World must find peaceful solutions to WMD problem

by and

BRUSSELS — The international community was deeply divided on how to effectively deal with the potential threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Evidence that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein continued to maintain such an arsenal has yet to emerge from the rubble of the recent conflict.

Now, beyond the challenge of restoring order and rebuilding a democratic Iraq for the Iraqi people, the challenge for the international community is to find new ways of dealing effectively with WMD elsewhere in the world, without resorting to the use of force.

Never before have so many fingers been poised to unleash nuclear weapons. In North Korea, the regime has thrown out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). India and Pakistan, which have both carried out nuclear weapons tests, refuse to allow their weapons to be monitored. And in the Middle East, Israel must be convinced that its long-term interests lie in strengthening nonproliferation and should therefore sign up to the NPT. Moreover, a number of countries seem inclined to give nuclear weapons greater prominence in their military strategy. All these factors are a source of grave concern.

Biological and chemical weapons, which are relatively simple and inexpensive to produce, also pose acute global threats. Such weapons programs are more easily concealed under cover of perfectly legal activities. Unless effective control mechanisms are implemented, through extensive weapons inspections, there will be a greater risk of chemical and biological weapons falling into the hands of international terrorist networks.

All these considerations demand a concerted effort to combat the proliferation of WMD and the consequences for world peace and stability.

The Swedish call for a new strategy to combat WMD, actively promoted by the Greek EU presidency, was endorsed by the European Union in April 2003. The EU can now take the lead in the global effort to reduce the threat of WMD. Together with like-minded countries in other parts of the world, we will seek to promote a new strategy against WMD in the United Nations and to restart disarmament negotiations in Geneva. We must now take a number of steps to make our commitment concrete.

* The NPT must be strengthened, to deter other countries from starting nuclear weapons programs of their own. Countries pursuing and developing nuclear weapons capabilities must be persuaded to accede to the treaty as nuclear-weapon-free states and permit international monitoring. North Korea must be induced to fully comply with its international commitments concerning the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons in a visible and verifiable manner.

* Nuclear-weapons states must be persuaded to live up to their pledges to disarm. These countries have no excuse to delay fulfilling their unequivocal commitment to eliminate their nuclear weapons and an immediate responsibility to ensure that the nuclear-weapons test ban is enforced.

* The need for a zone completely free of WMD in the Middle East is more urgent than ever. This could be achieved by intensifying confidence-building measures that already exist within the framework of EU-Mediterranean cooperation, and by creating transparent verification procedures to destroy all WMD in the region.

* Negotiations on a binding and verifiable agreement on tactical-nuclear-weapons disarmament must begin immediately. There are large numbers of these smaller weapons in our part of the world, but our knowledge about them is sketchy. These weapons are relatively easy to steal and transport, which makes them particularly attractive to terrorists.

* Stronger export controls must be applied to prevent the spread of technologies and materials