States sign ban on chemical weapons

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The Independent Online
Paris (AP) - Diplomats from the US, Russia and more than 120 other nations convened yesterday to sign a treaty aimed at eliminating all chemical weapons. Speakers implored a handful of Arab states, which are holding back, to join in signing the accord. The treaty is 'a historic result for which the entire international community can take credit', said the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in a speech opening the three-day ceremony.

The treaty marks the first prohibition of an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. Nations signing it will be required to destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons and the factories that produce them within 10 years of ratification.

The only large cloud over the proceedings was a decision by most Arab states not to sign in protest over Israel's refusal to endorse the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But four Arab nations - Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia - were among the first countries to sign. The US Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, urged other Arab states to follow, saying it would be a step towards eliminating weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East.