UNITED NATIONS -
The United States and Britain are facing strong resistance over their attempt to hastily rush through the Security Council a proposed resolution aimed at preventing terrorists and other ''non-state actors'' from trafficking in and acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The opposition comes not only from most of the 10 elected, non-permanent members of the council but also from an international coalition of over 2,000 peace activists, anti-war groups and members of civil society representing 85 countries.
''The entire resolution was drafted and discussed behind closed doors by the five veto-wielding permanent members (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China) with hardly any inputs from us,'' a Third World diplomat representing one of the council's elected members, told IPS on Wednesday.
The five permanent members of the council are also the world's only declared nuclear states.
The diplomat, who refused to be identified, said most of the elected members do not want to be rushed into taking a decision.
''We are told it took five months for the Big Five to finalize the draft. Perhaps it could take another five months for us to study and decide on it. We are in no hurry,'' he added, conveying virtually the collective voice of the 10 elected members.
The 10 are Angola, Chile, Germany, Pakistan, Spain, Algeria, Benin, Brazil, the Philippines and Romania.
Ambassador Abdullah Baali of Algeria said last week, ''non-proliferation is better dealt with through treaty negotiations, not Security Council mandates. It would be a mistake to do it through the Security Council.''
But he said his government would support the draft, with reservations.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte has insisted the proposed resolution would not ''supersede, undercut or undermine existing disarmament and non-proliferation regimes''.
The United States has said it would like to see the resolution adopted as soon as possible, maybe within weeks. Washington had suggested a deadline of Mar. 31-- seven days after the five-page resolution was formally presented to the Security Council.
Both Russia and China have also expressed reservations over the proposal's language, but have not said they will oppose the resolution.
''There are many council members who are concerned with the resolution and concerned with the lack of transparency on the initial negotiations,'' Susi Snyder of the U.N. Office of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, told reporters Wednesday.
John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy, thinks a decision on the draft resolution will be delayed because of strong resistance from council members, none of who want to be publicly identified.
Burroughs told IPS there is a ''lot of dissatisfaction'' among the 10 elected council members over the plan. Still, he added, the United States and Britain might not find it difficult to get the nine votes needed to adopt the proposal.
''I think they would prefer to have consensus among all 15 members on such an important resolution,'' added Burroughs, who is also a member of the Global Council of the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons.
In a letter to the 15 members of the Security Council, Abolition 2000 says, ''while the proposed resolution affirms support for multilateral treaties on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, it refers only to prevention of proliferation, and is silent, rhetorically and substantively, on ending deployment of existing weapons and on the imperative of disarmament.''
The resolution is flawed, it says, because it fails to acknowledge the disarmament obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to identify measures to reduce and eliminate nuclear arsenals.
''Proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and their potential acquisition by terrorists, will never be effectively addressed so long as nuclear weapons are highly valued by major powers,'' the letter said.
If the resolution is adopted, the coalition added, it would also represent a far-reaching assumption of authority by the Security Council to enact global legislation requiring each state to modify its national legal system and policies.
The coalition includes the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment, Atomic Mirror and the Western States Legal Foundation.
Jayantha Dhanapala, a former U.N. under-secretary-general for disarmament affairs, told IPS that the Security Council has not often addressed the subject of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
''That it should do so now in the limited context of the proliferation of such weapons to non-state actors must be welcomed,'' he added.
''However,'' said Dhanapala, ''the credibility of the proposed resolution would have been greatly enhanced if the logical connection between non-discriminatory non-proliferation and verifiable disarmament was acknowledged.''
''All WMD treaties have a disarmament core and honoring these treaty obligations leads to a WMD-free global society. There are no safe hands for highly dangerous weapons and any possession of WMD will lead inevitably to proliferation,'' he warned.
Burroughs is urging the Security Council to hold comprehensive consultations with all interested states and civil society. ''The resolution must not be fast-tracked; the issues are too complex and important,'' he said.
Last month Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan admitted he was responsible for transferring nuclear technology to several countries, including Libya.
''The proposed resolution seems to have been directed at countries like Pakistan,'' Jim Paul of the Global Policy Forum told IPS. ''Pakistan has been very vocal on the subject,'' he said, and has complained about the lack of transparency in negotiating the resolution.
''This is a classic case of the five permanent (council) members working in secrecy. This process has been going on for years. If they can get away with it, they'd happily do so'', he said.
These five countries must be slowed down, Paul added, pointing out that the elected council members have the capacity to withhold their votes. ''But it all depends on how much leverage they have in being able to resist.''
Paul also characterized the proposed resolution as an attempt to supersede international law created by treaties. ''If the Security Council is given the power to do this, it short-circuits the treaty process,'' he said.
The council, he pointed out, is much less representative of the international community -- and the permanent five are even less representative, Paul added.
Copyright © 2004 IPS-Inter Press Service