Tracking Number:  390466

Title:  "Holum Cites Progress in Effort to Make NPT Permanent." Top US arms control official John Holum reports that 105 nations have pledged support for the permanent extension of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). (950508)

Date:  19950508

HOLUM CITES PROGRESS IN EFFORT TO MAKE NPT PERMANENT (NPT: Canadian resolution garners 105 co-sponsors) (940) By Jacquelyn S. Porth USIA Security Affairs Writer Washington -- The top U.S. arms control official says the news "is good" at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review and extension conference, where more than a majority of participants now support efforts to make the treaty permanent.

As delegates entered the fourth and final week of the conference on May 8, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) Director John Holum reported that 105 nations have agreed to co-sponsor a Canadian proposal to make the NPT a permanent arms control accord.

Canada's Ambassador for Disarmament Christopher Westdal, who tabled the resolution at the conference in New York on May 5, noted that participants can't solve all the world's nuclear problems, but they "can make the world a whole lot safer than it would otherwise be."

Holum said delegates have yet to reach agreement on voting rules, and the question of "open versus secret balloting" on the extension issue remains on the table. "We think the idea of a secret ballot is abhorrent in this context," he stressed, "particularly when we are cementing an agreement which denotes confidence about countries' nuclear weapons ambitions."

The 1970 treaty, he pointed out, has accomplished "a great deal in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries." It provided the legal framework for sanctions in the case of North Korea, "had it come to that," as well as for "very aggressive activities in Iraq," and possibly, over time, in Iran. The NPT, alone, however, is not the answer to the nuclear proliferation problem, Holum said; it also requires "powerful" intelligence capabilities to detect violations as well as export control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

On the issue of further nuclear disarmament, something many delegates have sought at the conference, Holum told reporters at the State Department it is premature to "try to develop the specifics of the next step before we have a legal commitment" to complete the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II). The United States would like to ratify the treaty by the end of the month or early June, he said, and is hoping the Clinton-Yeltsin summit beginning May 9 will lead to "a renewed commitment" by the Russians to achieve ratification.

START II is in Russia's national interest, he said, because "it provides for a balanced, reduced level of forces at lower cost." It is also in the U.S. interest, he said, because it does away with heavy, destabilizing Russian SS-18 missiles.

Other arms control issues are expected to be discussed during the U.S.-Russian summit in Moscow, which Holum will attend, including chemical and biological weapons, conventional forces in Europe, export control issues, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and Russia's intention to sell nuclear reactor technology to Iran.

The ACDA director said Iranian nuclear ambitions are "clear and convincing" based on intelligence information the United States has assembled, some of which it has shared with other countries. "Quite a few" nations have been persuaded by that information not to engage in nuclear cooperation with Iran, Holum said, but Russia and China are not yet among them.

He said there is some difference of opinion inside Russia on the advisability of supplying nuclear technology to Iran, a geographic neighbor with alleged nuclear ambitions. Eventually, he suggested, the United States may be able "to turn this (Russian) program off." He said he believes there is "an opening to resolve this issue with Russia over time."

The Iranian program has not reached a point, yet, he said, that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "can point to a specific location and...activities" which might either violate the 1970 NPT, to which Iran is a member, or prompt special IAEA inspections.

"What we are trying to do is prevent it from reaching that point," Holum said. It is quite certain that if the Iranian program goes ahead unchecked, at some point the IAEA will be able to detect it, he said, because Iran will have built a reprocessing or enrichment facility or some other indicator that would reveal the program. At that point, he explained, it would be more difficult and dangerous "to turn the program around, and we would like to be able to stop it sooner."

Holum also expressed serious U.S. concerns about Russia's interpretation of the U.S.-Russian bilateral agreement on chemical weapons relating to the 1989 Wyoming Memorandum of Understanding. A recent Russian proposal, he said, would severely undercut the existing bilateral relationship and the multilateral Chemical Weapons Convention. He also signalled that there are U.S. questions about possible continuing Russian chemical weapons programs.

Asked about Russian efforts to seek changes in treaty limits imposed by the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) accord because of problems in Chechnya and elsewhere, Holum said the United States is "dead set against" any changes before a May 1996 CFE review conference. He added that U.S. officials are "certainly receptive to the idea that in that review conference some revisiting is warranted because of changes in the security situation in Europe, but the way to get there is not to violate the treaty limits when they come into effect." Russia is currently in compliance with the 1990 CFE treaty.

Holum said the most likely scenario, "if we are able to resolve this problem, is that we have some discussion prior to November of ideas that would be considered in 1996." Serious discussions, he said, would require Russia to remain in compliance with its treaty obligations.