USIS Washington 

21 January 1999


(Says FMCT is a "very high" U.S. priority) (540)
By Wendy Lubetkin
USIA European Correspondent

Geneva -- John Holum, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and
International Security Affairs and Director of the U.S. Arms Control
and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), says he is confident that negotiations
on a treaty to ban production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons
will get under way soon at the Conference on Disarmament (CD).

A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) remains a "very high priority
of the United States and a number of other countries," Holum told a
press briefing in Geneva January 21.

"It is basically the means we have to cap the potential for nuclear
weapons globally by limiting their basic ingredients: that is, the
highly enriched uranium and the plutonium that are necessary to make
nuclear weapons."

After addressing the Conference, and meeting with representatives of a
number of its member states, Holum said he believes the CD is "in the
mood to get back down to what this committee is known for: producing
real, enforceable, effective, practical results in arms control and

The CD opened the first part of its 1999 session January 19 with
Ambassador Robert Grey, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the
Conference on Disarmament, as its President. Presidency of the CD
rotates among the body's 61-member states.

Holum said the United States is "looking forward to a great deal of
progress" during the current session. "There are some obstacles, but I
think the negotiations will get under way soon."

"I think there is general agreement that the FMCT is ripe for
negotiation," he declared.

"Last year was a wake-up call that reminded all of us that there is
still a great deal to be done if we are going to get on top of the
problem of non-proliferation. In particular the nuclear tests in South
Asia; missile tests in Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan; the continued
defiance of Iraq, and other challenges underscore that we have a great
deal of work to do."

Holum was asked why the United States opposes negotiations within the
Conference on Disarmament to reduce fissile material stockpiles.

Pointing out that the United States and Russia are engaged in
eliminating very large stockpiles of HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) and
plutonium from weapons that are being dismantled, Holum said the
United States believes reductions are "more appropriately a bilateral
or regional effort rather than an element of the Fissile Material
Cutoff Treaty globally."

"This is for a very practical reason. I don't know how an
international body could decide on the appropriate measures for the
elimination of stocks, or more importantly, on what size stocks are
appropriate," he told questioners.

Asked about Iraq, Holum said there is no question but that Iraqi
leader Saddam Hussein will seek to reconstitute his capabilities with
regard to weapons of mass destruction. "So we certainly regard Iraq as
a continuing threat in the region. What is most important now is to
find some way to restore Iraq's cooperation with UNSCOM (United
Nations Special Commission) in carrying out the necessary
inspections," he said.