NEW YORK // Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, yesterday highlighted the UAE's nuclear energy programme as a model for other nations wishing to pursue nuclear energy in a "transparent, safe, secure, and peaceful" manner. In an address during the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review meeting, Sheikh Abdullah told delegates that the UAE was "taking further tangible steps to support the non-proliferation efforts of the international community" by building nuclear reactors under the supervision of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.
"These steps include the development of an innovative model for adopting peaceful nuclear energy - a model that should help to reduce global non-proliferation concerns by demonstrating that nuclear energy can be adopted in a manner that is completely transparent, safe, secure, and peaceful," he said. Sheikh Abdullah called on Israel to join the NPT and open its nuclear facilities to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He also called on delegates to support the UAE's candidacy to join the IAEA board for 2010-2012.
Sheikh Abdullah described the concerns over "states utilising the treaty as a means to start up nuclear weapons programmes". He said there was a need to strengthen the pact by giving UN inspectors greater powers. Sheikh Abdullah also outlined the Government's policy to "develop its nuclear energy programme in a responsible manner". "In an effort to transform these aspirations into reality, the UAE has taken a number of groundbreaking steps, including the decision to renounce the development of domestic enrichment and reprocessing capabilities," he said.
Sheikh Abdullah spoke on the second day of a month-long conference that started with a face-off between Iran's hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who accused Tehran of breaching NPT rules by seeking to build nuclear weapons. Sheikh Abdullah backed an Egyptian-led plan to establish a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, a measure advocates hope to enact next year, setting a timeline for tougher nuclear inspections across the region and Israel's accession to the treaty.
"The establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East is a priority in order to demonstrate progress and effectiveness of the treaty," Sheikh Abdullah said. "The UAE encourages state parties to work constructively on taking urgent and practical steps on the establishment of such a zone, and to the establishment of a special committee to discuss the process and the associated timeline."
The NPT's 189 signatories include the five official nuclear powers - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - which have pledged to eliminate their stockpiles, as well as many non-nuclear powers, which have pledged to eschew such weapons. All countries are allowed to harness atomic power for energy. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are not signatories, while Israel - assumed to have a sizeable arsenal - never signed. North Korea pulled out of the treaty in 2003 before conducting two underground nuclear test detonations.
Western delegations seek a consensus declaration on toughening the treaty's rules against suspected nuclear cheaters, such as Iran, and ways to regulate nuclear fuel production. The US sought to demonstrate its commitment to NPT disarmament obligations by revealing hitherto secret data on its nuclear stockpile - which stood at 5,113 warheads at the end of September, down 84 per cent from a peak of 31,225 in 1967. But Mr Ahmadinejad's address played on concerns that members of the powerful voting bloc of 118 non-aligned, developing countries continue to be dominated and bullied by official nuclear powers, such as the US, and regional military heavyweights, such as Israel.