Wednesday, 26 April 2000

Mr Hubert de La Fortelle (French Representative to the Conference on Desarmament)

Mr. Chairman:

I should first like to congratulate you most warmly on your election as President of this Comittee. You can rely on the fullest support from the French delegation in the exercise of your important duties. It will spare no effort in esuring the sucess of the work of this Comittee, under your authorithy.

Mr. Chairman:

The Treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons has now been in force for thirty years. Since it became effective in 1970, its accomplishments have been impressive. As the focal point of all efforts toward disarmament and against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it is the basis for strengthening the non-proliferation instruments while facilitating the development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy. With a list of signatories numbering 187 States, the Treaty is recognized by an overwhelming majority of the international community as a major legal instrument, a majority which gives the Treaty its authoritative status. The 1995 Review and Extension Conference has affirmed and strengthened that status by deciding on an indefinite extension of the Treaty.

As the issue is the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the verification of the commitments made by the parties to the Treaty is obviously of crucial importance.

Mr. Chairman:

The NPT verification system must be flawless, to avoid any breach of the trust in that internationally recognized legal instrument. Should the international community happen to lose confidence in the safeguards system the balance which made the NPT a universally-accepted standard would be at issue. The verification system was created in the early seventies, as the NPT was entering into force, and its implementation was entrusted to the International Atomic Energy Agency through the comprehensive safeguards system. In Point 9 of its No. 2 principles and objectives for nuclear non proliferation and disarmement the 1995 Conference confirmed the IAEA in its role as the competent authority on safeguards, which individual countries should consult with to report their concerns about nuclear proliferation. The comprehensive safeguards system is therefore of vital importance. Its credibility and reliability are crucial.

Mr. Chairman:

The IAEA safeguards agreements are becoming more effective and universal. The fact remains, however, that 54 countries, parties to the NPT, have yet to sign a comprehensive safeguards agreement, which they are obliged to do under Article III of the Treaty. In France's view, the universality of safeguards, which follows from NPT universality, is a goal of prime importance. France urges all the States, which have not yet done so, to enter comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA.

In the recent past, the NPT verification system has met with difficulties due to its own inadequacies. There was no legal way for the IAEA to inspect installations which might have contained undeclared material, and the inspection of clandestine facilities suspected of harbouring proliferating activities was out of the question. The credibility of the entire system was being jeopardized by the lack of effective inspection capabilities.

The discovery, almost ten years ago, of Iraq's clandestine weapons program, was a major test of the safeguards system. The inspections conducted by the IAEA pursuant to resolution 687 revealed that Iraq, a party to the NPT and having signed a safeguards agreement, had been engaged for almost a decade in concealed activities which had brought it to the threshold of nuclear weapons possession. The system's credibility suffered a severe blow. It took another when the Democratic People's Republic of Korea objected to the verification of its initial inventory declaration by the Agency's inspectors.

These events, which could have jeopardized NPT's continuity and the Agency's credibility, have had the opposite effect: they led to a considerable strengthening of the IAEA safeguards system to make it really effective. The international community, fully aware of the major asset represented by strengthened safeguards in the struggle against proliferation, succeeded in overcoming its own differences, especially as regards those provisions which limit the sovereignty of the States, and came to an understanding on a model of additional protocol to the safeguards agreements, finally adopted by the Board of Governors on May 15, 1997. The strengthened safeguards give the Agency considerable investigating powers.

Nearly two years after the model protocol received approval, additional protocol agreements with the Agency have been signed by 49 States, representing less than one quarter of the parties to the Treaty. Nine of them have ratified the agreement. It is time for this trend to gain momentum. France call on all the States, which have not yet done so, to sign an additional protocol with the Agency as soon as possible, so that the safeguards strengthening program can be extensively implemented at an early date. France also notes with satisfaction that the five Nuclear Weapons States, having taken an active part in the drafting of the protocol, are now setting an example by supporting the strengthening of the safeguards through agreements with the Agency.

With all its civilian nuclear installations, numbering about one hundred, already under EURATOM control, France is committed to implementing, on its territory, all the relevant protocol provisions which could make the safeguards more effective and serve the cause of nuclear non-proliferation in the non-nuclear weapon States. That commitment has been confirmed and formalized when France, EURATOM and the IAEA signed the additional protocol. A similar protocol was signed by the United Kingdom. Two Nclear Wapon States have then joined, on the side of the thirteen Non Nuclear Wapon States of the european Union, which also signed the additional protocol with EURATOM and the IAEA on the same day, the list of countries which accept stringent new rules to preserve the credibility of the non proliferation regime.

The protocol having been signed, France has initiated the required procedures to have the strengthened safeguards agreement ratified as soon as possible. As the other E.U. members, France will spare no effort toward the timely achievement of that goal.

Mr. Chairman:

While greatly appreciative of the Agency's efforts to streamline its managerial activities, France is in favour of a reasonable growth of its resources. The implementation of the strengthened safeguards program and the undertaking of additional tasks related to the control of materials from dismantled nuclear weapons compel the Agency to develop new approaches to the application of safeguards, calling upon advanced techniques, far more complex than nuclear material accountancy. The Agency's resources should be commensurate with the responsibilities we entrust to it. The zero real growth budget rule makes it necessary to seek extra budgetary resources to cover approximately 20% of the Department of Safeguards budget. Excessive funding from sources outside the regular budget leads to an unhealthy situation, detrimental to program planification. It is therefore important that the international community provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with the resources its requires to assume the responsibilities entrusted to it.

In this respect, France supports the steps taken by the Agency, in application of the resolution adopted during its 42nd General Conference, to institute an integrated safeguards system. The goal is to avoid redundancies and unnecessary duplications which would result from adding the provisions of conventional safeguards to those included in the strengthened safeguards protocol. The system should thus make the safeguards more effective while reducing the costs. This program should ease the burden on the Agency when it undertakes, as it is hoped the task of implementing the measuresdrawn from the protocol in a large number of Treaty parties. France will contribute to those studies by assigning experts and supporting their work through the French safeguards support program.

Mr. Chairman:

The support of the NPT by an overwhelming majority of States shows that the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is one of the international community's major concerns. In contrast, it makes even more unacceptable the continued obstruction by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of the Agency's efforts to enforce North Korea's safeguards agreement. Although the agreed framework which France supports within the European Union has made it possible to freeze that country's nuclear activities and prevent the situation from deteriorating – a noteworthy achievement – the verification of the initial inventory declaration is still an unresolved issue. As the IAEA's Director General reminded the 43rd Conference, "The Agency is still unable to verify that all the nuclear material subject to safeguards in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been reported to the Agency." (This illustrates the importance of a good cooperation of the States concerned for the effective implementation of international instruments). France calls upon the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to abide by its commitments regarding nuclear site inspections, and to give unrestricted access to all its nuclear installations.

Mr. Chairman:

As I mentioned earlier, Iraq is another cause for concern. Through the verification program it had conducted in Iraq since 1991 – an important task, efficiently performed, which France regards as praiseworthy – the Agency had been able, as early as October, 1997, to draw, in the words of the Director General (in the S/1997/779 activity report), a technically coherent picture of Iraq's clandestine nuclear program. Even if some points remain to be clarified, they do not stand in the way of the on going monitoring and verification plan. It is highly regrettable that all cooperation between Iraq, the IAEA and the Special Commission has been broken off since December 16, 1998, the Agency no longer being in a position to fullfil its mandate.

However, Mr. Chairman, the process which should lead to the resumption of inspection activities in Iraq is now under way. Following the adoption of resolution 1284 by the Security Council on December 18, 1999, a new United Nations Monotoring, Verification and Inspection Commission is being gradually set up, with the IAEA retaining its former responsibilities in the nuclear field. The French delegation hails the Security Council's unanimous decision, made on April 15, to approve the Commission's organization plan, and assures Mr. Hans Blix and the new commission of its support in implementing all the provisions of resolution 1284.

Mr. Chairman:

The return of security and stability to that Mid-Eastern region is the first priority. We must look to the future and prevent Iraq from rearming; to that end, we must ensure that the inspectors return to the field. When the Commission is ready for operation, we must make every effort to obtain Iraq's cooperation, an essential element of the application of resolution 1284. I assure you, Mr. Chairman, that France will spare no effort to obtain that result.

A verification of the physical inventory of the nuclear materials reported on the Tuwaitha site was made by the IAEA in January of this year, in compliance with the safeguards agreement signed by Iraq in 1972 under the NPT. France notes that this verification, necessary in regard to Iraq's commitments, cannot be viewed as a substitute for the Agency's activities pursuant to the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, which are essential to assure the success of its mission and obtain the assurances demanded by the Council.

Mr. Chairman:

The security of nuclear materials and installations is a basic objective of the struggle against proliferation, and against illicit trading in nuclear and radioactive material for proliferation or criminal purposes, as well as an imperative to establish a climate of confidence for the development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy. The orderly development of nuclear trade also requires effective, objective and transparent export controls, with relations of mutual respect between the States supplying the technologies and those who need them for their development, to give the international community the assurance that such trade will not result in diversions for illicit purposes. These are fields where France is particularly active, and on which I will elaborate in my contribution to Committee III on the peaceful applications of nuclear energy.

France regards as important that the stockpiles of fissile materials considered by the countries concerned in excess of defence purpose be managed safely and efficiently. Efforts have been undertaken in that direction. However, the financing of new actions by multiplying special funds is not desirable. Measures contributing to cuts in nuclear armaments serve the common interest and logic dictates that each individual State make a contribution to their funding. The verification of such fissile materials can only be funded through the regular budget.

Mr. Chairman:

France hails the agreement reached by the IAEA's Board of Governors on the potential proliferation risks of two minor actinides, Neptunium and Americium, generated through the irradiation of Uranium in nuclear reactors. This agreement is a step forward in the struggle against proliferation. The terms of the agreement, finalized after extensive work by the Agency's secretariat and the delegations, are well-balanced. It recognizes that the proliferation risk with regard to neptunium is considerably lower than that with regard to uranium or plutonium and that, at present, there is pratically no proliferation risk with regard to americium. Neptunium monitoring will be implemented on a voluntary basis. This will not affect the implementation of the Agency's safeguards, which remains the top priority, and will require no additional fund to be shifted from the Agency's other activities, at a time when the maintaining of a zero real growth policy is conducive to difficulties in carrying out the top priority tasks.

Mr. Chairman:

The fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a concern for the entire international community. The development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy, and global security are contingent upon the universal and effective application of IAEA's safeguards. France gives its unqualified support to the International Atomic Energy Agency and to the international community in their efforts against proliferation and calls upon all the other States to make every effort to eradicate the proliferation of nuclear weapons and illicit trading in nuclear materials.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman