Conference Urges Ratification of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

( - Representatives from more than 100 countries were meeting in Vienna Wednesday for talks aimed at hastening the arrival of a global nuclear test ban treaty that has been repudiated by the United States.

Four years after the Republican-controlled Senate voted to reject the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the body in charge of implementing it is holding a three-day meeting to look at ways of speeding up the ratification process.

The CTBT Organization's Preparatory Commission said in a statement the meeting aims "to renew global awareness of the treaty and encourage states who have not already done so to sign or ratify it."

It said it expects several states that have not yet done so to sign or ratify the treaty by the time the meeting ends on Friday.

This is the third such conference to be called since the CTBT -- which would ban all nuclear-test explosions -- was opened for signature in 1996. The previous two were in New York in 2001 and in Vienna in 1999.

President Clinton signed the treaty in 1996 but, just days after the 1999 Preparatory Commission meeting, the Senate voted against ratifying it.

Senate opponents of the CTBT said it was flawed because it could undermine America's ability to maintain its nuclear superiority. President Bush has also called the pact unverifiable, and there has been no move to send it back to the Senate.

Without American backing, the CTBT can never enter into force.

Forty-four states in a group of nations that possess nuclear power or research reactors all have to ratify it. Twelve of them, including the U.S., China, Israel, India and Pakistan, have not done so.

In written remarks delivered to the gathering Wednesday, the head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog appealed to countries that had not yet ratified the treaty to do so as quickly as possible.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the goal of "a verified, permanent, global ban on all types of nuclear explosive tests has been a key item on the international security agenda for nearly half a century."

He noted that some 2,000 nuclear explosions had taken place since 1945, with the most recent in 1998, when India and Pakistan conducted tit-for-tat nuclear tests.

"With the early entry into force of the CTBT, it would indeed be a significant achievement if this new century were to remain free of any nuclear test explosions," ElBaradei said. The statement was made available by IAEA headquarters.

While it waits for such time as the treaty may enter into force, the CTBT Organization is in the process of constructing a global verification regime, a network of 337 facilities around the world to monitor any possible nuclear detonations, wherever they may occur.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow