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Ex-Leaders Launch Nuclear Disarmament Initiative

(Dec. 9) -A new initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide was launched yesterday in Paris. (Dec. 9) -A new initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide was launched yesterday in Paris.

A group of international leaders, including former heads of state and top diplomatic and defense officials, launched a new effort yesterday to eliminate all nuclear weapons (see GSN, Dec. 8).

"This will not happen overnight; it will be done step-by-step through phased and verified reductions over a period of years," according to a fact sheet from the initiative, called Global Zero. "It is urgent that we begin now."

The leaders include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard. The group plans to create a new commission, to be led by two "prominent individuals" from the United States and Russia to be named soon, and to hold a major summit in January 2010.

A group release outlines the key steps in the disarmament plan, starting with "de-alerting" U.S. and Russian weapons from their current ready-to-launch status, followed by major weapons reductions in the two nations, then total elimination of the bomb by all nuclear-armed nations accompanied by strict verification of nuclear fuel cycle activities around the globe. The group acknowledges that successful progress would require time.

"It will take years to move from 20,000-plus weapons worldwide to zero," according to the fact sheet.

Abolishing nuclear weapons would not only eliminate the chance of nuclear war, but also reduce the risk of terrorists acquiring catastrophic arsenals.

"We cannot persuade terrorists to stop seeking nuclear weapons" the fact sheet says. "The only solution is to eliminate the weapons themselves: to drain the swamp. Global Zero's plan calls for the verified and enforced destruction of all nuclear weapons and international oversight of all nuclear energy production to prevent the clandestine development of weapons."

The group plans talks this week with leaders in Moscow and Washington (Greg Webb, Global Security Newswire, Dec. 9).

Meanwhile, British and French leaders have issued statements outlining their nonproliferation goals.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday urged the international community to pursue a new course toward global nuclear disarmament through a number of measures, including a worldwide prohibition on nuclear test blasts, the Associated Press reported.

The disarmament plan has the backing of the European Union, Sarkozy wrote in a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. France has assumed the rotating EU leadership.

"We are convinced of the necessity to work for general disarmament," Sarkozy said. "Europe has already done a lot for disarmament. ... Europe is ready to do more."

The proposal supports a suspension of creation of additional fissile material and a global prohibition on short- and medium-range surface-to-surface missiles. It also calls on the United States and Russia to move toward negotiating a successor to a key strategic arms limitation treaty set to expire at the end of next year (see GSN, Nov. 13).

The new recommendations are aimed at restoring momentum to a disarmament movement that has faltered since the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to AP (Associated Press/Google News, Dec. 8).

Adding another voice, the United Kingdom hopes to help establish "a global coalition around the shared vision of a nuclear weapon-free world," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said yesterday in a prepared statement (British Foreign Office release, Dec. 9).

In a column published yesterday in the London Guardian, Miliband called for the international community to work toward eventual disarmament by putting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force (see GSN, Nov. 25); addressing proliferation concerns in Iran and North Korea (see related GSN stories, today); enabling nations to develop nuclear energy capabilities without acquiring technologies that could support nuclear weapons programs; and addressing other diplomatic, military and technical problems.

"Fresh, demonstrable progress on the path towards a world without nuclear weapons has the potential to deliver a dual dividend: to crack down on proliferation and to promote international security. We do not underestimate the challenges ahead but I am determined to energize international diplomacy in order to make much-needed headway," he wrote, adding that "success" at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference would be critical to advancing disarmament efforts (David Miliband, London Guardian, Dec. 8).

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