AMMAN // Queen Noor, the widow of King Hussein of Jordan, has warned of the dangers of terrorists accessing nuclear weapons as she steps up her efforts to promote an initiative aimed at ridding the world of the atomic threat. The queen is one of 100 international political and civic leaders behind Global Zero, an effort to eliminate nuclear weapons in the next two decades. This year, she went to Hollywood and served as a special consultant to a new documentary, Countdown to Zero, which is to be released in US cinemas next month.
Queen Noor described the film, made by the Academy Award-winning producers of An Inconvenient Truth, Lawrence Bender and Participant Media, as an "edge-of-your-seat wake-up call about the nuclear threat". "I believe that this powerful film will play a vital role in raising awareness and in educating the public and political leaders," she said in an e-mail interview with The National this week. It is the queen's first venture into the world of film and comes at a time when the threat of nuclear dangers remains very real.
"As a citizen of one of the most unstable regions in the world, as a mother and a Muslim, I believe that climate change and the proliferation of nuclear weapons and related risk of nuclear terrorism are the most real and present dangers facing every one of us on the planet," Queen Noor said. She urged governments to take immediate action to eliminate all nuclear weapons and to safeguard nuclear materials worldwide.
Otherwise, she said, "we will witness in our lifetime [another] use of the bomb by a country, or terrorist group. There is still time to change direction and set our course to Global Zero, but the clock is ticking." Although terrorists have never used a nuclear weapon, there have been alleged attempts, including efforts by al Qa'eda to obtain nuclear materials. "Terrorists do not have the capacity to produce nuclear weapons material themselves - the essential ingredient for a bomb," the queen said. "They need to buy or steal it. If we drain the swamp by eliminating all nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons material - as Global Zero calls for - terrorists cannot get the bomb."
Global Zero was given a boost by the UN Security Council endorsement in September as well as the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia, signed in Prague in April, which aims to reduce the stockpile of strategic nuclear weapons. The subsequent nuclear security summit in Washington, also in April, that brought together 49 world leaders, pledged to strengthen nuclear security and reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.
"But we have a long way to go," Queen Noor said. "There are now 23,000 nuclear weapons in the world. We have mapped out a step-by-step plan - backed by hundreds of former heads of state, foreign ministers, national security advisers and military commanders - to eliminate all nuclear weapons through phased and verified reductions over the next two decades." Among other signatories to the initiative are Jimmy Carter, a former US president, and Jose Maria Aznar, a former Spanish prime minister.
She said the Ground Zero plan calls for the US and Russia in a next round of negotiations to cut their arsenals to 1,000 total warheads each, all other countries with nuclear weapons to freeze their arsenals, and the international community to conduct an all-out global effort to block the further spread of nuclear weapons. The queen remains encouraged by what she called unanimous support in the Arab Middle East for the creation of a regional nuclear weapon-free zone, although differences exist on its timing.
She said the Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference have repeatedly called for a non-discriminatory international treaty on the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, and encouraged the establishment of nuclear weapon-free zones in the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere. "All Arab countries have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and over the past 30 years have pursued intensive diplomatic efforts to bring Israel into the treaty," she said. "My husband, King Hussein, steadfastly called for removing nuclear weapons from the Middle East, calling them, 'one of the most dramatic examples of the gaps between the world's technological progress and moral rectitude'.
"He emphasised over and over again that only through dialogue and truly listening and trying to understand each other's perspectives, fears and needs would we find solutions to the issues that divide us. "So I add my humble voice to so many others around the world, citizens of all nations, devout followers of all faiths, in declaring that now is the time to renew our collective commitment to a nuclear-weapon free world. We truly have no other choice."