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Letter : Obstacles to extending the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

From Mrs Elizabeth Young

Sir: Michael Sheridan quotes the director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency as saying that, "A number of countries are attracted to the self-defeating idea that the Non-Proliferation Treaty should be held hostage [to various conditions]." ("Third World challenge to nuclear treaty", 20 February). The "conditions" include the completion of the test ban and a halt to the production and stockpiling of fissile material.

These are precisely the conditions the non-nuclear-weapon states have been requiring from the nuclear-weapon states since 1968, when the US and the Soviet Union insisted the treaty remain "naked", or free of nuclear- weapon state commitments. There is nothing "self-defeating" about these "conditions": on the contrary, it would be a pity to repeat in 1995 the insufficiencies of the 1968 text.

The US today still wants the treaty "naked". Indeed, it now wants its article IV flouted, specifically in the case of Iran. The first paragraph of that article states that

Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II.

A second paragraph requires all parties to cooperate in developing the benefits of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes "especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon states party to the Treaty". Nowhere in the treaty are the "Western" intelligence services (in this case, the CIA and Mossad) given authority, as the US seems to be suggesting, to revise this "inalienable right" of a signatory that the IAEA has not found to be in breach of its undertakings. Iran has not been so found.

On the other hand, the US itself does seem to be in serious breach of Article I. By its long-standing acceptance and collaboration, it has surely not only "encouraged", but actively "assisted" Israel's acquisition and control of nuclear weapons. This the Treaty absolutely forbids.

For the Non-Proliferation Treaty to be indefinitely extended in April this year, while Israel continues to hold a substantial nuclear weapons capability, generously funded by the US, and continues to threaten to take out its neighbours' civil nuclear facilities, would give the wrong message: namely, that proliferation and non-proliferation are what the US, not what the Non-Proliferation Treaty, says they are.

Yours faithfully,


London, W2

21 February