UN considers measure banning arms to terrorists
The United States and Britain asked the U.N. Security Council to approve a resolution that would ban the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists and others acting without state authority.
The complicated five-page draft, under discussion among the major council powers over the last four months, would compel nations to adopt and enforce laws prohibiting a "non-state actor" from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
It was introduced by the United States on Wednesday and co-sponsored by Britain after being promoted by U.S. President Bush in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly last September. France, Russia and China support the draft.
The measure would require all 191 U.N. members to "adopt and enforce appropriate effective laws" to prevent "any non-state actor" from being able to "manufacture, acquire, possess, develop, transport or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery."
"What we have to do is to stop the ultimate nightmare -- of bringing together weapons of mass destruction and the terrorists," said Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry.
The document invokes Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, a provision that makes the resolution mandatory. Chapter 7 allows sanctions and military force but in this case neither applies.
It calls on governments to penalize those helping terrorists obtain weapons, but does not provide any sanctions if the states do not comply. Instead U.S. officials said they relied mainly on "name and shame" pressures on errant nations.
China insisted the original draft drop a provision on the interdiction of suspected shipments of unconventional weapons. But U.S. officials said that an existing Proliferation Security Initiative, which so far involves 15 countries, provides legal power to board ships.
John Bolton, U.S. undersecretary of state for non-proliferation, pointed to a provision in the resolution calling on nations to take "cooperative action" to prevent the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction in accordance with domestic and international law.
"We are making a political statement and confirming what we already have regarding international and national authority," Bolton told Reuters by telephone from Washington.
John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the focus of the resolution was how to "fill gaps."
No date was set for a vote. But Algeria's U.N. ambassador, Abdallah Baali, said council nations wanted all 191 U.N. member states to be briefed on the measure. As a result, adoption of the resolution "will take longer."
The new draft defines a "non-state actor" as an individual or entity not acting under the lawful authority of any state in conducting the banned activities.
Under that definition, a target would be A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist who smuggled nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya, and is now under house arrest.
Pakistan, a council member, said it had to seek instructions first, diplomats reported.