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Nuclear Powers Confer on Fissile Material Cutoff

The United States has launched discussions with the four other recognized nuclear powers as well as other states on moving toward establishment of a potential international ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, Washington's delegate to the U.N. First Committee said on Wednesday in remarks published by the United Nations.

The announcement came weeks after the international Conference on Disarmament concluded its 2012 proceedings without overcoming a deadlock that has stymied the body's ability to negotiate new nonproliferation treaties for more than 15 years. Pakistan this year again prevented mandatory consensus on a conference work plan that would have included a focus on beginning study of a fissile material cutoff treaty.

Negotiating such a pact "is a logical and absolutely essential next step in the path towards global nuclear disarmament," said Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.

"The CD [Conference on Disarmament] remains our preferred venue for negotiating an FMCT, since it includes every major nuclear-capable state and operates by consensus, ensuring everyone’s national security concerns are protected," the State Department quoted Gottemoeller as saying to the U.N. First Committee.

"A year ago the United States initiated consultations among the P-5 and others on unblocking FMCT negotiations in the CD, and to prepare our own countries for what we expect would be a challenging negotiation," she said. The P-5 refers to permanent U.N. Security Council nations and nuclear powers China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"This 'P-5 Plus' has potential to move FMCT forward," Gottemoeller stated. "That said, our patience on this issue is not infinite and we will push for what is in the best interest of global security. We will work hard to convince others that commencement of negotiations is not something to fear."

There has been talk of taking up the fissile material accord in other venues where it might have a better chance of progressing toward existence. That talk has not as yet turned into action.

The important role of the Conference on Disarmament was a subject highlighted by several other governments this week at the United Nations, according to a Tuesday U.N. press release.

Moves to marginalize the Geneva, Switzerland-based body in favor of an outside forum marked a  "dangerous step backwards," according to Cuba's envoy to the First Committee.

The First Committee should investigate possible means of breaking the stalemate on the fissile material cutoff pact, according to Japan's diplomat at the session.

Turkey would back a measure to address the conference deadlock, according to Ankara's envoy.

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