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UN: Nuclear Treaty a Go       10/25 10:20

   

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United Nations announced Saturday that 50 
countries have ratified a U.N. treaty to ban nuclear weapons triggering its 
entry into force in 90 days, a move hailed by anti-nuclear activists but 
strongly opposed by the United States and the other major nuclear powers.

   As of Friday, the treaty had 49 signatories, and the United Nations said the 
50th ratification from Honduras had been received.

   U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the 50 states and saluted 
"the instrumental work" of civil society in facilitating negotiations and 
pushing for ratification, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

   The U.N. chief said the treaty's entry into force on Jan. 22 culminates a 
worldwide movement "to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian 
consequences of any use of nuclear weapons" and "is a tribute to the survivors 
of nuclear explosions and tests, many of whom advocated for this treaty," he 
said,

   Guterres said the treaty "represents a meaningful commitment towards the 
total elimination of nuclear weapons, which remains the highest disarmament 
priority of the United Nations," Dujarric said.

   Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish 
Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped 
spearhead the nuclear ban treaty, said: "This moment has been 75 years coming 
since the horrific attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the founding of the 
U.N. which made nuclear disarmament a cornerstone."

   "The 50 countries that ratify this Treaty are showing true leadership in 
setting a new international norm that nuclear weapons are not just immoral but 
illegal," she said.

   The 50th ratification came on the 75th anniversary of the ratification of 
the U.N. Charter which officially established the United Nations and is 
celebrated as UN Day.

   "The United Nations was formed to promote peace with a goal of the abolition 
of nuclear weapons," Fihn said. "This treaty is the U.N. at its best -- working 
closely with civil society to bring democracy to disarmament."

   The treaty requires that all ratifying countries "never under any 
circumstances ... develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, 
possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." It 
also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices 
-- and the threat to use such weapons -- and requires parties to promote the 
treaty to other countries.

   Once it enters into force all countries that have ratified it will be bound 
by those requirements.

   The United States had written to treaty signatories saying the Trump 
administration believes they made "a strategic error" and urging them to 
rescind their ratification.

   The U.S. letter, obtained by The Associated Press, said the five original 
nuclear powers -- the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France -- and America's 
NATO allies "stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions" of 
the treaty.

   It says the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, known as the TPNW, 
"turns back the clock on verification and disarmament and is dangerous" to the 
half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of 
global nonproliferation efforts.

   "The TPNW is and will remain divisive in the international community and 
risk further entrenching divisions in existing nonproliferation and disarmament 
fora that offer the only realistic prospect for consensus-based progress," the 
letter said. "It would be unfortunate if the TPNW were allowed to derail our 
ability to work together to address pressing proliferation."

   Fihn has stressed that "the nonproliferation Treaty is about preventing the 
spread of nuclear weapons and eliminating nuclear weapons, and this treaty 
implements that. There's no way you can undermine the Nonproliferation Treaty 
by banning nuclear weapons. It's the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty."

   The NPT sought to prevent the spread of nuclear arms beyond the five 
original weapons powers. It requires non-nuclear signatory nations to not 
pursue atomic weapons in exchange for a commitment by the five powers to move 
toward nuclear disarmament and to guarantee non-nuclear states' access to 
peaceful nuclear technology for producing energy.

   U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an Associated Press 
interview on Wednesday: "It is clear for me that we will only be entirely safe 
in relation to nuclear weapons the day where nuclear weapons no longer exist. 
We know that it's not easy. We know that there are many obstacles."

   He expressed hope that a number of important initiatives, including 
U.S.-Russia talks on renewing the New Start Treaty limiting deployed nuclear 
warheads, missiles and bombers and next year's review conference of the Nuclear 
Nonproliferation Treaty, "will all converge in the same direction, and the 
final objective must be to have a world with no nuclear weapons."

   The treaty was approved by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on July 7, 
2017 by a vote of 122 in favor, the Netherlands opposed, and Singapore 
abstaining. Among countries voting in favor was Iran. The five nuclear powers 
and four other countries known or believed to possess nuclear weapons -- India, 
Pakistan, North Korea and Israel -- boycotted negotiations and the vote on the 
treaty, along with many of their allies.

   Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, who has been 
an ardent campaigner for the treaty, said: "When I learned that we reached our 
50th ratification, I was not able to stand."

   "I remained in my chair and put my head in my hands and I cried tears of 
joy," she said in a statement. "I have committed my life to the abolition of 
nuclear weapons. I have nothing but gratitude for all who have worked for the 
success of our treaty."

 
 
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