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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Annan Urges Wider Nuclear Ban

GENEVA -- UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called Thursday for negotiations to ban the production of nuclear bomb-making materials and for a global ban on land mines, which he denounced as "weapons of terror."


In a speech to the Conference on Disarmament, Annan urged the 61-member state body to break the stalemate and reach consensus on its negotiating agenda for 1997.


The UN chief, who arrived in Geneva on Wednesday on his first visit to the UN European headquarters, will go to the Swiss village of Davos on Friday to attend the World Economic Forum's annual gathering of business and political leaders.


The Geneva talks, sponsored by the United Nations, opened an eight-week session last week.


But it lacks a formal negotiating agenda due to disagreement over how far to go in the field of nuclear weapons, diplomats said.


"I add my voice to those who have expressed strong support for the urgent need to continue with the process of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation," Annan said in a speech.


"The possibility of nuclear accidents, illicit trafficking in nuclear materials and the threat of terrorism all underline the need to maintain progress in this area," he added.


The UN secretary-general called on negotiators to build on the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty saying it laid down broad guidelines for further steps in the field.


The treaty, which aims to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, was indefinitely extended in 1995. India, a key nuclear "threshold" state, is among the few states yet to sign.


"One such step should be a convention banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices," Annan said, referring to plutonium and highly-enriched uranium used in making nuclear weapons.


"I am aware that this issue poses enormous technical and political difficulties. But I would also remind the conference that we can never move forward unless we are prepared to start talking," he said.


U.S. diplomat Stephen Ledogar said last week he feared a stalemate in the talks due to splits on fissile material.


Western countries favor pushing ahead with negotiations to halt production of fissile material, known as "cut-off" talks. They are also ready to negotiate a global land-mine ban.


But India and Pakistan are leading a nonaligned campaign to force the major powers to set up a committee to negotiate total nuclear disarmament within a set timetable, diplomats say.


Only then would the nonaligned states be ready to push ahead on fissile cut-off as part of a nuclear disarmament package. However, the five declared nuclear powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- refuse to negotiate total disarmament, preferring a step-by-step approach.


The rise in local and regional conflicts since the end of the Cold War has highlighted the issue of conventional weapons, including land mines, which kill tens of thousands of combatants and civilians each year, said the UN chief.


"I urge the conference to find a way to build on this positive start and to begin negotiations as soon as possible," Annan said.