The Straits Times (Singapore)
APR 11 1997
New pact on N-controls may turn out to be a dud
By R. Senthilnathan in Vienna
A NEW global control system to prevent nuclear proliferation has
finally been agreed here, but its universal effectiveness is doubted
as the nuclear-weapons countries and the so-called "threshold
countries" are yet to agree to comply with it.
After a year of intense negotiations, a special committee of the
governing body of the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) accepted by a majority vote the protocol of the new
nuclear non-proliferation mechanism, dubbed 93+2, a spokesman
for the agency said on Tuesday.
The protocol, which grants the Vienna-based IAEA additional
authority to prevent Iraq-type clandestine nuclear bomb-making
programmes, now goes to the special session of the 35-member
board of governors, in the middle of next month.
Diplomats here said the board was set to accept it.
While the five nuclear-weapons countries are not under any
obligation to accept the new system, the threshold countries --
India, Israel and Pakistan -- consider it does not apply to them.
"We feel it does not apply to us," said a senior diplomat from a
South Asian country.
During the final sessions of the special-committee meeting, India
and Pakistan, along with Cuba, objected to a sentence urging
them to comply with the 93+2. The three countries were
outvoted, but their objections will remain on the record.
Pressured by the non-nuclear-weapons states, the nuclear five
have agreed to inform the May meeting of the provisions they are
willing to accept.
The US is expected to allow the 93+2 to be applied to nuclear
installations already under IAEA monitoring, one Western
As it grants additional authority to the agency, the protocol has
to be ratified by national parliaments, and each country is then
expected to begin negotiations with the IAEA to redefine their
safeguards agreements, which list their nuclear inventory.
Based on this list, the agency then sends its inspectors at agreed
intervals to ensure there is no diversion from the civilian to a
military nuclear programme.
The origins of the 93+2 dates to 1991, when Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein made the world realise the present nuclear
non-proliferation system is ineffective.
Iraq is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
and, as such, was obliged not to seek any nuclear bombs, and the
agency inspectors found no discrepancy during their periodic
visits. However, Mr Saddam had simultaneously been working on
a clandestine nuclear programme.
Following the debacle, the board of governors asked the IAEA
secretariat to work on a new safeguards system.
The result of the IAEA work was the 93+2. Among its major
components is access to more sites and information.
Another important aspect of the system is the use of water and
soil samples to detect nuclear activities.
Using modern technology, the agency's scientists could trace
nuclear material found in the samples to a particular time and
Besides, the agency wanted to be informed of exports of nuclear
or dual-purpose sensitive material.
However, the programme soon ran into trouble, with most
countries save the nuclear five opposing parts of it. Developing
countries like India and Pakistan worried that the agency is
emphasising too much on the so-called "nuclear policing" as part
of its role, rather than promoting technology transfer on civilian
uses of nuclear technology.
Countries like Japan and Germany, on the other hand, had other
problems. The two countries have very extensive nuclear
activities and German diplomats have been quite outspoken
about their problems.
One Vienna-based German diplomat said: "In our country there
are nuclear activities carried out by private companies and they
felt this programme would cost just too much work and money."
Besides, the industries in both countries also expressed
opposition, saying that the agency inspectors could simply pry
into their industrial secrets.
The German diplomat pointed out that the 93+2 covers not only
normal nuclear activities, but also research activities.
Copyright © 1997 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.