Manouchehr Mottaki: Our expectations of the treaty were misplaced

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Despite the empty boasts of the US about the achievements of its Washington conference on nuclear disarmament, the world still faces the threat from tens of thousands of nuclear warheads. It is deplorable that while most states that are party to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) wish for disarmament, every human being is still at risk both from the nuclear arsenals stockpiled all over the world, and the existence of a mindset which would contemplate deploying, or threatening to deploy such inhuman weapons.

Now we are in the run-up to next month's conference in New York to review the NPT, a meeting which presents us with a real opportunity for a safer world provided it addresses some serious deficiencies.

The treaty was forged forty years ago around three pillars: nuclear disarmament, the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. What has happened to these pillars? The answer is disappointing. Thanks to the discriminatory and selective attitude of some nuclear armed states the balance between these three pillars has been ignored. As a result of constant propaganda by those who believe that might is right, the truth has been sacrificed.

Those parties to the NPT which do not have nuclear weapons have long accepted the unfairness implicit in the accord, believing that it would bring about the widest possible exchange of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, disarmament, and the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons.

But the experience of the last 40 years has shown us that our expectations were misplaced. Rather than stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, the failure of certain governments to comply with key treaty articles has instead generated some 35,000 new nuclear warheads, has introduced the illegal concept of nuclear sharing, and has deprived other states of their inalienable rights. The defiance of the nuclear weapon states in flouting the treaty is a matter of serious concern. The UK's decision, for example, to renew and develop the Trident programme is in full contravention of article VI of the treaty.

The unconditional backing of some nuclear-armed states for Israel meanwhile allows a situation that is beyond international law. Israel's clandestine but unfettered development of nuclear weapons and its refusal to join the NPT poses a serious threat to the security of the Middle East and beyond. Despite the false claims of the US and other Western governments, the peaceful nature of my country's nuclear programme has been confirmed by various IAEA reports. There is no justification therefore for the UN Security Council to act further on this issue.

Indeed I would like to ask if the unlawful referral of the Iranian nuclear issue to the Security Council and the adoption of illegal resolutions does anything to strengthen peace and security. Does it augment the credibility of international mechanisms such as the NPT, the IAEA and even the Security Council itself? Does it enhance the confidence of developing nations that they can establish their rights through these institutions and mechanisms? Does it increase trust in multilateralism? Does it lower unilateralist tendencies? The overwhelming answer to all these questions is No.

The only possible outcome is that peace-loving people and governments will conclude that they cannot rely on multilateral institutions to defend their rights.

There are practical steps which could help restore the original balance within the NPT and save its credibility. First, the treaty's provisions should be implemented fully and in a non-discriminatory way. Universal adherence could be achieved by adding incentives for those who sign up and pressure placed on those who remain outside. Nuclear armed states must formally renounce nuclear weapons and agree on a fixed timetable for their total elimination. Nothing in the provisions should affect the rights of all parties to develop research and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes including the fuel cycle and enrichment for nuclear power plants. All parties should have the right to participate in the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and technological information on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. And all illegal sanctions and limitations should be removed.

The writer is Iranian foreign minister

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