UN Security Council Commits to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons
NEW YORK, New York, September 24, 2009 (ENS) - The United Nations Security Council today unanimously adopted a commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Both the United States and Russia pledged to slash their arsenals and weapons delivery vehicles.

The resolution was adopted shortly after President Barack Obama opened the Summit on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament, the first of its kind in the history of the 15-nation Security Council.

The session was the fifth summit-level meeting of the council in its 63 years of existence. The summit was called for and chaired by President Obama during the United Statesí Presidency of the Security Council, the first time that a Security Council Summit has been chaired by a U.S. President.

"This very institution was founded at the dawn of the atomic age, in part because man's capacity to kill had to be contained," President Obama said at the Security Council meeting. "And although we averted a nuclear nightmare during the Cold War, we now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches."

President Barack Obama, center, opens the Security Council Summit (Photo by Erin Siegel courtesy UN)

"Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city - be it New York or Moscow; Tokyo or Beijing; London or Paris - could kill hundreds of thousands of people," Obama said. "And it would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life."

"Once more, the United Nations has a pivotal role to play in preventing this crisis," he said. "The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. And it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal."

The resolution builds on what Obama termed "a consensus that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; that nations with nuclear weapons have the responsibility to move toward disarmament; and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them."

All five of the world's nuclear weapons states are permanent members of the Security Council and all five voted in favor of the resolution - Chinese President Hu Jintao, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and President Obama.

The status of nuclear weapons state is conferred by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Since the treaty entered into force in 1970, three states that were not parties have conducted nuclear tests - India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel is also widely believed to have nuclear weapons, though the Israeli government has refused to confirm or deny this.

Russia is ready to reduce the number of its nuclear weapons launch vehicles by more than 67 percent and it is discussing an opportunity for this with the United States, President Medvedev said at the summit conference.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Security Council (Photo by Eskinder Debebe courtesy UN)

He recalled that Russia and the U.S. had already cut their arsenals of strategic offensive arms.

"Russia has always been a reliable and predictable partner in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament," Medvedev said. "We've done an unprecedented cut in strategic offensive armaments in the framework of the START treaty."

President Obama told the Security Council, "I have promised that we will pursue a new agreement with Russia to substantially reduce our strategic warheads and launchers. We will move forward with the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and open the door to deeper cuts in our own arsenal.

"In January, we will call upon countries to begin negotiations on a treaty to end the production of fissile material for weapons, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May will strengthen that agreement," Obama said.

Also voting in favor of the nuclear free world resolution were Security Council members Presidents Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica, Stjepan Mesic of Croatia, Felipe Calderon of Mexico, Heinz Fischer of Austria, Nguyen Minh Triet of Viet Nam, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, and Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, as well as Prime Ministers Yukio Hatoyama of Japan and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

In its unanimous resolution today, the Security Council called on all countries that are not parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to accede to it as non-nuclear-weapon states to achieve its universality at the earliest possible date.

The resolution also called on all countries to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, thereby bringing it into force as soon as possible.

"The need for action is clear," said UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon. "Thousands of nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert. More States have sought and acquired them. And every day, we live with the threat that weapons of mass destruction could be stolen, sold or slip away."

Stressing that "nuclear disarmament is the only sane path to a safer world," the secretary-general said that "nothing would work better in eliminating the risk of use than eliminating the weapons themselves."

IAEA's Mohamed ElBaradei at the Security Council (Photo by Eskinder Debebe courtesy UN)

The Security Council also expressed strong support for ensuring the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, has the authority and resources necessary to carry out its mission to verify both the declared use of nuclear materials and facilities and the absence of undeclared activities. It affirmed the councilís resolve to support the IAEAís efforts to verify whether states are in compliance with their safeguards obligations.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei highlighted the links between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, calling on nuclear weapons states to demonstrate "their irreversible commitment to achieving a world free from nuclear weapons."

"I am gratified to see nuclear disarmament back at the top of the international agenda, as well as recognition of the intrinsic link between nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," he said.

The resolution calls on governments to conclude safeguards agreements and protocols with the IAEA, so that the IAEA will be in a position to carry out all of the inspections necessary to ensure that materials and technology from peaceful nuclear uses are not used to support a weapons program.

The council also endorsed IAEA work on multilateral approaches to the fuel cycle, including assurances of fuel supply to make it easier for countries to choose not to develop enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.

The resolution, UNSC Resolution 1887, provides for:

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.