LETTER:France and non-proliferation

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The Independent Online
From Mr Llew Smith, MP

Sir: Mary Dejevsky's report from Paris on the resurrection by the French government of proposals to share nuclear weapons with European Union partners ("French PR campaign puts issue in the open", 30 August) once again raises questions about France's commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

France, which represented the European Union by dint of holding the EU presidency during the first half of the year, at the NPT review and extension conference at the UN in New York in April/May this year, has already rightly come under criticism for announcing its new nuclear testing programme within a month of the agreement of "Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament" at the NPT conference, which committed signatory states "to exercise utmost restraint" over nuclear testing "pending the entry into force of a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty".

The Foreign Secretary told Labour MP John Hutton in a letter in June that, although this "decision" was not legally binding, "it represents a political commitment by the states parties to the treaty participating in the conference".

As one of three depositary states for the NPT, the British government should be strongly reminding France about this important commitment.

It should also point out to France that Article I of the NPT commits each nuclear weapon state party to the treaty "not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices directly or indirectly" (my emphasis).

Of course, Britain's purchase of Trident from the United States (another NPT depositary state) undermines its moral and diplomatic strength to make such a representation to President Chirac.

Yours sincerely,

Llew Smith

MP for Blaenau Gwent (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

30 August