By EDITH M. LEDERERNations closer to agreement on nuclear disarmament
UNITED NATIONS (May 20, 2000) - The world's nuclear haves and have-nots moved closer to an agreement late Friday on a new disarmament agenda. But a final accord was stalled by a dispute between Iraq and the United States over Baghdad's alleged efforts to develop nuclear weapons.
"The entire conference is being held hostage with regard to the situation in Iraq," said Rebecca Johnson, editor of Disarmament Diplomacy, a monthly arms control journal.
The four-week conference to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was scheduled to end Friday, but negotiations among the 187 signatories to the accord dragged on.
The conference president, Algerian U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Baali, was working to try to resolve the remaining differences ahead of a plenary session to consider a final document.
Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Saeed Hasan said Baghdad would accept a factual account of the International Atomic Energy Agency's January inspection of its nuclear reactors - but was vehemently opposed to any mention of Security Council resolutions that placed Iraq under sanctions until its weapons of mass destruction are eliminated.
"The Americans want to include that this inspection does not substitute for the obligations of Iraq under Security Council resolutions," Hasan said. "We rejected that proposal."
Iraq proposed new language late Friday and the ambassador expressed hope that it would be accepted by the Americans.
Earlier Friday, delegates reached a consensus on a document reviewing progress on disarmament since 1995.
At the insistence of the five established nuclear powers, all references were dropped to the 35,000 nuclear weapons still in their arsenals and the thousands still on hair-trigger alert.
Countries without nuclear weapons had wanted the figures - which came directly from Secretary-General Kofi Annan's opening speech to the conference - to be included, Johnson said.
In a key breakthrough on Thursday, the five nuclear powers agreed to "an unequivocal undertaking" to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, a decision praised by several non-nuclear countries.
The agreement specified no timetable, and delegates said it would take many years to achieve a nuclear-free world.
After weeks of opposition, China agreed to go along with a call for increased transparency by the nuclear weapon states regarding their nuclear weapons capabilities, which means Beijing must provide information about its nuclear capabilities, Johnson said.