Tracking Number:  387636

Title:  "Secret Ballot on NPT Extension Called 'Wrong Thing to Do'." The US says secret balloting on the extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) would create regional suspicions because countries would not know their neighbor's views on the treaty. (950418)

Translated Title:  Califican de "error" el voto secreto sobre prorroga del TNP. (950418)
Date:  19950418

SECRET BALLOT ON NPT EXTENSION CALLED "WRONG THING TO DO" (NPT: Would breed suspicion, Holum says) (560) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- The United States will continue to "argue strongly" against secret balloting on the extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the head of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) said April 18.

John Holum, ACDA director, said at a press conference that "voting by secret ballot in this most public of decisions is the wrong thing to do."

"I don't have any idea what impact (secret balloting) would have on the votes....I do know what the impact would be on the treaty; it would breed suspicion where confidence is the purpose of this entire enterprise," he said.

"Not knowing what your neighbor's views were as to the treaty would create doubts at the regional level and also internationally," he said.

As the 1995 Conference of the Parties to the NPT opened April 17, the remaining procedural issue was whether the balloting, which will begin the week of May 7, is to be by secret ballot or open roll call.

According to the terms of the treaty, at this review conference -- 25 years after the treaty's entry into force -- the majority of states party to the treaty will decide on one of three options: whether the treaty should continue in force indefinitely, be extended for a fixed period, or be extended for a series of periods.

The states parties, which currently number 178, set the rules of procedure, however.

Delegates have already agreed to a "winnowing" voting procedure, in which the first ballot will include all proposals for extension, but the proposal receiving the least number of votes will be dropped at the end of each successive ballot.

Negotiations will continue under the auspices of conference president Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka. Dhanapala said he hopes a decision can be reached by April 26. States in favor of the secret ballot argue that that process would be more fair and less subject to strong arm tactics and pressures. Others argue that the vote must be open, recorded and accountable.

Some argue that a secret ballot would remove the pressure being applied by the United States and others, Holum said. But he pointed out that "there is also considerable amount of pressure being exerted in the opposite direction."

"The idea of secret ballot is extraordinarily inappropriate for this kind of a decision," Holum declared.

"As you go through this (voting) process it will be a matter of exchanging views, announcing positions to know where countries stand, and of consulting," he said. "To have the voting conducted without announcing positions avoids those opportunities for all parties. This is a matter of discussion and persuasion, and to deny that opportunity as the decision is being made would be a mistake."

Holum said he believes "the outlook is favorable for indefinite extension" of the NPT.

The ACDA director said he expects "two important events from the conference. One will be the indefinite extension of the treaty. The other will be a conference communique of some kind that assesses the progress of the treaty and looks forward to the future, including continuous review of the treaty as it goes on into the future."