Clinton to extend ban on nuclear testing: British lobbying fails to persuade President to abandon moratorium

FENDING off intense private lobbying by Britain, and to a lesser extent France, President Clinton is poised to announce that the US is abandoning plans for an early resumption of nuclear testing, a step which disarmament advocates believe could open the way for a general ban on testing, and greatly improve the prospects for curbing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Mr Clinton told reporters yesterday that he would make a formal announcement 'in the next few days' - either just before the 7 July G-7 Tokyo summit or during it. 'I've made a decision and we're working out some of the details,' he said. But given Congressional resistance to a resumption, and the administration's commitment to halting nuclear proliferation, there is scant doubt about his choice.

Three options have been on his desk: a go-ahead for a limited series of nine explosions at the Nevada test site between now and 1996, three of which would be by Britain; an unconditional 12-month extension of the current moratorium which technically expires today; or an extension with a clause permitting the US to restart testing if another nuclear power did so first.

The President, officials said yesterday, has all but chosen the third variant. In essence, this marks a second climb down. At first, at the urging of the Pentagon and Energy Department, which runs the three US nuclear laboratories, he indicated he would stick with previous plans for 15 tests by 1996. That was later scaled down to nine.

Now, following public demands by 36 Senators and 100 Congressmen for an extension of the moratorium, he is about to bow once more with the formula of 'no-first-test'.

This would enable the facilities to be kept ticking over, at least until October 1996, the target date for a permanent test ban agreement by the world's five declared nuclear powers. A year before that comes a more important date: the review conference for the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Western powers, anxious to prevent the spread of atomic weapons, are seeking an indefinite extension of the treaty. But supporters of arms control say that if the US resumes testing, not only would Britain, France and probably Russia and China follow suit, but the moral basis for efforts to prevent proliferation to countries like Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and North Korea would be fatally undermined.

No-one will be more disappointed than Britain, which is reliant on the Nevada facility and which has been wanting to test a new warhead version under design at the Aldermaston laboratory for use, defence sources say, both in the Trident submarine and for a new tactical 'gravity bomb' which could be employed in a variety of roles. But, sensing the way the wind is blowing, British officials have been downplaying the importance of resumption.

One leading US anti-testing lobbyist said: 'It puts a permanent nuclear testing ban clearly within reach.' Britain's behaviour is being less generously interpreted. Dan Plesch, of the Anglo-US arms control group Basic, said: 'It bodes ill for the entire British approach to non- proliferation if you're going to be dragged kicking and screaming to stop testing, and then pretend that you supported this all along.'

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?