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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Backs Historic bNuclear Test Ban

Combined Reports

WASHINGTON -- The landmark Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty won overwhelming approval in the United Nations, marking a major step in global disarmament efforts and opening the way to halting 51 years of nuclear testing by the United States and other major powers.

Tuesday's final vote in the UN General Assembly listed 158 countries in favor of the worldwide pact and three against it, with five nations abstaining. Most conspicuous among those opposed was India, whose continued refusal to sign eventually could scuttle the accord.

World leaders, including those of the world's five declared nuclear states -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- applauded the treaty's approval.

"We welcome the approval of ... the draft treaty as a practical implementation of the proposal put forward by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations in a fitting way," the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

"We hope that this treaty will receive support from all UN member states and will be an important contribution to the ever-advancing process of moving towards a non-nuclear world." sign the document Sept. 24, when he is scheduled to visit the United Nations, along with other heads of government and foreign ministers, to attend the annual fall meeting of the General Assembly.

Britain and France both hailed the vote as historic and said they also planned to sign the treaty Sept. 24, the earliest possible day.

"We welcome the vote endorsing the treaty by an overwhelming majority. It is an historic achievement," a spokeswoman at the British Foreign Office said.

Referring to New Delhi's decision to oppose the treaty, the spokeswoman added: "In common with most of the rest of the international community, we were very disappointed by India's decision."

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel urged that the treaty be signed by all nations and ratified as quickly as possible.

"We have jumped over one important hurdle on the way to a permanent ban on nuclear tests, but we have not yet reached our goal by any means," he said in a statement.

"We may not be able to put the genie of the atom back into the bottle, but we have at least tamed it."

U.S. officials conceded that India's continuing opposition could prove a serious obstacle to carrying out the new accord, since Pakistan -- which supported the pact on Tuesday -- has warned that it will not comply with it unless India does.

India has threatened to block ratification on grounds that the treaty does not go far enough in establishing a timetable for global nuclear disarmament and would prevent it from responding to threats from China and Pakistan, both of which have nuclear weapons.

But government and private strategists said they expect India to come under heavy international pressure to sign between now and the time it is to take effect in late 1998. I believe we can find a way for the Indians to have their security concerns met,'' Clinton told reporters.

But India dug in its heels Wednesday, saying it would hold fast against the accord just as the nation's spiritual founder Mahatma Gandhi had stood up to British rule.

"We shall not sign the treaty," Foreign Minister Inder Kumar Gujral told India's upper house of parliament, where lawmakers expressed their approval with the loud thumping of their desks.

"There has been no pressure on India to sign the treaty but if there is any, this country has the national will to withstand pressure," United News of India quoted Gujral as saying.

Tuesday's vote capped a major campaign by the United States and its allies to revive the test-ban accord, which as late as three weeks ago was facing possible defeat. The treaty was rescued by an 11th-hour push by Australia to approve the pact over India's opposition.

UN approval of the treaty -- after almost three years of complex negotiations -- was regarded as a boost for companion efforts to push through a global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, negotiations concerning which have become bogged down in recent months.

The earlier refusal of the major powers to agree to end their nuclear testing had become a visible symbol to many developing countries, which had refused to go along with efforts to curb further proliferation until the larger countries agreed to halt testing.

The accord approved Tuesday would prohibit nuclear testing of any nuclear weapons -- a step that proponents say would prevent the development of new, more sophisticated weapons by both established nuclear powers and those on the threshold of becoming nuclear powers.

It also would put into effect an elaborate worldwide verification system that would take advantage of spy-satellite technology to ensure that all countries are complying with the prohibition.

Under the terms of the accord, the ban cannot take effect until the treaty is ratified by 44 leading countries listed in the document, including India, a process that is expected to take two years at minimum.

The world's first nuclear test was conducted by the United States in July 1945, near the end of World War II. In the 51 years since, the nuclear powers have conducted 2,046 tests.

Besides India, only two other countries -- Libya and Bhutan -- opposed the treaty. Cuba, Lebanon, Syria, Mauritius and Tanzania abstained. North Korea and Iraq, both of which have tried to develop nuclear weapons, did not vote.

It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. Senate would ratify the accord.

Although most Democrats favor prompt ratification, Senate Republicans appear to be split and the Republican Party's 1996 campaign platform opposes the pact as not in U.S. interests. )