Tracking Number:  390827

Title:  "Last-Minute Egyptian Move Sets Back NPT Conference Deadline." Egypt's last-minute submission of a draft resolution on Israel forced a delay in ending debate at the NPT conference. (950510)

Date:  19950510

LAST-MINUTE EGYPTIAN MOVE SETS BACK NPT CONFERENCE DEADLINE (NPT: Majority for indefinite extension holds firm) (950) By Jacquelyn S. Porth and Judy Aita USIA Staff Correspondents United Nations -- While President Clinton was sending a clear message to the world from Moscow that the United States and Russia strongly support indefinite extension of the NPT, halfway round the world delegates to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference wrangled over the final details of extending the treaty.

At the United Nations, treaty conference president Jayantha Dhanapala haggled with delegates on a package of documents designed to close the conference with consensus.

Dhanapala had given delegates a May 10 deadline to complete deliberations on the outcome of extension, but a one-day postponement was prompted by a last-minute submission of a draft resolution by Egypt, the absence of sufficient time for delegations to conduct end-game consultations with home offices, and a Muslim holiday still ongoing in some parts of the world.

The Egyptian draft, co-sponsored by Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen, calls on Israel, by name, "to accede without delay to the NPT and to place all of its nuclear activities under IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) full-scope safeguards."

The Egyptian submission complicated the negotiations for consensus because the Egyptian delegation insisted that its separate resolution be adopted prior to the delegates' decision on the final package of conference extension documents. All delegate actions must be completed by May 12, when the month-long NPT conference is scheduled end.

Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Elaraby said that the Arab Groups's resolution "does not ask for anything which is not factual...namely, that there are countries in the Middle East that are not party to the NPT."

"We are here in the conference of the NPT....We are members of a club, and we would like those who are not members to be kind enough to come and join," Elaraby said. "We are open minded and working with an open heart and are willing to work to get language that will be acceptable to all," the Egyptian envoy said, adding that he is working with the United States and Dhanapala to accomplish that end.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said that "the U.S. objectives in this effort are rather simple -- to ensure that the language incorporates our stated policy on the Middle East which includes, obviously, the goal of a Middle East weapons of mass destruction free zone as well as the relationship of that to the peace process. We are seeking to ensure that any such document does not excessively single out or isolate any particular country in the region."

The official said that the United States is not objecting to a resolution that mentions Israel, but it wants to "ensure that no country, including Israel, is unduly isolated or singled out."

The United States would like to have the conference extend the NPT indefinitely, especially by consensus, the official said. But if the Arab Group resolution cannot be worked out and the 14 nation coalition will not go along with the consensus that has developed around the other documents, the United States is prepared to vote on the extension proposal, he said.

North Korea, meanwhile, also delivered another last-minute surprise when its permanent representative sent a letter to Dhanapala advising that its delegation would not participate "in adopting decisions or documents at the conference" because "the document drafted at the conference meetings unreasonably represents the nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula according to the outdated prejudices, ignoring the realities."

Despite the letter, North Korea remains bound by the outcome of the review conference as a party to the treaty.

In an unusual attempt to reach consensus on extension, the conference president has submitted his own draft proposal. It would enhance review procedures for the treaty in the future, put forward a statement of principles on the urgent need for NPT universality, endorse nuclear weapons free zones, call on the nuclear weapons states to reaffirm their commitment to good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament, seek additional steps regarding security assurances, urge regular assessments and evaluations of IAEA safeguards, and stress the importance of NPT parties exercising their right to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy without discrimination.

Despite last minute conference intrigues, George Bunn, one of the original negotiators of the now 178-member NPT regime and a former official of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, expressed surprise at the "overwhelmingly" large degree of support for making the treaty permanent.

As of May 10, there were 107 co-sponsors of Canada's proposal to extend the treaty indefinitely, and the private Washington-based Campaign for the Non-Proliferation Treaty counts another 13 countries that have expressed public support for NPT permanence but have not signed on as co-sponsors.

Even though the Egyptian action created a "stumbling block" to efforts to move quickly to consensus on extending the treaty, William Potter of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California described it as a temporary collapse and not the end of the story on extension. But he noted during a press briefing that, even with 107 nations co-sponsoring the Canadian proposal for indefinite extension, a successful document still needs at least several Arab co-sponsors to provide regional representation.

Potter also predicted that NPT conference deliberations would be bolstered by statements made at the U.S.-Russian summit suggesting that the two sides would try to achieve ratification of the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by year's end.