Bush-Chirac Meeting Overshadows WMD Talks

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Evian, France (CNSNews.com) - While many headlines focused on the meeting between President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac, experts say that talks concerning weapons of mass destruction may have been the most important element of this year's G8 summit.

The G8 specifically named both North Korea and Iran in its declaration on the WMD issue.

"The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery poses a growing danger to us all," the statement said. "Together with the spread of international terrorism, it is the pre-eminent threat to international security."

"We strongly urge North Korea to visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle any nuclear weapons programs," the leaders said.

Iran was urged to sign up to the Additional Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a move that could lead to intensive inspections of Iranian facilities.

"We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program," the leaders said.

Strong action on preventing the spread of WMD was urged by the Strengthening the Global Partnership Project, an international group of experts and think tanks, including the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The group noted that the G8 is on its way to raising $20 billion over 10 years to stop the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, a commitment first made at last year's summit in Canada.

Vladimir Orlov, a member of the project and director of the Moscow-based Center for Policy Studies, said the statement on Iran was significant given Russia's prior attitude.

"For the first time, the Russians have been willing to use words like this on Iran," he said, noting that both Russia and France are starting to examine the possible threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program.

Orlov noted that the declaration put emphasis on the IAEA and other international bodies, a development he called "critically important after the war in Iraq."

"Also very important is the language on North Korea," Orlov said. "It seems that without (non-G8 member) China, these leaders felt they could speak more loudly on North Korea's policies."

Despite the progress made, Orlov said Russia and other G8 members don't necessarily see eye-to-eye with the United States on the right way to deal with states that are developing WMD.

"The positions are still different but on the basic issues, on the importance of non-proliferation, there is agreement," he said.

The G8 leaders also issued statements on protecting transport systems from terrorist attacks and securing missing radioactive materials.

The anti-terror proposals included a promise to strengthen export controls on Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, or mobile surface-to-air missiles, and the creation of a G8 counter-terrorism action group.

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