AP, May 29, 2010, 03.47am IST
UNITED NATIONS: The 189 member nations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty on Friday adopted a detailed plan of small steps down a long road toward nuclear disarmament, including a sharply debated proposal to move toward banning doomsday arms from the Middle East.
The 28-page Final Declaration was approved by consensus on the last day of the monthlong conference, convened every five years to review and advance the objectives of the 40-year-old NPT.
Under its action plan, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - commit to speed up arms reductions, take other steps to diminish the importance of atomic weapons, and report back on progress by 2014.
The final document also calls for convening a conference in 2012 "on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction."
This Arab idea of a WMD-free zone is designed to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. Despite the decision here, U.S. officials questioned whether Israel could be persuaded to attend the conference.
Iran and Syria had dissented loudly on various points in the final hours, but no objections were raised in the concluding session. After the declaration's approval, Iran's chief delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh joined with the others in hearty applause beneath the U.N. General Assembly hall's soaring dome.
"All eyes the world over are watching us," the conference president, Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, said before gaveling the final document into the record.
The decision was "an important step forward towards the realization of the goals and objectives of the treaty," Egypt's Maged Abedelaziz said afterward, speaking for the 118-nation Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries.
"The final document this conference adopted today advances President Obama's vision" of a world without nuclear weapons, Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher told the assembled delegates.
The conference is convened twice a decade to review and advance the objectives of the 40-year-old NPT, under which nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them; those with them committed to move toward their elimination; and all endorsed everyone's right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.
NPT members agree to take early steps on nuclear- free Mideast
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