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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 43, January - February 2000

Strengthening IAEA Safeguards
By Tony Colman MP

The Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which will enable Britain to ratify the Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has completed its passage through the House of Lords, and is scheduled to become law by April after swiftly moving through the House of Commons. I originally introduced the legislation as a Private Members Bill in the last parliamentary session, but it did not pass at that time. I am pleased that the Government has taken up ratification early in this session thus providing, I believe, some moral leadership ahead of the April-May Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Some 45 countries have already signed the Additional Protocols - including Britain, the US, China and France, although not Russia. Only eight countries have ratified, none of which are from the EU, which means that Britain is the first of the Euratom countries to push ahead.

The Additional Protocol was developed after the IAEA's experience of dealing with Iraq, which had concealed a significant nuclear weapons capability despite being a signatory to the NPT. The Protocol gives extra power to IAEA inspectors to enter premises in signatory countries to independently establish whether a clandestine nuclear weapons capability has been developed, and to be able to track the movement of such materials.

The House of Lords has discussed whether a challenge could be mounted to the Protocol under the rights pertaining to an individual under the European Convention on Human Rights, given that IAEA inspectors are not required to get a search warrant from a magistrate. The Government has pointed out that this goes to the heart of the Additional Protocol, which is to ensure that in a signatory country, be it Britain or, say, Iraq, the requirement to obtain a warrant prior to a search would likely mean that any 'evidence' would be removed before the inspectors arrived.

The powers that the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) had (and those that the new UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission [UNMOVIC] in Iraq may have) far exceed those available to the IAEA under the Additional Protocol. I believe, however, that the new Protocol provides a long-term way to deal with so-called 'rogue states' and Bin Laden-style terrorist groups that may lodge in otherwise non-rogue states.

On my travels overseas during the last year to the US, Hong Kong, South Korea and South Africa I have found significant support for the Additional Protocol, but the issue certainly needs a higher international political profile if more countries are to comply before the upcoming NPT Review Conference in New York.

Tony Colman MP was sponsor of a Private Members Bill for Britain to ratify the IAEA Additional Protocol in the 1998-1999 session of Parliament.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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