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UN treaty envisions total elimination of nuclear arms

New draft mandates destruction of arsenals

UNITED NATIONS -- The latest draft of a U.N. nuclear arms treaty requires a commitment to abandon such weapons as a condition of joining the framework, but the lofty language falls on deaf ears as nuclear powers refuse to take part.

Any nuclear-armed country looking to join "shall immediately remove from operational status its nuclear weapon systems and destroy as soon as possible any nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices it owns, possesses or controls," the draft reads.

Those choosing to join the treaty must then submit a time-bound and irreversible plan for the verifiable destruction of such weapons within 60 days of joining. This marks a significant step up from the earlier draft, which allowed nuclear weapons states to discuss the method of disposal at future conferences.

The draft's new passage "now provides an option for states possessing nuclear weapons to join the treaty at an early date, subject to an obligation to eliminate its nuclear weapons program and engage in a credible process with the other states parties toward that end," said Elayne Whyte Gomez, chair of the conference and Costa Rica's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, in remarks introducing the new draft Tuesday.

No nuclear powers are among the 120-plus countries believed to be participating in the current round of conference negotiations.

The U.S. and other nuclear states deem an outright ban unrealistic in the current security environment. Proponents see prohibiting nuclear arms as a moral imperative, since the weapons are inherently indiscriminate and any use would thus violate international humanitarian law.

Conference negotiations are scheduled to wrap up July 7, at which point participating states are likely to agree on a final treaty text.

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