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US in the firing line at disarmament conference sponsored by UN
( 2002-04-02 16:30 ) (7 )

The United States faced condemnation Tuesday for growing unilateralism in arms control issues at the first UN-sponsored disarmament conference since Washington named potential nuclear targets in a leaked defence review.

Some participants criticized Washington directly for ploughing ahead with its own diplomacy since the September 11 terrorist attacks, while others lamented a general global trend away from collective security.

"The calamitous events of September 11 should only serve to redouble our efforts, not to divert them," UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala said in his opening address.

"(But) our collective efforts (at arms control and disarmament) are hindered by the rise of unilateral actions... that jeopardize common efforts," he said, without specifying any guilty parties.

The three-day international conference, entitled "A Disarmament Agenda for the 21st Century", is jointly sponsored by the Chinese government and gathers around 40 arms control experts from 20 countries and regions.

Besides nuclear disarmament, participants will also discuss defence doctrines, disarmament and the UN, a potential space arms race, missile proliferation and missile defense and conventional weapons.

The United States has faced recent international pressure over a series of moves such as its decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and a veto of a biological weapons treaty late last year.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan also express concerns in his opening statement the flouting of consensus multilateral policies.

"The practice of abandoning or weakening this process and seeking security through expanding unilateral military advantages will not only fail to address the problems, but instead will exert a serious impact on international strategic security," he said.

"Unilateralism is not only of no help, but rather would trigger off further proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Tang said.

Hamid Asalamizad, disarmament director at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, blasted the leaked US Nuclear Posture Review which last month named seven countries, including Iran, Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Syria and Libya as potential targets for US nuclear strikes.

"The 'Nuclear Posture Review' flouts everything... and threatens the very foundation of the NPT (Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) and the nuclear non-proliferation regime," the address said.

Veteran anti-landmines campaigner Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1997 for her work, condemned Washington's response to September 11.

She said the supposedly international response "is used as a mask to do whatever they want in a unilateral fashion."

However, US State Department advisor on arms control issues Mark Groombridge stoutly defended US actions and insisted the US would go ahead with its anti-ballistic missile defense system despite widespread condemnation.

He singled out North Korea and Iraq as violators of the NPT, while citing the lack of compliance to the Biological Weapons Convention by Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea as the reason the US stymied the treaty in December.

"It has become fashionable to characterize the United States as unilateralist and against all arms control agreements, but contrary to what some may believe, the United States is not walking away from the international community," he said.

"The United States remains firmly committed to multilateral arms control agreements that our in our self interests," he said. 



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