Mon, Dec 08, 2008 - Page 6 News List

World leaders set to discuss banning nuclear weapons

AP , WASHINGTON

A new international group committed to eliminating nuclear weapons over the next 25 years has enlisted scores of world leaders as its campaign gets under way at a conference in Paris tomorrow.

“The aim is to get to zero,” said Richard Burt, chief strategic weapons negotiator for former president US president George Bush.

Even Iran is considered a potential supporter, he said in an interview.

“If there is growing support by nuclear powers and public opinion worldwide, I think it becomes harder for any government, including Iran, to cross that barrier,” Burt said.

The group, Global Zero, is proposing deep cuts in US and Russian nuclear arsenals, a verification and enforcement system and phased reduction leading to the elimination of all stockpiles.

After the meeting, delegations will go to Moscow for talks with Russian officials on Wednesday and to Washington to see officials from the administration of US President George W. Bush and possibly advisers to president-elect Barack Obama on Thursday.

Ultimately, the planners are hoping to stage a world summit in January 2010.

More than 100 political, military, business, religious and civic leaders have lent their support to the campaign.

Listed supporters include former US president Jimmy Carter; former US secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger; former US defense secretary Frank Carlucci; and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The launching in Paris follows 18 months of consultations.

Global Zero urges US-Russian negotiations to cut back nuclear stockpiles to roughly 1,000 weapons apiece, from current arsenals of about 5,000 warheads each, followed by a second phase bringing in countries such as China, Britain and France.

From there, Burt says, the aim would be to attract would-be members of the nuclear club such as Iran.

“You got to think of this in terms of faith,” Burt said.

Daryl Kimball, director of the private Arms Control Association, said Global Zero’s approach was different from other campaigns in that its thrust is to encourage leaders to meet to discuss and eventually negotiate a timetable for disarmament.

“Most past strategies,” Kimball said, “have focused on a step-by-step approach toward zero, a process that has gone far too slowly.”

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