Scenarios: Success or failure of U.N. nuclear pact conference

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (BestGrowthStock) – The 189 signatories of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are due to gather at U.N. headquarters in New York next week to start a May 3-28 conference to discuss ways of breathing new life into the pact.

Analysts say the treaty has suffered in recent years due to Iran’s and North Korea’s clandestine nuclear activities, a Pakistani-led network that supplied Iran, North Korea and Libya with sensitive atomic technology and the failure of nuclear-armed states to make more progress toward reducing their nuclear arsenals.

NPT review conferences have taken place every five years during the treaty’s 40-year history. In 1995, signatories agreed to extend the treaty’s validity indefinitely.

Here are some possible scenarios for the conference.


The ideal outcome, analysts and U.N. diplomats say, would be a conference that avoids prolonged procedural bickering of the kind that helped torpedo the last one in 2005 and yields a consensus declaration that outlines ways to improve compliance with the three so-called pillars of the treaty.

Those pillars are non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

A final declaration, analysts say, should call for strengthening the role of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the U.N. Security Council and other bodies.

Western nations want a declaration to call for stronger non-proliferation measures — making a tougher U.N. inspection protocol aimed at smoking out covert nuclear weapons programs obligatory, and imposing stiff penalties on countries that pull out of the treaty, as North Korea did in 2003.

Non-aligned developing countries want the five nuclear powers to recommit to disarmament pledges they made in 2000 and which the previous U.S. administration repudiated in 2005.

Egypt and other Arab states want a reaffirmation of a 1995 resolution that implicitly urged Israel to join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. They also want Israel to join an international conference on ridding the region of atomic bombs.

Finally, developing countries want guarantees that they will not be barred from accessing nuclear technology due to wealthy countries’ concerns about weapons proliferation.

Getting a final declaration agreement will not be easy. Decisions are made by consensus of all 189 signatories.

But U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, Egypt and others are eager to avoid a repeat of 2005 and are trying hard to find a compromise that would satisfy all sides.


A repeat of the 2005 NPT review conference, which produced no final declaration, would be considered a failure and reflect badly on the Obama administration.

If Egypt and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members fail to reach an agreement on a call for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the future, the Egyptian delegation has threatened to prevent the conference from issuing any declaration, U.N. diplomats say.

In 2005, there was no outcome document after Egypt, backed by Iran and other non-aligned developing countries, refused to compromise on the issue of Israel’s nuclear program. The Jewish state is widely believed to have a sizable nuclear arsenal but has never confirmed or denied its existence.

The Obama administration wants the conference to succeed. It has made non-proliferation and disarmament a top foreign policy issue. It is one area in which analysts and diplomats say Obama has scored a significant foreign policy success — namely a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to attend the conference. He will be the highest-ranking delegate and the focus of attention when the conference begins on Monday.

Diplomats said Iran may try to turn the conference into a referendum on the United States and its allies, which Tehran says want to deprive the entire developing world of access to nuclear technology while turning a blind eye to Israel.

U.N. diplomats say Iran has done this in the past, with some success. However, fellow members of the Non-Aligned Movement, a 118-nation bloc of developing nations, have been increasingly loathe to side with Iran due to growing concern about its nuclear ambitions, the diplomats say.

Tehran insists that its nuclear program is aimed at peacefully generating electricity but Western nations suspect Iran is developing the capability to produce weapons.

The U.N. delegations of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — and Germany will continue meeting almost daily on the sidelines of the conference to discuss a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran for not halting uranium enrichment.

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(Editing by Will Dunham)

Scenarios: Success or failure of U.N. nuclear pact conference