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Pakistan Blocks Latest Work Plan at Conference on Disarmament

By Chris Schneidmiller

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- Pakistan on Tuesday ended the latest effort to establish a plan of work that would allow the international Conference on Disarmament to move forward with negotiations on a treaty to ban production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.

"At the plenary meeting of the CD ambassador of Pakistan blocked the adoption of the program of work proposed by Hungary," Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, conference secretary general, stated on Twitter.

Islamabad has since 2009 held up progress at the 65-nation body intended to serve as the lone multilateral forum for negotiation of arms control treaties. The body in Geneva, Switzerland, operates on consensus and has not conducted negotiations in 16 years.

Pakistan has asserted that a fissile material cutoff treaty would put it at strategic disadvantage to rival and fellow nuclear-armed state India. It has demanded that any negotiations address reductions in existing stocks of plutonium or weapon-grade uranium.

Hungary was the first of six nations that will assume the conference presidency over three separate sessions. Its work plan was similar to proposals from prior sessions, intended to address nuclear disarmament, preventing a space arms race, the fissile materials pact, and assurances that nuclear-armed nations would not use or threaten to use those assets against states without such weapons. A single working group would have dealt with both disarmament and the fissile materials cutoff, rather than separate panels as proposed in previous years.

The latest failure to achieve progress "was to be expected, even though we tried our best, and had others accept a number of concessions to ease Pakistani concerns, including designating Brazil to lead the combined disarmament and fissile materials cutoff panel, a Hungarian official in Geneva told Global Security Newswire by e-mail.

"The Hungarian presidency is done. It is now up to the incoming president India to figure out how to move forward. They are in a difficult position because of their bilateral relationship with Pakistan, so one should not expect great progress in the coming weeks," added the official, who requested to remain anonymous in discussing sensitive matters.

The present Conference on Disarmament session continues through March 29.

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