Nuclear nations set to win backing for weapons treaty

While many non-nuclear nations continue to hold deep reservations, it now seems all but certain that the 25-year-old convention on banning the spread of atomic weapons - the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - will be extended permanently and without condition by a conference of its signatory states in New York.

Moreover, the chances are growing that the majority in favour of indefinite extension will be more than just the slim one some were predicting a few days ago. And for the first time, some diplomats are suggesting that a consensus in its favour may yet coalesce at the eleventh hour.

The proposal to give permanence to the NPT, widely recognised as having underpinned the reversal of the nuclear arms race, technically needs only a majority of one of the 179 signatory states for approval. Without a convincing level of support, however, the treaty could lose its moral force.

To ensure that margin, the five declared nuclear states, the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China, are preparing to offer various concessions, based on proposals from South Africa. They include a commitment to an automatic five-yearly review of their progress towards disarmament.

Other offerings from the five are likely to include pledges to complete negotiations for a comprehensive test ban by the end of next year and for the ending of all production of fissile materials for weapons use. But there seems no prospect of them agreeing to demands made by countries including Switzerland and Sweden, that they set a timetable for progress towards complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

A strikingly upbeat assessment of the New York conference, which is due to last four weeks and conclude on 12 May, was offered yesterday by the head of the British delegation, Sir Michael Weston. Confirming that he believes permanent extension is now secure, he said: "I think everybody agrees that it is, including some of those who don't like it."

Sir Michael went further, however, to hold out the hope that with the introduction of the concessions, unanimity may not be beyond the conference's reach. "There is a good chance that we will have consensus on indefinite extension in the end," he said. He calculated that there remained a core of only 15 states clearly opposed to indefinite extension and predicted even that number would come down.

The Campaign for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which monitors the conference day by day, said yesterday it had counted 103 states firmly in favour of indefinite extension, up six from the day before, with another 28 leaning favourably towards it. That points to a majority of at least 130, while anything above 90 states would be enough for approval.

But Eva Cohen, a spokesperson for the campaign, warned that feelings remained strong among non-aligned countries that the nuclear powers should be pressured to move faster towards complete disarmament, as required under the original treaty. Some of these states argue that the NPT should be rolled over only for 25 years. Leading the opposition to permanent extension are Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Egypt and Indonesia.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Managing Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor