Final nuclear declaration addresses Middle East, North Korea

Final nuclear declaration addresses Middle East, North Korea

Governments attending a nuclear review conference that was to end Friday at the United Nations have agreed to hold an international conference in 2012 with the aim to establish a nuclear- weapon-free Middle East.

The 189 parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) also decided to include North Korea in its final declaration, calling on that country to return to negotiations to settle the dispute over its nuclear activities.

The 28-page draft declaration, revised from a previous draft issued on Monday, was to be issued later Friday to conclude a month- long conference that began on May 3. It contains a 22-point action plan.

Nuclear-weapons-free zones around the world and talks on nuclear disarmament are part of the NPT, which entered into force in 1970, but has so far failed to get the world's five nuclear powers to agree on a legal timetable for a total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Those powers - the United States, Russia, France, China and Britain - still resist pressure by other NPT parties to impose such a timeline.

The NPT conference chairman, Philippine Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, said the revised draft declaration was "carefully balanced" to reflect demands by all parties. He urged the participants to agree to the final declaration so and that "all the seeds of hope planted throughout the conference would bear fruit."

It calls on the UN secretary general, the US, Russia and Britain to designate a facilitator to organize the conference in 2012 to be attended by "all" Middle East nations. Those three countries co- sponsored a resolution calling for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East when the NPT met in 1995.

The draft says the resolution must be implemented in order to help the peace process in the Middle East region. It calls on Israel to sign the NPT and to place "all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)."

Israel has never admitted it possesses nuclear weapons, as alleged by Arab governments.

The draft calls for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and chemical and biological weapons in the Middle East.

For the first time, the NPT includes in its declaration a call for North Korea to return "at an early date" to talks and to carry out obligations under the six-party talks, which involve China, the US, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea. Those obligations include the "complete and verifiable abandonment of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes."

The draft calls for "the need" of the nuclear-weapon states to reduce and eliminate their nuclear arsenals, but drops language that called it an "urgent" need in the earlier draft.

"In implementing the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, the nuclear-weapon states commit to undertake further efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear weapons, deployed and non-deployed" through various agreements, the draft says.

There are an estimated 23,000 nuclear warheads around the world, most of them in arsenals of the five nuclear powers. Other countries known for having test-fired nuclear devices are India, Pakistan and North Korea.

About 40 countries have nuclear technology, from nuclear power plants for civilian energy uses to heavy water, which could be a component in the design for a nuclear reactor.

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