Leading Arms-producing Nations Agree on Need for Disarmament in Middle East

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council agreed here Tuesday on measures needed to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East.

The two-day meeting involving representatives of the United States, Soviet Union, Britain, France and China concentrated on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as delivery systems, such as ground-to-ground missiles.

The five nations, which together account for 85 percent of the world’s arms exports, said they would like to see those weapons frozen and eventually banned. They laid out the steps they think are necessary to achieve that goal.

The U.S. representative, Undersecretary of State Reginald Bartholomew, called the accord “really groundbreaking.”

The two-day meeting was the outgrowth of a proposal President Bush made in May for a weapons freeze in the Middle East, in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. French President Francois Mitterrand outlined his own disarmament plan for the Middle East several days later.

Participants at the conference here agreed on the need for all countries in the region to submit all of their nuclear activities to the control of the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency.

The conference also called for the interdiction of imports of materials used in the construction of nuclear weapons.

Although no country was named, observers here immediately predicted pressure on Israel to submit to international scrutiny of its nuclear activities, which it has so far refused to accept.

Israel is widely believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, an allegation it will neither confirm nor deny. Israel has pledged repeatedly it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East, but it has refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The conferees proposed “a ban on the import and production of materials that can be used to produce nuclear weapons,” according to a statement issued after the meeting.

Other goals on which the conference agreed included a treaty forbidding the use of chemical weapons as well as a freeze on the number of ground-to-ground missiles in the region and their eventual destruction.

NEXT STORY