8 April 1998

Press Release


Cites Discovery of Iraq's Secret Nuclear Programme, Changed Security Perceptions, in Statement to Disarmament Commission

The safeguards regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had changed from a classical system based on declared nuclear materials to one which required that the Agency develop its capacity to detect undeclared nuclear programmes, the Representative of its Director-General said this afternoon, as the Disarmament Commission continued its general debate.

The discovery in the aftermath of the Gulf War that Iraq, a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), had a secret nuclear programme, had highlighted the limitations of the old system and changed the international community's expectations with respect to safeguards, he said. The Agency had, therefore, approved a comprehensive catalogue of measures aimed at ensuring much greater transparency about the nuclear activities of States.

The strengthening of the IAEA's safeguards system also owed much to changed perceptions about nuclear security, reflecting geopolitical changes resulting from the end of the cold war, he said. It made any diversion of nuclear materials from peaceful purposes more difficult and so contributed to international security.


BERHANYKUN ANDEMICAEL, Representative of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that the selection of the subject of nuclear-weapon-free zones for in-depth consideration by the Commission reflected the general significance attributed to regional non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament endeavours. It also reaffirmed the conviction expressed at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the NPT that the establishment of such zones, particularly in regions of conflict, enhanced global and regional peace and security.

While specific security concerns varied from region to region, common features defined existing nuclear-weapon-free-zone arrangements, he said. Those included the prohibition of the possession, development, acquisition or deployment of nuclear weapons within the area of the Treaty's application; the provision of negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States; and a control system to verify compliance with the legal obligations assumed by the parties. Each control system offered a combination of complementary global and regional recourses. In the global context, parties to the zone were obligated to accept comprehensive IAEA safeguards as a central element. In the regional context, arrangements were crafted to address special or exceptional circumstances.

Although safeguards were neither the first nor the only barrier to proliferation, they provided the international community with assurances about the exclusively peaceful use of nuclear materials and activities, he said. Safeguards made any diversion from peaceful uses more difficult and thus contributed to the security of States and of the international community. The strengthening of the IAEA's safeguards system owed much to changed perception about nuclear security, reflecting the geopolitical changes resulting from the end of the cold war.

He said that the post-Gulf War discovery that Iraq, a party to the NPT, had a secret nuclear programme highlighted the limitations of the classical safeguards system with its emphasis on declared nuclear material. It also changed the expectations placed upon that system by the international

Disarmament Commission - 12 - Press Release DC/2603 221st Meeting (PM) 8 April 1998

community. Most important was the recognition that to function more effectively, the Agency needed a capacity to detect undeclared nuclear programmes. With that key consideration in mind, its policy-making organs approved a comprehensive catalogue of measures aimed at ensuring much greater transparency about the nuclear activities of States, as a means to more effective verification.

The new measures aimed to strengthen the effectiveness and improve the efficiency of the safeguards system, he said. The 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference called upon States parties to support and implement measures to strengthen the Agency's safeguards system. Parties to safeguards agreements would be taking a major step in that direction by concluding with the IAEA a Protocol additional to their respective Safeguards Agreement, for which the Agency had drafted a model text.

Regionally, changing perceptions about what constituted nuclear security also resulted in an expansion of the role of the IAEA in verifying compliance with nuclear-weapon-free-zone obligations, he said. The first such zones, both in uninhabited and populated zones, were created against the backdrop of the narrower, military definition of security and represented the regional or zonal approach to military denuclearization.

Following a detailed comparative review of the four existing treaties, he drew attention to concerns about the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, given the military potential of nuclear energy in that region. There was general agreement that the establishment of such a zone was key to ensuring against nuclear proliferation there, and would constitute an important step towards the creation of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. With the mandate of preparing model agreements as a necessary step towards the establishment of a Middle East nuclear-weapon- free zone, the IAEA secretariat had engaged in consultations with all States of the region. In order to develop meaningful model verification agreements, it needed a clearer idea of the obligations that the parties to a future treaty would be willing to undertake.

Overall, security-related verification arrangements needed to be the most intense in areas marked by deep conflict and mistrust, he said. A future nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East would, therefore, seem to call for rigorous, intrusive verification. However, those arrangements would be up to the parties to such a zone to decide upon.

He said the proposal for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia demonstrated further how notions of security had changed from more traditional, military definitions to a broader concept responsive to other immediate regional concerns. The five Central Asian States had endorsed the creation of a such a zone, underscoring both the relevance of fully effective IAEA safeguards and the importance to them of environmental safety as a

Disarmament Commission - 13 - Press Release DC/2603 221st Meeting (PM) 8 April 1998

strategic component of national security. The IAEA had been invited to participate in a further meeting of the States concerned at the next meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the Review Conference of the parties to the NPT in the year 2000, to be held soon in Geneva.

The concept of nuclear security had evolved progressively, he said. Depending on the special circumstances of a region, the control mechanism might now include not only the central function of safeguards as a means of verifying compliance with peaceful-use undertakings, but also such elements as anti-dumping provisions, the prohibition of armed attack on nuclear installations, nuclear safety provisions, export control measures, and the destruction or conversion of any facilities previously used for manufacturing nuclear explosives. Recent nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties had entrusted the IAEA with an expanded verification role applicable to all the provisions of those treaties.

Fundamental to all, however, was effective verification of legal commitments freely entered into, he said. The Agency had the flexibility to tailor verification measures to specific requirements. It had done so in the past and stood ready to do so in the future. It was also necessary for the effectiveness of nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties and of the non- proliferation regime that the parties conclude full-scope safeguards agreements with the Agency. The IAEA would continue to facilitate that process.

* *** *