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Countries Review Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Delegations from nearly 190 countries are meeting at the United Nations to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They do so every five years. This year's meeting opens as Iran is threatening to resume enriching uranium and North Korea is refusing to negotiate with the Bush administration over its weapons program. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan tried to breathe new life into the 35-year-old treaty by urging all nations to work to reduce the nuclear threat. He summarized the most common complaints, views put forth by the Americans and by the Iranians.

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN (United Nations): Some will say that the spread of nuclear fuel cycle technology poses an unacceptable proliferation threat. Others will counter that access to peaceful uses of nuclear technology must not be compromised. I challenge each one of you to recognize all these truths.

KELEMEN: Under the basic bargain of the treaty, countries are given access to nuclear energy technology if they forego weapons. The Bush administration says this has allowed countries like North Korea to obtain technology and then simply pull out of the treaty, as it did two years ago. On the other hand, nuclear weapons states have been accused of failing to keep up their end of the bargain to cut stockpiles. Annan reminded Washington and Moscow of this today.

Sec.-Gen. ANNAN: An important step would be for the former Cold War rivals to commit themselves irreversibly to further cuts in their arsenals so that warheads number in the hundreds, not in the thousands.

KELEMEN: But Bush administration officials are trying to keep the attention focused on Iran and North Korea. Here in Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some sharp words today for North Korea, which tested a short-range missile over the weekend.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (State Department): The United States maintains significant--and I want to underline significant--deterrent capability of all kinds in the Asia Pacific region. So I don't think there should be any doubt about our ability to deter whatever the North Koreans are up to.

KELEMEN: At the UN conference, Kofi Annan raised hopes that countries will ultimately overcome their reliance on nuclear deterrence. North Korea is not taking part in the treaty review conference; Iran's foreign minister is expected to speak tomorrow. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.