clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

ARMS STRATEGY DOESN'T COME EASY

Halfway into a monthlong conference called to review a treaty barring the spread of nuclear weapons, leading developing nations have failed to agree on a common strategy for seeking faster disarmament and other concessions by the nuclear powers.

The 111-member Nonaligned Movement, made up mostly of developing nations, had been expected to press here for a secret ballot on the future of the 25-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, something that the industrial nations strongly oppose.But the movement, at a meeting last week in Bandung, Indonesia, produced a final document shorn of earlier demands for a secret ballot. Also gone was a call for rolling 25-year extensions rather than a permanent renewal of the accord.

The nations with nuclear weapons - the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia - generally favor an indefinite and unconditional extension of the treaty, although China has said it could accept automatic 25-year renewals.

Two of the treaty's original negotiators, George Bunn of the United States and Roland M. Timerbaev of the Soviet Union, who are attending the treaty conference here as observers for nongovernmental organizations, said Friday that they favored the 25-year renewal plan. Such extensions, they reason, would provide greater leverage for prodding nuclear weapons nations into more rapid disarmament and an agreement to end nuclear testing.

Nations without nuclear programs also want greater sharing of technology - not only in atomic energy but in areas like nuclear medicine and agricultural techniques that could speed development.

It is a pressing issue, since such technology transfers, urged by Article IV of the treaty, lie at the heart of Washington's disputes with Russia and China over the supply of reactors and other equipment to Iran.

The Clinton administration says it fears that the reactors will produce fuel for bombs. But the Iranians point out that they have signed the treaty and agreed to inspections of nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The steam has been going out of the developing nations' campaign for only a limited treaty extension and other goals ever since South Africa, a new and influential member of the Nonaligned Movement, publicly backed indefinite renewal last week.