Mr Chairman,

I should first like to congratulate you most warmly on your election as Chairman of this Committee. You can rely on the support of the French delegation in the exercise of your important duties. It will spare no effort in ensuring the success of the work of this Committee, under your authority.

The Treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons has now been in force for thirty years. Since it became effective on 5 March 1970, its accomplishments have been impressive. As the focal point of all efforts to promote disarmament and combat the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it is the basis for strengthening the non-proliferation instruments while encouraging the development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy. With a list of signatories now 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 States Parties is obviously of crucial importance.

The NPT verification system must be flawless, in order to avoid any breach of the trust in that internationally recognized legal instrument. Should the international community come to lose confidence in the safeguards system, the balance which made the NPT a universally-accepted standard would be called into question. 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 Decision 2 on the principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, the 1995 Conference confirmed the IAEA's role as the competent authority on safeguards, to which individual countries should turn to report their concerns about nuclear proliferation. The comprehensive safeguards system is therefore of vital importance. Its credibility and reliability are crucial.


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 conclude, as soon as possible, 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 contain 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 capabilities.

The discovery, almost ten years ago, of Iraq's clandestine weapons programme, was a major test of the safeguards system. Indeed, the inspections conducted by the IAEA pursuant to SCR 687 revealed that Iraq, a party to the NPT and signatory of a safeguards agreement, had been engaged for almost a decade in illegal activities which had brought it to the threshold of nuclear weapons possession despite the inspections carried out under the safeguards agreement. 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 the permanent nature of the NPT and the Agency's credibility, had the opposite effect: they led to a considerable strengthening of the IAEA safeguards system in order to make it really effective. The international community, aware of the major asset represented by strengthened safeguards in the fight against proliferation, succeeded in overcoming its differences, especially as regards those provisions which limit the sovereignty of the States, and agreed a model additional protocol to the safeguards agreements, which was adopted by the Board of Governors on 15 May 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 a quarter of the States Parties. Nine have ratified the agreement. This trend, still too timid, has to gain momentum. France calls on all the States, which have not yet done so, to conclude an additional protocol with the Agency as soon as possible, so that the safeguards strengthening programme can be extensively implemented at an early date. France also notes with satisfaction that after taking an active part in drafting the model protocol, the five nuclear weapon States are now showing their support for the strengthening of the safeguards by concluding agreements with the Agency.

With all its civilian nuclear installations, numbering about one hundred, already under EURATOM control, France has pledged to implement 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 was confirmed and formalized with the signature of the additional protocol between France, EURATOM and the IAEA. A similar protocol has been signed by the United Kingdom. Thus, two nuclear weapon States joined, alongside the thirteen non-nuclear weapon States of the European Union, which also signed the model additional protocol with EURATOM and the IAEA on the same day, the list of States which accept new binding rules to preserve the credibility of the non-proliferation regime.

Following the signature of the protocol, France initiated the necessary internal procedures in order to get the strengthened safeguards agreement ratified as quickly as possible. Like the other EU members, France will spare no effort in seeking to achieve that goal as soon as possible.


While appreciating 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 programme and undertaking additional tasks related to the control of materials from dismantled nuclear weapons compel the Agency to develop new approaches to the application of safeguards, requiring advanced techniques, far more complex than simply accounting for nuclear materials. 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. When it is excessive, this funding from sources outside the regular budget leads to an unhealthy situation, detrimental to programme planning. It is therefore important that the international community provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with the requisite resources to fulfil the responsibilities it has entrusted to it.

In this respect, France supports the steps taken by the Agency, in accordance with the resolution adopted during its 42nd General Conference, to develop an integrated safeguards system. The goal is to avoid superfluous measures and the unnecessary stacking up of measures provided for by conventional safeguards and those included in the strengthened safeguards protocol. The system should thus make the safeguards more effective while reducing the costs. This programme should help ease the burden which will inevitably fall on the Agency when it has to implement, as we hope it will, the measures arising from the protocol in a large number of States Parties. France will contribute to these studies by assigning experts to them and supporting their work through the French safeguards support programme.


The support of the NPT by the vast majority of States proves 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 any new deterioration of the situation - 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 example shows the importance of good cooperation on the part 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.


As I mentioned earlier, Iraq is another cause for concern. Through the verification programme it had conducted in Iraq since 1991 - an important task, efficiently performed, to whose results France pays tribute - 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 illegal nuclear programme. Even if some points remain to be clarified, since the Agency has been unable to fulfil its mandate for over a year, these do not prevent the implementation of a system of continuous surveillance.

However, the process which should allow the resumption of inspection activities in Iraq is now under way. Following the adoption of SCR 1284 on 17 December 1999, a new United Nations Monitoring, 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, on 15 April, to approve the plan for organizing this Commission, and assures Mr Hans Blix and the new Commission of its support in implementing all the provisions of SCR 1284.

The return of security and stability to that Middle East 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 Iraq. When the Commission is ready to start work, we must make every effort to obtain Iraq's cooperation, which is essential for the implementation of SCR 1284. I assure you, Mr Chairman, that France will spare no effort to obtain that result.

France notes that verification of the physical inventory of the declared nuclear materials was made by the IAEA in January this year, in accordance with the safeguards agreement signed by Iraq in 1972 under the NPT.

The security of nuclear materials and installations is a basic objective of the fight against proliferation and illicit trading in nuclear and radioactive material for proliferation or criminal purposes, and vital if we are 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 which need them for their development, so that the international community can be sure that such trade will not result in any misappropriation for illicit purposes. These are areas in which France is particularly active, and on which I will elaborate in my contribution to Committee III on the peaceful applications of nuclear energy.

France attaches importance to the safe and effective management of the stockpiles of fissile material considered by the States concerned to be no longer necessary for their defence needs. Efforts have already been initiated to this end. However, the financing of the new projects by increasing the number of special funds is not desirable. Measures contributing to cuts in nuclear armaments serve the common interest and it's logical for each State to contribute to their funding. The verification of such fissile material can be funded only through the regular budget.

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 fight against proliferation. The terms of the agreement, obtained after extensive work by the Agency's secretariat and the delegations, are well-balanced. It recognizes that, although real, the risk of proliferation of separated neptunium is considerably lower than that with regard to uranium or plutonium and that, at present, there is practically no risk of proliferation with regard to americium. Neptunium monitoring will be carried out 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 funds to be shifted from the Agency's other activities, at a time when the maintaining of a zero real growth policy is leading to difficulties in carrying out all the top priority tasks.

The fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons is something the entire international community has to be involved in. The development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy, and global security, are contingent upon the universal and effective application of the IAEA safeguards. France is giving its unqualified support to all the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community in the fight against proliferation and calling upon the other States to do their utmost to eliminate the proliferation of nuclear weapons and illicit trading in nuclear materials.