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U.S. Pushes to Advance Fissile Material Talks

Critics of a potential fissile material cutoff treaty would wield greater influence over the terms of an eventual pact by allowing negotiations to proceed at the international Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland, a top U.S. arms control official said yesterday (see GSN, Jan. 27).

"Let me just place full emphasis and priority today on my main message, which is to launch the negotiations this year on a fissile material cutoff treaty in the Conference on Disarmament," Agence France-Presse quoted Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller as saying.

"That is a kind of general time frame," she said, noting the 2011 goal was not a "specific deadline".

The 65-nation body in 2009 broke a deadlock that had lasted for more than 10 years, agreeing to a work plan that addressed four issues: nuclear disarmament, a fissile material cutoff pact, the prohibition of space-based weapons, and an agreement by nuclear-armed states not to use their strategic weapons against nations that do not possess such armaments.

Pakistan initially endorsed the plan, but later withdrew its consent and demanded further consideration of the program. Islamabad has said a fissile material cutoff treaty would give its rival and fellow nuclear-armed state India a greater strategic advantage.

Allowing the deadlock to continue with no end in sight is "not a viable option," Gottemoeller said. "If we cannot find a way to begin these negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament, then we will need to consider options."

As the body must make its decisions by consensus, every state participant would have the same ability to influence the terms of a fissile material cutoff plan, she noted.

"I for one hope that Pakistan will take this as a serious effort to verify their concerns," she said.

The United States said specialists should address the details of a potential pact in informal talks while the conference remains deadlocked (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Jan. 27).

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GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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