- The Washington Times - Monday, November 12, 2001

Hot air or dotted line
The General Assembly debate is in full swing, having heard from 68 presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers over the weekend.
Some people dismiss the annual debate as a dialogue of the deaf, and the 39-story U.N. headquarters as a "tower of babble." At times like this, it can be difficult to contradict that impression.
"The greater danger confronting us in the world today is not that we speak in different languages, but that we don't always listen in any language," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte remarked last week during the Iran-championed Dialogue of Civilizations.
Amen.
Words are ephemeral, but a signature at least in principle is forever.
Scores of world leaders have promised to stop by the special treaty room near the General Assembly chambers this week to affix their signatures and ratifications to a quartet of anti-terrorism conventions that are inching their ways tortuously to life.
By the time this year's "debate" is over, 53 nations are expected to sign or ratify one or more of the four terrorism-related treaties deposited with the United Nations. The treaties are meant to cut off the financing of terrorism, stop terrorist bombings, outlaw the taking of hostages and forbid attacks on "internationally protected persons," like diplomats.

Test ban inches on
Speaking of treaties, the comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty is inching along again, revitalized by the September 11 attacks and a two-day signing conference at U.N. headquarters.
Some 80 nations although not the United States are participating in the conference, and several new signatures and ratifications are expected by the time it ends.
Russia yesterday submitted ringing endorsements of the treaty, rejecting Bush administration reservations that the agreement would compromise the safety of U.S. arsenals and is unverifiable.
"There are dangerous trends toward disrupting" the treaty, said Igor Sergeev, an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "This may result in a crisis of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime and an uncontained spread of the nuclear weapons."
Mr. Sergeev said Moscow is satisfied with treaty's verifiability, and has offered to reassure the absent Americans that Russia would be willing to strengthen confidence-building measures after the treaty enters into force. He said the measures could include an exchange of geological data and installation of additional sensors.
Still, he added, the verification and monitoring mechanism developed under the CTBT "make it absolutely impossible to hide any violation of the treaty."
In a message to the conference, Mr. Putin called the CTBT "a most important instrument in the field of nuclear weapons limitation."
Speaking for the European Union, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel criticized the U.S. refusal to ratify the treaty, which it signed four years ago.
Mr. Michel said the Europeans welcome Washington's continued moratorium on nuclear testing, but added, "we can only regret the United States' announcement that it will cease to participate in certain activities arising from the treaty."
The CTBT prohibits nuclear-weapons test explosions, as well as other nuclear detonations. It also establishes an extensive global monitoring network and short-notice on-site inspection regime to combat nuclear proliferation.
Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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