Obama to host UN nuclear meeting

Security Council expected to back resolution calling for an end to nuclear proliferation.

    Obama will be the first US president to host a meeting of the UN Security Council [AFP]

    All five permanent Security Council members - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - have nuclear weapons. 

    NPT signatories without nuclear capabilities have criticised the permanent council members for barring other nations from developing nuclear programmes while failing to live up to commitments to disarm.

    Nuclear promises

    However, the new resolution is likely to call for an end to the proliferation of atomic weapons and demand that all parties to the NPT keep their promises not to develop new atomic warheads.

    The draft, which was circulated to the council two weeks ago, also calls on UN member states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would outlaw all nuclear tests and to support negotiations on a pact banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

    Nuclear arsenals (estimated)

     Russia: 4,834 deployed weapons
     United States: 2,702 
     France: 300
     United Kingdom: 160
     China: 186
     Israel: 80 (undeclared)
     India: 60-70
     Pakistan: 60
     North Korea: unknown

    Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute - January 2009

    "All but three or four of the nations of the world have committed themselves to not pursuing nuclear weapons by signing the non-proliferation treaty," Mark Fitzpatrick, the director of the non-proliferation programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said.

    "All those who had nuclear weapons at the time of treaty are allowed to have them and those five are committed to negotiating in good faith to limit the weapons," he told Al Jazeera.

    "One of Obama's objectives in calling for this Security Council meeting today ... is to show that the Unted States is committed to both parts of the deal in the NPT."

    Obama held bilateral talks with Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, on Wednesday at which they spoke about plans for an agreement to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) nuclear arms reduction treaty.

    "Both of us are confident that we can meet our self-imposed deadline" to reach an agreement to reduce the number of nuclear missiles and launchers "by the end of the year," Obama said after the talks.

    Iran incentives

    Medvedev also suggested that Moscow was moving closer to backing fresh sanctions against Iran, saying that while such tactics were rarely productive, "in some cases sanctions are inevitable".

    "Our task is to maintain a system of incentives allowing Iran to use peaceful nuclear energy but [we] will not allow the creation of nuclear weapons," he said.

    Iran has refused to suspend its uranium enrichment activities, as demanded by the UN Security Council, and denies its nuclear programme is aimed at producing an atomic weapon.

    In depth

     Riz Khan: Nuclear double standard 

    The draft does not name Iran, or North Korea which has carried out nuclear tests in defiance of the NPT, but refers to "current major challenges to the non-proliferation regime".

    Meanwhile, Britain signalled that it could scale back the country's submarine nuclear deterrent as part of a "global bargain" on nuclear disarmament.

    The move alter could plans for the modernistaion of the Trident fleet altered to include only three submarines rather than the four originally proposed. 

    "If we are serious about the ambition of a nuclear-free world we will need statesmanship, not brinkmanship," Brown said.

    Obama has invited Queen Noor of Jordan, a founder of an international initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons which includes current and former senior officials from nuclear powers, to sit in the Security Council chamber for the vote and speeches.

    She said in an interview that the resolution "would be a historic step toward an international consensus, and it would pave the way for governments to start working to achieve this goal".

    "I believe that world leaders have come to recognise that the only way to eliminate the nuclear threat is to eliminate all nuclear weapons, and it is urgent to begin making this vision a reality," the widow of King Hussein said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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