149 Nations Condemn Toxic Arms, Call for World Ban : Nuclear Linkage Rejected
Representatives of 149 nations ended a conference on chemical weapons today with a pledge not to use toxic arms, and called on the Geneva disarmament conference to institute a treaty that bans their stockpiling, production and use.
In a compromise statement read by French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, the conference president, the meeting rejected an attempt by Arab states to link chemical and nuclear disarmament, but pledged general support for disarmament.
“The participating states are determined to promote international peace and security throughout the world in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and to pursue effective disarmament measures,” the declaration said.
“In this context, they are determined to prevent any recourse to chemical weapons by completely eliminating them. They solemnly affirm their commitments not to use chemical weapons and condemn such use,” it said.
Most Arab nations, led by Libya and Syria as well as Iraq, had argued that it was unfair to renounce chemical weapons, or the “poor man’s atom bomb,” without calling for the destruction of nuclear arms.
Major Nations Oppose Link
The United States, the Soviet Union, France and other nations possessing nuclear arsenals opposed the linkage.
The declaration made no reference to linking chemical and nuclear disarmament, but said, “The participating states, recalling the final document of the first special session of the U.N. General Assembly devoted to disarmament in 1978, underline the need to pursue with determination their efforts to secure general and complete disarmament under effective international control, so as to ensure the right of all states to peace and security.”
The conference’s plenary committee worked through the night to produce the draft text, aimed at underscoring the need for a treaty to enforce a total ban as called for by the Geneva protocol of 1925.
“The participating states stress the necessity of concluding, at an early date, a convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of all chemical weapons, and on their destruction,” the declaration states. “This convention shall be global and comprehensive and effectively verifiable. It should be of unlimited duration.”
The declaration calls on the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to “redouble its efforts, as a matter of urgency, to resolve expeditiously the remaining issues and to conclude the convention at the earliest date.”
The State Department says Iraq, Libya, Syria and Egypt have chemical weapons. So do the United States, the Soviet Union, France, Israel and about 10 other countries, military experts say. Iraq used chemical weapons extensively during its eight-year war with Iran, including a massacre of several hundred if not thousands of ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq last year, the experts say.
Delegates to the conference privately had said they feared failure to compromise on the issue would have helped create an atmosphere that would have encouraged a preemptive U.S. military strike against an alleged Libyan chemical plant at Rabta, 35 miles southwest of Tripoli.