30/08/2011

Exclusive: UN Says Nuclear Test Ban 'Priority'

The UN Secretary General has called on states that have yet to sign up to the ban on nuclear testing to make it their "priority".

In a 4NI.co.uk exclusive, Damien Whinnery, writes that Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that voluntary moratoriums on nuclear weapon tests are not enough.

He said that China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and the United States were still yet to ratify the treaty.

"Over the course of the Cold War, hundreds of nuclear weapon tests left behind a devastating legacy for local citizens and their natural environment."

Out of a total listed number of 195 States, 182 have so far signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (NTBT) and 154 have ratified it, but it cannot come into force until the 'hold-out states' also sign up.

August 29 was the official International Day Against Nuclear Tests, and coincides with the 20th anniversary of historic events that led to the closure of the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan, where more than 456 explosions contaminated the land and caused horrific health problems for its inhabitants.

Kazakhstan, whose north east region had been ravaged by Russian testing, initially proposed the testing ban in 2009.

On Monday, the United States of America pledged a voluntary "in-kind" contribution valued at $8.9 million to the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). It is the largest single contribution of its kind to the organization to date.

The US, which is also yet to sign up to the treaty directed that its contribution should underwrite further development of the full range of CTBTO verification and monitoring activities.

Meanwhile. during an unexpected meeting in Russia last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is believed to have agreed to consider pledging a moratorium in nuclear testing with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The dictator has been recalcitrant to UN and Western pressure to stop the rogue country from engaging in nuclear tests.

After the meeting, the Russian President's press secretary said: "In the course of the talks, North Korea will be ready to resolve the question of imposing a moratorium on tests and production of nuclear missile weapons."

However, in a message marking Monday's Day against Nuclear Tests, UN General Assembly President Joseph Deiss said: "Current voluntary moratoriums on nuclear weapon tests are valuable, yet they are no substitute for a global ban."

It is the first time North Korea have discussed the prospect of declaring a nuclear moratorium on the highest level, according to the UN.

(DW/GK)

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