UNITED NATIONS - The United States will stay away
from a U.N. conference opening on Sunday to promote a global
ban on nuclear weapons tests, a senior State Department
official said on Friday.
``We will not attend the conference,'' said the official, who
asked not to be named. He did not elaborate on the reasons.
The aim of the conference is to review progress toward
ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which
would ban all nuclear blasts, whether in the atmosphere, in
space or underground.
The Pentagon, hoping to hasten the treaty's death, has been
pressing the administration for months to sit out the meeting,
which initially was scheduled for late September but postponed
after the Sept. 11 suicide airliner attacks on New York and
The CTBT has not yet entered into force because it has not
garnered the necessary ratifications. It expands on a 1963
treaty barring tests in the atmosphere and a 1974 treaty
setting limits on underground explosions.
The George W. Bush administration worries that without
testing, it cannot ensure the safety and reliability of U.S.
nuclear arms. Critics say simulated testing conducted via
computers and other technology is sufficient.
U.S. officials insist Bush remains deeply concerned about
nuclear proliferation and expects to continue abiding by a
testing moratorium put in place by his father in 1992.
But critics say a boycott of the U.N. conference will be a
powerful message to allies strongly backing the CTBT that
Washington wanted to go it alone on nuclear arms control.
WASHINGTON WAS STRONG BACKER
``This will not be the last word. But it's a sad commentary
on the Bush administration's approach to post-September 11
weapons-of-mass-destruction challenges,'' said Daryl Kimball,
executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control
``Just as we cannot fight global terror alone, we cannot
alone fight the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons,'' he told Reuters.
Some 79 other nations have signed up to deliver speeches at
the three-day CTBT event, but organizers said earlier on Friday
they had not yet heard from Washington.
The United States was for years a strong backer of the
CTBT, which was 40 years in the making. The pact was approved
by the 189-nation U.N. General Assembly and opened for
signature five years ago.
Under unusual approval procedures, the treaty cannot enter
into force until it is signed and ratified by 44 states --
including the United States -- deemed nuclear arms-capable.
To date, 31 of those 44 countries including avowed nuclear
powers France, Russia and Britain have signed and ratified the
pact. So 13 more must ratify before it can take hold.
In that group, India, Pakistan and North Korea have neither
signed nor ratified the treaty while the United States, China
and eight others have signed but not ratified.
Former President Bill Clinton was the first world leader to
sign the accord, in 1996. But the Senate refused to ratify it
in the partisan-charged run-up to the 2000 election.
Jayantha Dhanapala, the top U.N. disarmament official, said
nuclear rivals India and Pakistan have said they will sign the
pact but still have not done so. No signings or ratifications
are expected to be announced during the U.N. conference, he
The meeting is to end in adoption of a declaration expected
to call on nations that have not yet signed or ratified to do
so as soon as possible.
Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited.