13 February 1998

Press Release



(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 12 February (UN Information Service) -- The Conference on Disarmament this morning heard proposals to create an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament and to reappoint a special coordinator on the question of anti-personnel landmines.

The representative of Belgium proposed the creation, within the Conference, of "an ad hoc study and consideration group on methods of creating within its forum talks to provide information about issues relating to article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty". The representative said he was aware that that was a modest proposal, but, being realistic, it would enable the Conference to play the part that it has so far been unable to play.

Finland, on behalf of 23 countries, proposed the reappointment of a special coordinator on anti-personnel landmines. Poland, speaking on behalf of those countries, said the special coordinator would explore and establish the views of the members on the Conference on what the body could do to promote a more effective prohibition of anti-personnel landmines. The pursuit of a global landmines-export ban within the Conference would represent an important step in that direction.

Lars Norberg of Sweden, the outgoing President of the Conference on Disarmament, said he was encouraged by the "new and positive atmosphere" at the Conference this session. He said nuclear disarmament and a fissile material cut-off treaty had dominated the informal consultations, but further discussions were needed to bring about a convergence of views on those two issues.

Mr. Norberg said there was considerable support on the proposals to appoint a special coordinator for the prevention of an arms race in outer space; to re-establish the ad hoc committee on negative security assurances; to appoint a special coordinator on the question of anti-personnel landmines; and to appoint a special coordinator on transparency in arms. Further consultations were needed in order to establish a basis for formal decisions.

The representatives of Pakistan and South Africa noted the lack of consensus within the Conference on the main issues. The representatives of Brazil, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Netherlands, India, United States, France and Mexico also addressed the Conference.

Erwin Hofer of Switzerland takes over the presidency of the Conference at its next meeting for four weeks. The Conference will resume its plenary on Thursday, 19 February, at 10 a.m.





Nuclear disarmament continued to be the paramount concern, Mr. Saboia noted. Brazil had decided to lend support to the South African initiative on the establishment of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament. That Committee would first need to identify issues for negotiation and could serve as a forum where ongoing discussions on nuclear disarmament could be the subject of periodic information and clarifications. Brazil also supported the

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work on the negotiation of a fissile materials cut-off treaty, to be based on the Shannon Report.


FRANK MAJOOR (Netherlands) noted that the Conference on Disarmament had developed an impressive set of international legal instruments, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, which was extended indefinitely in 1995; the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972; the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993; and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) of 1996. Those conventions, however, had to be signed and ratified by all. The Conference had to improve and expand those instruments, where appropriate, and new instruments would have to be added. For example, much remained to be done for negotiation of a treaty on a fissile materials cut-off as an agreed further step towards nuclear disarmament.

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His country supported the reappointment of three reform special coordinators on the agenda and on the expansion and effective functioning of the Conference, he said. The Netherlands also accepted the establishment of ad hoc committees -- or, as a first step, the appointment of special coordinators -- on the items of outer space, negative security assurances and transparency in armaments. The Netherlands also agreed to the reappointment of a special coordinator on anti-personnel landmines.


SAVITRI KUNADI (India) said that her country remained committed to achieving general nuclear disarmament in a comprehensive manner which would enhance national and global security. The end of the cold war had raised hopes and expectations that the threat of nuclear weapons would also be terminated, but the danger of nuclear confrontations was persisting to this day. New types of nuclear weapons were being designed and new doctrines were

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sought to justify those new possessions. The Conference on Disarmament was the most appropriate forum to discuss a convention to ban nuclear weapons and ensure their destruction in a comprehensive manner.

She said that India and other non-aligned and developing countries had submitted a programme of action for the elimination of nuclear weapons. There had also been other proposals urging the early start of negotiations. The Conference had to respond to calls for an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament to commence negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, within a time-bound framework through a nuclear weapons convention.

Ms. Kunadi said that India had expressed reservations on the tenuous nature of the compromise on a fissile materials cut-off. Since the General Assembly had recognized a fissile materials cut-off as an integral step leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework, India remained ready to participate in the consultations on the subject. India was also ready to start work on other issues such as anti-personnel landmines.

ROBERT T. GREY, JR. (United States) said his country's shared hope that the 1998 session of the Conference on Disarmament would avoid the errors of 1997 was dwindling rapidly. The United States had joined the consensus in approving the Conference's 1998 agenda, including the item on the cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament. Other issues, such as banning the export of anti-personnel landmines and negotiations to ban the production of fissile materials, were also ripe for immediate multilateral work. Agreement on them would reinvigorate the Conference and end its deadlock.

He said that those who called most loudly for nuclear disarmament could not simultaneously refuse to take steps on a fissile materials cut-off. By doing so, they called into question their motives and their objectives on both issues.

Mr. Grey said that the key to moving forward was consensus on the basis of widely consulted proposals. For its part, the United States was prepared to work with every Conference member in an effort to find a way forward that everyone could live with. Suggesting that the United States did not foresee a role for the Conference on Disarmament on the question of nuclear disarmament was straining credulity. The completion of the CTBT and continuing efforts to begin on a negotiation of a fissile materials cut-off bore unequivocal testimony to the vital role of the Conference.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) noted that, unfortunately, the developments of the past few days indicated that the Conference might once again revert to the situation that it faced last year and find itself unable to undertake substantive work on any of its agenda items.

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He hoped that the Conference would be able to find a way to reach consensus on several items and commence work on them while continuing to debate issues on which consensus could not yet be reached. He believed that consensus was possible on the reappointment of the four special coordinators established last year. Even those countries which were not in favour of negotiations on anti-personnel landmines could express their views to the special coordinator.

He said Pakistan would be flexible on the mandate of a special coordinator on outer space as it believed that the Conference was close to agreement on that issue. Pakistan had also believed the Conference was close to consensus on establishing an ad hoc committee on negative security assurances. However, Pakistan was disappointed to hear one member expressing a different position in informal consultations. Consultations must continue on that issue, and also on nuclear disarmament, to overcome the new difficulties. It should be stressed that frustration with the inability of the Conference to reach agreement on that item should not prevent members from reaching consensus on other issues.


JOELLE BOURGOIS (France) responded to the questions of the Ambassador of South Africa and said that previous experience did not encourage the establishing of an ad hoc committee on negative security assurances. France would not be enthusiastic about the creation of that committee. Commitment on positive or negative security assurances had greatly increased, but France believed there was a need to reflect on what had already been gained and to

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see what was still necessary. France believed in dialogue and an exchange of views.

She said that France could not support South Africa's proposal for establishing an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, adding that the Conference first needed to negotiate a treaty on a fissile materials cut-off. A committee on nuclear disarmament would only isolate certain States.

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