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Friday, September 26, 2008

New nuclear commission set to meet in Sydney

India and Pakistan will attend an international nuclear disarmament conference for the first time in Sydney next month, Australia's government said Friday, even though the nuclear-armed foes have consistently shunned a nonproliferation treaty.

The 15-member International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament will meet Oct. 19-21 to "shape a global consensus" on improving the 28-year-old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty before it is reviewed in 2010, the government said in a statement.

"The commission's two-year mandate is to reinvigorate the global debate on the need to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons and for nuclear disarmament," Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was quoted as saying.

Australia's former foreign minister, Gareth Evans, will co-chair the event with Yoriko Kawaguchi, an ex-foreign minister in Japan, the government said. Senior Indian diplomat Brajesh Mishra and Pakistan's ex-army chief Jehangir Karamat are to be among the delegates.

Evans has recently said all nuclear powers — including those who have refused to join the nonproliferation treaty such as India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — must be included in the new process if the world is to ever achieve disarmament.

Commissioners from five nuclear powers — United States, China, Russia, Britain and France — will attend, as well as representatives from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Germany, Norway, South Africa and Mexico, the statement said.

Ron Huisken, a nuclear proliferation expert from the Australian National University's Strategic and Defense Studies Center, said the inclusion of India and Pakistan was significant because neither country had been directly involved in such negotiations since the treaty came into force in 1970.

"Somehow you have to bring them into a regime of restraint," said Huisken, who described India and Pakistan's inclusion as "very sensible."

"If they're going to reverse a pretty serious erosion of the whole nonproliferation drive, they do need to get all the players, both incipient and actual, into the exercise," he added.

The 190-nation nonproliferation treaty was established to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology and to further the goal of nuclear disarmament. It is reviewed every five years.

Under the treaty, only countries that tested nuclear weapons before 1967 are allowed to remain nuclear powers. India and Pakistan would have to disarm if they were to join.

(Source: AP)

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