Published on Saturday, June 3, 2006 by OneWorld.net
Blix Report on WMD Met with Calls to Outlaw Nuclear Materials
by Haider Rizvi
UNITED NATIONS - Though appreciative of what Hans Blix has recommended in a new report on the threats of weapons of mass destruction, some key disarmament advocacy groups say they are disappointed with the former UN chief weapons inspector's suggestion that the risk of nuclear proliferation could be minimized by controlling uranium and plutonium production.
"No notion of controlling and safeguarding the production, transport, and use of nuclear weapons material can ever be 100 percent guaranteed," said Felicity Hill of Greenpeace International, one of the world's leading environmental groups, following the release of the 231-page report Blix submitted to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday.
"The only rational conclusion is to reject nuclear power," Hill added. "The only way to eliminate the risk of diversion or theft by terrorists is to eliminate the material themselves, which means no nuclear power."
Like many others, the group calls for the world community instead to take up the challenge of developing renewable energy sources, which they believe have the double benefit of being both climate friendly and having no weapons utility whatsoever.
But the Commission does not even mention the possibility of phasing out nuclear energy. Instead it emphasizes the need for exploring options other than uranium enrichment and plutonium separation activities in order to reduce the dangers of possible weapons manufacturing, according to environmental groups.
"This is a serious flaw," said Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation (WSLF), a California-based independent group that monitors the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. In her view, the Commission should have stressed the need for funding for sustainable energy resources both at the national as well as international level.
In its report, the Commission observes that the plutonium obtained from spent reactor fuel "can be used to make bombs, but its isotopic composition is not ideal for the purpose."
"This is correct," said Hill, Greenpeace's nuclear policy advisor, "but the Commission reaches the wrong conclusion."
Leaving such criticism aside, however, both Greenpeace and the WSLF, as well as many other groups, fully endorsed the Commission's recommendations to the UN chief on reducing the threats posed by the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
"For too long now," said John Burroughs, executive director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, "Americans have been hearing the message that nuclear weapons are unacceptable in the hands of rogue states and terrorists. The Blix report rightly says that these catastrophic devices are dangerous in anyone's hands."
The report identifies three waves of nuclear proliferation: first the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China; second, India, Pakistan, and Israel; and third Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and possibly Iran.
"So long as any state has nuclear weapons, others will want them," says the report. "So long as any such weapons remain, there is a risk that they will one day be used, by design or accident."
While nuclear weapons programs have been reversed in Iraq and Libya, the report conveys that the third wave is nonetheless sending an ominous signal. The Commission observes that effective use of international institutions can help contain the spread of nuclear and other weapons.
The report says that while international observers rely on national intelligence, governments should also pay attention to international inspectors, adding that they were "after all proved right in the case of Iraq."
The United States, therefore, "should take this to heart" with respect to Iran, where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has extensive on-the-ground experience and so far has not concluded that there is a nuclear weapons program, it adds.
"Fundamentally, the solution embraced by the Commission, and long advocated by my organization, is that proliferation must be reversed where it began: in the United States," said Burroughs, whose group agrees with the Commission that the United States should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), reduce its nuclear arsenals along with Russia, and accept a verifiable ban on fissile material production for nuclear weapons.
For its part, Greenpeace said it fully endorsed the Commission's call that countries should "accept that nuclear weapons should be outlawed, as are biological and chemical weapons; and explore the political, legal, technical, and procedural options for achieving this within a reasonable time."
"While the world watches with concern at the heated political negotiation over Iran's nuclear weapons program and holds its breath to see what the United States will do next," said Hill, noting that the Commission criticized all countries involved in proliferation, "Iran is not excluded [from the Commission's criticism] for its continued obfuscation, nor the United States for its illegal doctrine of pre-emption and its more than 5,000 nuclear weapons, which are a major provocation for further proliferation."
The Commission observes that the U.S. is looking to its own military power for remedies, as it made clear in its 2002 National Security Strategy that said its armed forces would feel free to use force without authorization of the UN Security Council to counter not only "an actual or imminent attack, but also a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat that might be uncertain as to time and place."
This makes Greenpeace's Hill and others keep wondering.
"The question is, will the U.S. heed Blix's call and lead by example or continue to undermine international diplomacy and peace by pursuing its policy of leading by force," she said.
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