility towards Israel's existence, or the fact that it was procuring ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel and beyond. Israel had no dispute with the Iranian people and sought no conflict with the Iranian Government. Iran, for its part, had continued to develop its weapon of mass destruction and missile programmes, assist and encourage the terrorist group Hizbollah's attempts to destabilize Israel's border with Lebanon and actively oppose any attempt to further peace between Israel and its neighbours.

MOHAMMED MAHMOUD (Iraq) ...

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Unlike what had been said by a previous speaker, Iraq, he said, had implemented its commitments under section C of Security Council resolution 687, and most countries, including three permanent members of the Council, had acknowledged that. It had also implemented paragraphs 8 to 13, relating to disarmament, which had been acknowledged by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and many of the former inspectors of the now defunct Special Commission. Iraq would not accept anything less than the lifting of the unjust blockade imposed upon it and implementation of paragraph 14 of that resolution, which referred to the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction. Any proposal or tendency that did not include the implementation of paragraph 14 and did not force the Zionist entity and others to do so, would not be accepted by Iraq.

The Arab region suffered from a great imbalance in armaments, where the Zionist entity that occupied Palestine possessed all the weapons of mass destruction. That entity was developing those weapons with the support and cooperation of the United States and other countries in violation of their commitments under the NPT. That racist entity was "number 6" among those that possessed nuclear weapons. That fact was coupled with its expansionist policy at the expense of Arab land in Lebanon and Syria and its continued aggression against the Palestinians. Middle East stability required the removal of those weapons and the safeguard of its nuclear facilities by the IAEA.

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Right of Reply

BAEIDI NEJAD (Iran), speaking in the right of reply, said that the Israeli delegation had made false and totally hostile accusations against his country. That statement, of course, was not beyond our expectations, since Israel -- which suffered from the lack of legitimacy -- now felt very isolated and, rightly, under pressure. It, therefore, had tried to shift its difficulties to sources beyond its own extremist policies.

He said that Israel had always pursued a policy of terror and intimidation in the region, and had pursued the large-scale development of weapons of mass destruction. Accordingly, it had developed short-, long- and medium-range missiles to carry weapons of mass destruction to the entire Middle East region and beyond. Israel, today, had reflected the consensus on General Assembly resolutions, and very recently the 2000 NPT Review Conference, which had asked Israel to renounce nuclear weapons and place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. It was continuously developing nuclear weapons, as well as chemical and biological weapons, and had declined to adhere to the two relevant Conventions.

In complete contrast, Iran had adopted a fundamental defence policy based on renouncing weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, he said. Iran had been among the very few examples in the Middle East, that had been an original party to the NPT, and both conventions on biological and chemical weapons since their inception. The essential benchmark for increasing and promoting security in the region was the adherence of all parties to all treaties on weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, and thus, banning their development and production.

He said every effort should be made to halt Israelis criminal policy of massacring innocent people in the occupied Territories and targeting the innocents who fought for freedom. On that issue, an appropriate agenda item would be considered by other Committees of the General Assembly.


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