Shawn McCarthy / Globe and Mail – 2005-10-14 08:55:10
NEW YORK (October 13, 2005) — Peace activists yesterday accused the Liberal government of buckling under US pressure by dropping its sponsorship of a resolution on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at the United Nations.
The planned resolution, which was abandoned at a UN committee as Canada withdrew its sponsorship, sought to jump-start the negotiations after the international community failed in May to agree on measures to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce the danger posed by existing arsenals.
Canada had been working with five other countries to have the United Nations General Assembly establish working groups that would pick up where the non-proliferation conference left off last spring.
But in a note sent to foreign capitals last week, the United States opposed the UN resolution, saying it was a “divisive proposal” that would retard, rather than advance, agreement on nuclear non-proliferation.
Peggy Mason, a former Canadian ambassador on disarmament, said she was appalled when she learned yesterday that the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa had instructed its representatives in New York not to sponsor the resolution.
“Canada is caving because of American pressure,” Ms. Mason said. “It’s so utterly unreasonable [for the US] to take the position that we can’t even have a discussion of these issues. . . .These are not minor matters — nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, the arms race in space — these are vital to Canadian interests.”
Six countries — Mexico, Sweden, Brazil, Kenya, New Zealand and Canada — had been urging a UN committee to pass a resolution to establish working groups on disarmament and non-proliferation.
Aaron Tovish of Mayors for Peace, an international non-proliferation group, said Canada’s participation was key because it was the only member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the group.
Rodney Moore, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, said Canada had been hoping for broader support for the initiative and decided to back off when that support was not forthcoming.
“To be effective, it would require the support of all states,” Mr. Moore said. “It did not enjoy the support of the nuclear-weapons states and we considered their involvement to be of prime importance.”
Mr. Tovish said other nuclear-weapons states — including Britian, France, China and Russia — were prepared to allow the resolution to be adopted, while only the United States was adamantly opposed.
He said the UN action was required to maintain some international discussion of the nuclear threat and how to contain it.
The United States has opposed efforts that would require it to reduce its nuclear-missile arsenal, or forgo the development of new weapons.
US officials insist progress is being made on a number of fronts, including the securing of nuclear-weapons material, despite the logjam at the formal conference on disarmament in Geneva.
“The international community needs to continue to focus on getting the CD [conference on disarmament] to work, rather than create another ‘phantom’ CD,” the US note said.
The Americans warned that shifting the disarmament debate to the UN “would likely spell the end” of the conference on disarmament, and “supporters of this proposal would be fully responsible.”
The would-be sponsors of the resolution promised to bring the matter back before the United Nations if there is no progress in Geneva in the coming year.
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