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10 Nations Urge New Push for Non-Proliferation

by Juergen Baetz

BERLIN - Japan, Canada, Australia, Germany and six other nations urged other countries in the international community Saturday to renew efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear material.

The goal of their initiative is to "work toward achieving nuclear disarmament and a strengthening of the international non-proliferation regime," the foreign ministers of the 10 countries said in a joint statement.

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The group said it is urgent to reduce the "danger to humanity posed by the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons" and to achieve tangible results on the path toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

The production of fissile material for nuclear weapons should be banned internationally "to curb the risk of future nuclear arms races and reduce the danger of non-state actors getting such material into their hands," the ministers said.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also told journalists in Berlin that the group agrees that the international treaty banning nuclear tests should be swiftly adopted by all countries. In addition, nuclear weapon states should show greater transparency regarding their arsenal, he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd lamented that one year after the latest review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, "we have seen very little practical work done."

The treaty, which came into force in 1970, is one of the international community's main set of rules regarding nuclear disarmament and the prevention of proliferation. There are 190 states who are party to the treaty, but four nations that are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons - India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel - have not endorsed it.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, or CTBT, in turn, has been ratified by 153 nations, but it has not yet taken effect because several key countries - those listed above and others - refuse to sign and ratify the treaty.

"We call on all states which have not yet done so to sign and ratify the CTBT," the ministers in Berlin said.

"We believe that an effective end to nuclear testing will enhance and not weaken our national as well as global security and would significantly bolster the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime," the statement added.

Finally, the ministers' group stressed the important role played by the U.N.'s nuclear agency, the IAEA, in verifying countries' compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations, which should be further strengthened.

Japan's foreign minister said he had briefed the group on the progress made in securing the crippled Fukushima Dai-Chi nuclear facility.

"In the area of nuclear power, a consensus has been reached to further strengthen safety measures," Takeaki Matsumoto said through a translator.

Germany hosted the disarmament talks that were also attended by the foreign ministers from Chile, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Poland and Turkey.

Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa stressed the importance of the group of 10 nations stretching across continents and political blocks, saying their joint effort reflects "the importance of this issue that has a direct impact of the future of humanity."

The group's next meeting is planned on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September.

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