- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

NEW YORK — After a month of near-paralysis, a global conference to tighten controls on the spread of nuclear arms adopted a final report yesterday offering no new action plan at a time of mounting nuclear tension in the world.

The 188-nation meeting, reviewing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, produced weeks of divisive debate over issues ranging from Iran’s uranium centrifuges, to Israel’s nuclear capabilities, to U.S. weapons plans. But it yielded no consensus recommendations for concrete steps to rein in atomic arms.

The disagreements even kept the conference president, Sergio de Queiroz Duarte, from issuing a summary statement endorsing nonproliferation principles.

“It would be very difficult for me in the face of so many divergencies, wide differences,” the Brazilian diplomat told reporters.

Dispirited diplomats and disarmament campaigners lamented a lack of political will.

“We have witnessed intransigence from more than one state on pressing issues of the day,” Canadian Ambassador Paul Meyer told conference delegates.

“It’s a tragic lost opportunity,” British arms-control advocate Ian Davis told reporters.

The lead U.S. delegate expressed only mild disappointment. In a final speech, Jackie Sanders pointed to unilateral Bush administration initiatives — “a robust and comprehensive approach” — to halt the spread of nuclear arms. Multilateral discussions can continue elsewhere, she noted.

The members of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty convene only once every five years to assess the workings of the 1970 treaty and find ways to make it work better — political commitments that give a boost to nonproliferation initiatives.

Under the nuclear pact, states without atomic arms pledged not to develop them, and five with the weapons — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — undertook to eventually eliminate their arsenals. The nonweapons states, meanwhile, were guaranteed access to peaceful nuclear technology.

Citing that guarantee, Iran has obtained uranium-enrichment centrifuges, which can produce both fuel for nuclear power plants and material for bombs.

Delegations here had promoted ideas, for example, for limiting access to such dual-use technology with bomb-making potential, along with proposals to strengthen inspection of nuclear facilities.

Some also supported plans to make withdrawing from the treaty more difficult and penalty-laden.

But the three conference committees were caught in a crossfire of interests, including U.S.-Iranian antagonisms, and all failed to reach consensus on action programs to send to the full conference.

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