The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, today urged all nations to commit themselves unequivocally to the basic tenets of the nuclear non-proliferation régime, built up over three decades. This implied: universal adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty itself, strong support for the IAEA’s new verification system, acknowledgment of responsibilities to support peaceful nuclear co-operation and the transfer of technology, and accelerated steps towards nuclear disarmament.
Speaking at the opening session of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York on April 24, the Director General observed that the nuclear disarmament process — a fundamental element of the NPT — had been sluggish since the last Review Conference in 1995. Examples he cited were: a slow ratification process for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; disagreements on the continuing validity of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; and the deadlock at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
On the other hand, he noted that in several respects the régime had been strengthened: the Security Council was better placed to exercise its role to induce compliance in case of violations and technology exporting States were more conscious of the need to ensure nuclear related items were not misused. Concerning the contribution of the IAEA, remarkable progress had been achieved in strengthening the verification system of the NPT.
The IAEA’s strengthened verification system represented a new era in the NPT’s history. It was a "smart", non-discriminatory system designed to draw comprehensive conclusions about the State’s compliance with its non-proliferation obligations. It was now crucial that all States subscribe to the new measures. Without such subscription the IAEA’s conclusions would not adequately cover possible undeclared activities.
The Director General emphasized that verification, no matter how good it was, could not work in a vacuum but should continue to be supported by effective physical protection and export control, enforcement mechanisms and, above all, regional and global security arrangements.
In the area of technical co-operation with developing countries in the application of nuclear techniques, steady progress had been achieved through the provision of training, equipment and expert advice. The Director General drew particular attention in this context to co-operation in the fields of human health, food and agriculture, water resources management and environmental monitoring.
Concluding, the Director General suggested that one important and concrete step towards nuclear disarmament would be a comprehensive and in-depth dialogue among the nuclear weapon States on practical measures to gradually reduce the number of, and move away from dependence on, nuclear weapons for their defence strategies, and thus lead by example. Closely linked to that dialogue was the urgent need for a new collective security system, building upon that of the United Nations Charter, which would be more reliable, inclusive and transparent.