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U.N. Disarmament Panel Agrees to Form Agenda Working Group

The international Conference on Disarmament on Friday agreed to a plan aimed at surmounting years of paralysis, by creating an informal working group tasked with developing a plan for implementing the body's agenda.

All 65 member states of the U.N.-sponsored forum, as well as countries with observer status at the 2013 session, were invited to participate in the working group, according to the adopted decision. The group will meet for the balance of the current session and can be reconvened, if deemed necessary, for the 2014 term.

The Conference on Disarmament has been unable to achieve a consensus around negotiating any new arms control treaty in 16 years. The last work plan was approved in 2009 but then canceled after Pakistan withdrew its support.

The United States has signaled it wants the new group to include in the work plan the opening of negotiations for a treaty that would ban the production of any new nuclear weapons-grade material.

The organization Reaching Critical Will, which promotes nuclear disarmament, voiced support for the conference's Friday decision.

The working group offers the possibility of helping break the long impasse, but "it doesn't make up for the fact that it has become obvious that the 16 years of deadlock has significantly lowered the bar for what constitutes progress," according to a blog post by Beatrice Fihn, the advocacy group's manager.

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