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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 46, May 2000

The 2000 NPT Review Conference: A Delicate, Hard-Won Compromise
By Rebecca Johnson

NPT Report


Bringing the gavel down on more than 25 pages of an agreed final document, Ambassador Abdallah Baali of Algeria, President of the Sixth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), called the successful outcome "the product of a delicate, hard-won compromise between divergent and sometimes conflicting positions". Congratulating President Baali, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the "historic consensus" as marking "a significant step forward in humanity's pursuit of a more peaceful world".

For the first time since 1985, the NPT parties were able to reach substantive agreements in their review of the implementation of nuclear disarmament objectives. Ambassador Antonio de Icaza of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the seven non-nuclear 'New Agenda Coalition' (NAC) states that had played a central role in achieving the breakthrough on nuclear disarmament (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden) said that the agreements, particularly the unequivocal undertaking by the weapon states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, meant that "what has always been implicit has now become explicit and this act both reinforces and revitalises the Treaty".

The conference almost closed on failure, due to deadlock between the United States and iraq over referring to Iraqi non-compliance with the Treaty. Calling on both countries to find agreed langauge, some 17 hours after the meeting had been scheduled to close, Ambassador Yuri Kapralov said that Russia had contributed "to the maximum" in order that the conference would be a success. After finally adopting the agreements, US Ambassador Robert Grey noted that the conference had come a long way in the past month but warned that there would be "different evaluations of what has been achieved". For the group of 109 Non-Aligned States Parties (NAM), Indonesia's Ambassador Makmur Widodo considered that notwithstanding the "conditionalities and stipulations" the highlight of the conference was the adoption of practical steps for nuclear disarmament.

Much was riding on this conference, the first since the NPT was indefinitely extended in 1995. In particular, the nuclear test explosions by India and Pakistan in May 1998 had sent shivers through the non-proliferation regime. During 1999, relations between the major powers deteriorated, becoming worse than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Russia and China were increasingly anxious about US missile defence plans and the role of NATO following expansion and the air strikes against Yugoslavia. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was in limbo and the Conference on Disarmament (CD) remained deadlocked. Moreover, the three 'preparatory committee' (PrepCom) meetings of the enhanced review process had disappointed expectations and failed to produce recommendations. Frustration among the non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) was high, with deep concern that indefinite extension had indeed lost them leverage on the weapon states and that the 1995 agreements on Principles and Objectives on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and the strengthened review process had failed to deliver.

Paradoxically, the success of the Sixth Review Conference may have been due in part to the fact that even the weapon states feared that a shambles (or worse still, an acrimonious failure) would seriously weaken the credibility of the Treaty and play into the hands of proliferators, including India and Pakistan. There was a widely shared sense that the non-proliferation regime needed to be seen to be strong enough to withstand the challenges from the South Asian tests and US rejection of the CTBT. Many also wanted to show that treaty violations such as Iraq and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had committed were able to be dealt with. They also saw the need to demonstrate the vigour of this multilateral non-proliferation regime in the face of creeping unilateralism, especially US national missile defence plans.

In view of the unpropitious political environment, however, States Parties went into the meeting with low expectations. To compound the pessimistic forecasts, there had been a late change to a new and - in the eyes of non-proliferation specialists - inexperienced Chair from Algeria, following South Africa's withdrawal from the nomination in November 1999.

So what turned the meeting round? How did the conference manage to adopt a substantive final document, with significant pledges on nuclear disarmament and stronger language on India, Pakistan and Israel than expected? This was not merely a lowest-common-denominator fudge, as might have been produced for the sake of adopting something.

How Baali and the 155 States Parties (out of 187) that attended the conference managed to confound the gloomy predictions and pull off a notable diplomatic success deserves a more considered analysis than would be possible so soon after the meeting ended. This report aims to describe the main developments and substantive debates and to offer a preliminary analysis of the conduct and outcome of the 2000 Review Conference.1

Preparing for the Conference

The decisions taken in 1995 mandated at least three PrepComs prior to the 2000 Review Conference. A total of 158 States Parties participated in the PrepComs which met in 1997, 1998 and 1999. In 1999, the States Parties were able to take the necessary procedural decisions for the review conference, but they failed to agree on any recommendations, as stipulated in Decision 1 on Strengthening the Review Process. In addition to a number of standard decisions regarding participation, languages, financing and so on, the Committee was able to adopt the provisional agenda and draft rules of procedure for the review conference. The rules were agreed after the weapon states accepted the proposal from South Africa, Egypt, the Arab Group and a number of non-aligned countries for an amendment to be made to rule 34 providing for 'subsidiary bodies' in accordance with Decision 1 (1995). At the time, Russia and the United States had objected, preferring to retain rule 34's existing reference to 'working group'.

The second PrepCom had also failed to agree on what background documentation should be provided for the Sixth Review Conference, principally because the United States opposed Egypt's insistence that there should be official information relating to the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. Late in the third PrepCom, it was finally agreed that in addition to the usual documentation provided by the IAEA and the various Secretariats overseeing the various nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties, the United Nations Secretariat would prepare documents on the various NPT articles, the CTBT and the implementation of the Resolution on the Middle East "reflecting developments since 1995 with a view to realising fully the objectives of the resolution". Discussions at the third PrepCom on the question of 'products' for the review conference, particularly the number and type of documents that the review conference should seek to adopt, were inconclusive, despite majority support for negotiating a '2000 Principles and Objectives' in addition to a review document.

After being accepted as President-designate in December 1999, Baali held a series of consultations with key diplomatic players in New York and Geneva, and also with officials and NGOs in a number of countries, including the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France and Japan. The New Agenda Coalition and the Group of Arab States had served notice that they intended to push for subsidiary bodies on practical steps for nuclear disarmament and on the 1995 Middle East resolution. When South Africa and Egypt first proposed such subsidiary bodies at the 1998 PrepCom, and then again in 1999, some of the weapon states, notably the United States, France and Russia, had been opposed. During the weekend before the conference Baali held intensive consultations with all relevant parties, enabling him to get early agreement on the establishment and mandate of the two subsidiary bodies. In so doing, he averted a threatened procedural crisis that could have bogged the conference down from the very beginning.

A number of States Parties had also been preparing for the conference. In terms of effect on the outcome, four should be particularly highlighted. Russia ratified the CTBT and START II just weeks before the NPT opened, giving an important political boost to the non-proliferation regime and intentionally putting the United States under pressure. Russia particularly wanted to wrong-foot the United States at the NPT because of US plans to weaken the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and deploy national missile defences. The Clinton Administration, in a weak position following Senate rejection of the CTBT in October 1999, had undertaken a public relations blitz in the months leading up to the review conference, giving exhibitions and illustrated talks to groups of states and parliamentarians on US commitment and efforts to comply with the Treaty, particularly Article VI.

The head of the US delegation, Norman Wulf, was also keenly aware that as in past years, Egypt and other Arab states would demand that special attention be given to Israel's nuclear weapon capabilities. The United States needed to prepare the ground carefully beforehand, with both Egypt and Israel, to prevent this highly contentious issue blowing out of control at the conference. How to handle Israel and the Middle East in an NPT context was part of the agenda for discussions at the highest governmental levels during a visit to Washington by Egypt's President Mubarak early in the year.

Britain had also changed its position over the two years since the disastrous second PrepCom in 1998. High level discussions within the Labour government, combined with civil society pressure and more attention in Parliament, resulted in a markedly more constructive British approach on nuclear disarmament issues. During the conference Britain played a vital role in bridging differences between nuclear and non-nuclear positions.

The New Agenda Coalition, which was launched in June 1998 after the failure of the second PrepCom and the nuclear test explosions conducted by India and Pakistan, had gained increasing support in two UN General Assembly resolutions for its multi-stranded, pragmatic approach to getting more effective progress on nuclear disarmament. Despite some internal disagreements, due to inevitable differences in approach and national interests among such a regionally and politically diverse coalition, the NAC approached the Conference with a challenging but do-able bottom line calling for an unequivocal undertaking to eliminate nuclear arsenals, a carefully negotiated working paper of pragmatic, realisable steps, and a strategy involving the establishment of a nuclear disarmament subsidiary body, but with enough flexibility to manoeuvre.

Two years earlier, South Africa had proposed to the second PrepCom the establishment of a subsidiary body as a mechanism for focussed discussions aimed at identifying specific disarmament steps to be undertaken by the nuclear-weapon states. Based on ideas from the Acronym Institute in early 1998, the intention was to build on the programme of action contained in the 1995 Principles and Objectives by pushing for entry into force of the CTBT, conclusion of the fissile materials production ban, and practical steps to fulfil the third part of the programme (paragraph 4 c), which called in general terms for the nuclear-weapon states to pursue "systematic and progressive efforts" on nuclear disarmament. The call for an unequivocal undertaking derived from the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which unanimously agreed that there was a legal obligation to bring nuclear disarmament negotiations to conclusion, severing the apparent condition in Article VI relating this to complete and general disarmament. The steps identified were based largely on the 1996 Report of the Canberra Commission.2

There were of course other delegations and groups which had prepared strategies and ideas in advance. The group of 109 Non-Aligned States Parties, chaired by Indonesia, had negotiated a comprehensive working paper putting forward text on all aspects of the Treaty. The 15-member European Union (EU), presided over by Portugal, provided a general statement and joint working papers on the three major themes of the review. A group of five NATO countries put together a proposal on nuclear disarmament that went beyond the EU common position. Dubbed the 'NATO-5', Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway had begun coordinating joint proposals in the CD two years ago, but this was the first time they had acted together within the NPT context.

The Vienna delegations of a group of 10 countries (Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, also known as the G-10) had negotiated papers covering Main Committee II and III issues, including safeguards, nuclear energy, nuclear safety, physical protection, and waste management. China prepared several working papers. Japan had put together an eight-point plan on disarmament, uniting with Australia on this and ideas for the strengthened review process. Likewise, Canada had worked out ideas for a programme of action on the NPT and the review process. Many more papers and ideas emerged during the Conference, including from Malaysia and Costa Rica on a nuclear weapon convention, Iran on safeguards and export controls, and a group of island and maritime countries concerned about nuclear shipments, safety and liability.

The Review Conference

The 2000 Review Conference opened on April 24 and unanimously elected Abdallah Baali as President. Hannelore Hoppe, Chief of the Department for Disarmament Affairs Branch on Weapons of Mass Destruction, was confirmed as Secretary-General. In quick succession, the Conference elected the Chairs of the three Main Committees and then accepted Baali's proposal for the establishment of two subsidiary bodies, pursuant to the 1995 decision on Strengthening the Review Process.

Subsidiary body 1, chaired by Ambassador Clive Pearson (New Zealand) was convened under Main Committee I to "discuss and consider the practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts to implement article VI [of the NPT] and paragraphs 3 and 4 (c) of the 1995 decision on Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament". Subsidiary body 2, chaired by Ambassador Christopher Westdal (Canada), was convened under Main Committee II and would address "regional issues, including with respect to the Middle East and implementation of the 1995 Middle East resolution". The decision also ensured that the subsidiary bodies would be open to all States Parties, and would hold four scheduled meetings in private, reporting to their respective main committees.

Principal Appointments

President of the 2000 Review Conference - Abdallah Baali (Algeria)
Secretary-General of the 2000 Review Conference - Hannelore Hoppe (UN-DDA)
MC. I (disarmament, including security assurances) - Camilo Reyes (Colombia)
MC. II (safeguards and nuclear-weapon-free zones) - Adam Kobieracki (Poland)
MC. III (peaceful uses) - Markku Reimaa (Finland)
Drafting Committee - André Erdös (Hungary)
Credentials Committee - Makmur Widodo (Indonesia)
Subsidiary Body 1 (practical disarmament) - Clive Pearson (New Zealand)
Subsidiary Body 2 (regional issues) - Christopher Westdal (Canada)

General Debate

The opening session was addressed by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who reminded Conference participants that "the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, remains a major threat to peace". The Secretary-General made reference to some of the regime's major challenges and said that the challenge for the NPT Parties was to "embark on a process that will ensure the full implementation of all of the provisions of the treaty by all of the States Parties". The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, also spoke at the opening session, stressing the importance of safeguards and verification and summarising some of the problems, challenges and developments in the IAEA's work.

Over the course of six days, 93 States Parties participated in the general debate. Around 20 countries were represented at ministerial level, including several foreign ministers: from the Russian Federation, the United States (Secretary of State), Mexico, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and a number of Eastern European countries. Like the UN Secretary-General, many statements referred to the regime's challenges, such as: the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan; the thousands of nuclear weapons still on hair-trigger alert; tactical nuclear forces; the re-affirmation of nuclear doctrines, including retention of first use by some of the nuclear-weapon states; and concern that US national missile defence would jeopardise the ABM Treaty and lead to a new arms race.

Several raised concerns about failures by Iraq and the DPRK to comply fully with their Treaty obligations, while others, particularly from the Middle East region, castigated Israel's unsafeguarded nuclear programme as a threat to regional peace and security. There was strong endorsement for the objective of early entry into force of the CTBT and for prompt negotiations and conclusion by the CD of a ban on the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons (FMCT/fissban). Many referred with disappointment to the rejection of CTBT ratification by the United States.

Halfway through the first week and in parallel with the general debate, the three main committees began their review of the operation of the Treaty. The two subsidiary bodies held their four open-ended meetings during the second and third weeks, in time allocated to Main Committees I and II. In view of the subsidiary body mandate, it was decided that MC.I would focus on the review of the Treaty and that subsidiary body 1 would look forward.

Nuclear-Weapon States

In MC.I, the nuclear-weapon states (NWS) each presented a national report on their actions and activities in compliance with Article VI. Emerging discussion on some contentious issues, including missile defence, was effectively cut short when the NWS issued a joint statement at the beginning of the second week. In 23 paragraphs, the N-53 welcomed indefinite extension of the NPT and reaffirmed commitment to all the decisions adopted in 1995, including the resolution on the Middle East. In calling for India and Pakistan to undertake the measures in UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1172, adopted shortly after the May 1998 nuclear tests, the N-5 underlined that those countries did not have the status of nuclear-weapon states under the NPT. The statement stressed the importance of securing the early entry into force of the CTBT and urged the CD to agree on a programme of work that would include the commencement and early conclusion of FMCT negotiations. For the first time the five declared that none of their nuclear weapons were targetted at any state.

In welcoming the ratification of START II by the Russian Federation, the N-5 finally agreed language that looked forward to the conclusion of START III while "preserving and strengthening the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons". There were further paragraphs which supported the IAEA, including the additional protocol; reaffirmed UNSCR 984 on security assurances; and supported nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ), including the proposed NWFZ in Central Asia, transparency in nuclear-related export controls, peaceful uses and nuclear safety.

Nuclear Disarmament

In addition to national statements, a large number of working papers laid the basis for discussions in both MC.I and subsidiary body 1, notably from: the New Agenda Coalition; the European Union; the NATO-5, which gathered support as the conference proceeded from Finland, Spain, Denmark and (in a first-time joint statement with Finland) by Sweden; the NAM; Myanmar (Burma); Malaysia and Costa Rica; and a joint Japanese-Australia paper.

Arising from the national statements and early discussions, Ambassador Camilo Reyes, Chair of MC.I, produced a first draft. As the contentious issues were further discussed, the draft underwent several revisions. In keeping with the Bureau decision that committee chairs should avoid developing square bracketed 'rolling text', Reyes sought to reflect a balance of views in developing drafts. By the end of the third week, however, there were still widely divergent positions from the weapon states and various non-nuclear representatives regarding what should be left out and what should be included, as well as contested text on issues that all sides agreed needed to be addressed in some way.

With regard to articles I and II, MC.I discussions emphasised the importance of full implementation. Nuclear sharing, however, was among the dogs that didn't bark. Discussion on this was much less contentious than might have been expected from the focus given to NATO nuclear sharing by some non-aligned delegations during the PrepComs. The NAM working paper called for the nuclear-weapon states to refrain from nuclear sharing for military purposes "under any kind of security arrangements", but no delegations pursued the issue with any degree of determination.

MC.I developed stronger language on India and Pakistan than the N-5 statement or subsidiary body 2. This was in part because some delegations that had been expected to water down the criticisms because of their regional or commercial relations with one or both countries barely contested the language in MC.I, thinking the issue was being addressed elsewhere. France and Russia, for example, argued against addressing the South Asian nuclear tests in the context of 'non-proliferation' in MC.I, as they would be covered in subsidiary body 2 on regional issues. Nevertheless, with Japan, Australia, Canada and others pushing the issue, the tests were condemned. To belie the assumption of status attached to being a nuclear-weapon state in the N-5 statement, MC.I declared that the nuclear tests did not confer "any special status whatsoever". Not only were both South Asian countries called on to undertake the measures contained in UN Security Council 1172, but all States Parties were enjoined to refrain from any action that may contravene or undermine UNSCR 1172 or the NPT.

As in all past review conferences, there were deep divisions on Article VI. The weapon states wanted much more positive language welcoming their efforts and actions in reducing arsenals or closing facilities since the end of the Cold War. While most were happy to acknowledge such efforts, the New Agenda Coalition and other non-nuclear countries wanted also to reflect how much remains to be done. There were, for example, proposals to quote the concerns raised by the UN Secretary-General, including reference to nuclear reliance and more than 35,000 nuclear weapons remaining in the arsenals. Many also wanted the 1996 advisory opinion of the ICJ on the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons to be endorsed, particularly the unanimous opinion regarding the legal obligation to disarm. Such proposals, resisted by some of the weapon states, were inevitably watered down in the end.

Another very contentious issue in MC.I centred on concerns about the continuing modernisation of nuclear weapons systems. There were several mentions of sub-critical tests and laboratory testing, described by Switzerland as "incompatible with the preamble of the CTBT". The weapon states' rejection of NAM calls to refrain from conducting all such tests and to "comply with the letter and spirit of the CTBT" prompted South Africa to table a paper that reproduced, with dates, various statements made during the CTBT negotiations in the CD in which four of the nuclear powers indicated that they would not use technological alternatives to testing to build new types of nuclear weapons. South Africa wanted a paragraph which recalled these undertakings and called on the NWS not to conduct tests "for the further development and modernisation of nuclear weapons". This was rejected by Britain, France, Russia and the United States, who accused South Africa of taking the quotes out of context. They were prepared to see a paragraph in the review reproducing text from the CTBT preamble on constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, but that was all.

There were also sharp disagreements over the fissban/FMCT, as most delegations wanted to reaffirm and strengthen the commitment to negotiate made in 1995. China insisted that the CD should agree its programme of work, incorporating FMCT negotiations, but also addressing outer space issues and nuclear disarmament. Having achieved text linking the FMCT to a CD programme of work in the N-5 statement, China refused to consider the calls by the EU states, NATO-5 and others for the unconditional resumption and conclusion of fissban negotiations.

To address practical steps on nuclear disarmament, Pearson divided subsidiary body 1's work into two clusters: cluster 1 considered 'unfinished business', such as the START process, CTBT, FMCT and further efforts by the nuclear-weapon states to reduce nuclear arsenals unilaterally; cluster 2 took elements from various working papers, and addressed transparency, non-strategic nuclear weapons, measures to de-target, de-alert and de-activate nuclear weapons systems, and a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies, as well as the engagement of all the nuclear-weapon states in the process of nuclear disarmament. Pearson also reproduced the central demand from the New Agenda Coalition, for "an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals and, in the forthcoming NPT review period 2000-2005, to engage in an accelerated process of negotiations..."

After some discussion on both clusters, he integrated them into a combined working paper, which was discussed and revised a number of times. The weapon states objected to much of the first draft. In an interesting reversal, the NATO-5 countries and Japan and Australia objected that the next draft leant too far towards the N-5 positions, especially on fissban, which was linked with agreement on a CD programme of work, as China had demanded. They had wanted target dates for entry into force of the CTBT and conclusion of an FMCT, and considered that the language on transparency and non-strategic nuclear weapons had been unnecessarily weakened. The paper underwent a further revision before being presented by its Chair as a "compact and finely balanced package" for incorporation into the MC.I report.

Neither Pearson nor Reyes had wanted to dissect individual paragraphs, considering that it was important to construct a balance between competing interests and demands rather than to seek consensus based on turning every paragraph into something so weak and innocuous that it would offend no-one (and be practically meaningless). Both MC.I and the disarmament subsidiary body had reached impasse by the President's deadline for receiving the reports at the end of the third week.

The combined paper from MC.I was accepted as reflecting the state of progress in negotiations on disarmament, but as so many issues were linked or potentially subject to being traded off against others, the entire text remained in contention. China complained that many of its concerns had not been reflected, while Mexico underlined some of the areas where the New Agenda Coalition and NAM states would not be able to accept the language as it stood. Baali accepted the paper; requesting Pearson to continue consultations aimed at finding areas of agreement on practical disarmament steps, he reminded the conference that to develop consensus on the outstanding issues they must "move away from known positions towards greater concurrence". As the conference adjourned for the final weekend, things were not looking hopeful.

The breakthrough came as a result of private discussions between the New Agenda Coalition and the NWS. Though there is some dispute over who first approached whom, it is understood that the United States, seeking to avoid the conference deadlocking over nuclear disarmament, as it had on three previous occasions, initiated the talks. The first meeting took place on Saturday morning. Steffen Kongstad of Norway was requested by both sides to act as moderator. As Pearson was continuing his consultations on the forward-looking plan of action, the first N-5/NAC meeting scoped out whether they could find areas of mutual agreement in Reyes' MC.I paper. The meeting was sufficiently constructive to encourage them to do it again. Convening outside the United Nations, the group next undertook intensive negotiations based on Pearson's latest draft from subsidiary body 1.

When Baali returned from an unrelated trip to London on Monday May 15, he convened consultations among a group of some 30 'representative countries' and sought to identify areas of common ground for inclusion in the disarmament document. His attempts to identify two categories (A and B) of more and less difficult, disputed text met with little success. Some states objected to being excluded from the negotiating group. In an interesting example of diplomatic direct action, a few excluded delegates from European countries, including Norway, the Netherlands and Ireland, were invited to sit with NAM delegations. Baali decided not to force the issue, and by the second meeting, the consultations were regarded as open-ended, although still held in a small room to restrict numbers. Altogether, some 45 delegations participated. There was, however, confusion regarding the President's process of categorising different levels of contended text, so that the talks were inconclusive and frustrating. Again, seeing that this initiative was not working, Baali quickly let it drop. He turned to the N-5/NAC group, which by then had had several negotiating sessions.

By Wednesday May 17, the N-5 and New Agenda had reached substantial agreement on paragraphs covering the CTBT, START process and ABM Treaty (using the language agreed by the N-5, though none of the NAC was enthusiastic). They had watered down and substantially agreed paragraphs on irreversibility, unilateral reductions, diminishing the role of nuclear weapons and reducing their operational status. They appeared to have reached an impasse over four crucial issues: giving an "unequivocal undertaking" to eliminate nuclear weapons - a bottom line demand for the New Agenda Coalition, which Britain, China and the United States were prepared to accept after much debate and some watering down of the original NAC language, but France and Russia balked at; tactical nuclear weapons, which Russia did not want to address, except in the context of strategic stability, a catch-all term that the New Agenda states were reluctant to see attached to anything except the ABM Treaty; transparency, which China wanted deleted or paralleled by an equivalent commitment to the no-first-use of nuclear weapons; and the inclusion of all the nuclear-weapon states in the process leading to nuclear disarmament, which France was unhappy with.

Baali's attempts to convene President's Consultations having failed to develop into an effective negotiating forum, he judged that it was time to bring the N-5/NAC consultations to the other States Parties for wider consideration. By this time it appeared that Russia was the main obstacle, still demanding that the practical steps as well as the ABM/START process should be put in the context of preserving strategic stability.

When the deadlock was brought into the open, some delegations, particularly Germany and Japan, reacted with hostility. They appeared angry that the weapon states had negotiated directly with the New Agenda Coalition, excluding their own allies. Belgium's ambassador, Jean Lint, complained that all the States Parties risked becoming hostage to the failure of twelve. The NAC were by then prepared to let the larger group take over, but Russia wanted to continue the N-5/NAC negotiations in private. Late on Wednesday evening, however, Baali insisted that the N-5 and NAC circulate their deadlocked draft among the other States Parties and then go back into private negotiations. They were warned that they would be expected to explain their positions to the conference the next day if they were unable to resolve the remaining differences. Russia continued to insist that the practical steps must be explicitly placed in the context of strategic stability. France was still trying to weaken the language of the unequivocal undertaking to relate to the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament. By 1.30 pm, the N-5/NAC meeting broke up, exhausted and seemingly defeated. The United States had managed to shift from its acute defensiveness at the beginning of the Conference to a more comfortable position where the heat was mostly on Russia.

The next morning in an informal meeting of over 50 delegations, de Icaza outlined the compromises the New Agenda representatives had made and said that they had entered into the small-group negotiations at the request of the NWS in order to help them. They had made concessions and were being criticised for conceding too much. He agreed that the draft was too weak and said he did not much like it himself; nevertheless, it offered a practical way forward. He stressed, however, that the NAC had gone as far as they could in diluting their own positions or watering down the package originally negotiated in subsidiary body 1.

Russia, having been applauded at the start of the review conference for bearing the gifts of its ratification of the CTBT and START II, did not want to be left carrying the blame for the conference's failure. Following de Icaza's statement on the morning of Thursday May 18, Kapralov announced that Russia would accept the negotiated package "in the spirit of compromise". But he emphasised that although he was agreeing to do without the words, the conference should understand that strategic stability was vitally necessary: without it, Russia could not take risks in arms control and disarmament. In a curious twist, the text which had been circulated to the wider group of States Parties the night before had by mistake been typed up incorrectly. Russia's final proposal that the 'chapeau' paragraph introducing the practical steps should include strategic stability with peace and security and undiminished security for all had been agreed by the New Agenda Coalition and the other weapon states. Because of the drafting error late the previous evening, however, Russia accepted the unamended text, which did not mention strategic stability except in the context of the ABM Treaty. The text as adopted put the practical steps in the context of promoting international stability and undiminished security for all.

Once Russia had agreed, France fell into line, though still expressing its preference for making an unequivocal commitment to the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament rather than to the achievement of the elimination of nuclear arsenals. France was also unhappy with the implications of referring to the "ultimate objective" of general and complete disarmament, as this reflected the ICJ's delinking of general disarmament from nuclear disarmament. China took another day, attempting to dislodge or neutralise the language on transparency before it too announced that it would accept the paper. After the final document was adopted, Ambassador Hu Xiaodi registered an informal reservation, saying that without unconditional pledges of no first use, the withdrawal of all nuclear weapons deployed outside the borders of NWS, and the abolition of nuclear sharing, transparency and similar confidence-building measures would remain "empty talk".

Achieving agreement on forward-looking commitments and objectives on nuclear disarmament brought the prospect of a final document within reach, thereby providing the incentive for renewed efforts to resolve other outstanding issues.

Throughout Thursday, a slightly expanded group comprising the P-5, NAC, Indonesia on behalf of the NAM, Norway, Canada and the Netherlands, conducted intensive negotiations on the basis of Reyes' report from MC.I. They broke up late on Thursday, deadlocked over issues such as laboratory testing and the modernisation of nuclear weapon systems, the ICJ advisory opinion, criticisms of nuclear doctrines and deterrence, characterising the number of weapons still in nuclear arsenals, the UN Secretary-General's proposed international conference on eliminating nuclear dangers, and welcoming the steps already taken by the weapon states. A night's sleep brought those of the weapon states and New Agenda Coalition who had appeared most obdurate to the table with more constructive approaches, enabling agreement on the review of nuclear disarmament progress to be achieved by late morning on the final Friday.

Security Assurances

The question of security guarantees from the NWS to the NNWS was discussed in MC.I and also in the context of nuclear-weapon-free zones, but was not the focus of significant political attention, unlike in 1995. More than 25 States Parties spoke on the issue, mostly expressing disappointment that the CD had not started negotiations on a legally binding treaty to assure NNWS against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. Saying that UNSCR 984 (1995) was not sufficient, many called on the CD to address the issue. Several countries including Indonesia, on behalf of the NAM, called for negotiations on a legal instrument to be annexed to the NPT.

China, the only NWS with a no-first-use policy, urged the other weapon states to give unconditional negative security assurances, renounce their deterrence doctrines based on the first-use option, and conclude an international legal instrument on no-first-use. Switzerland, in its proposal for "elements for a new action plan", opposed any linkage with biological or chemical weapons and called for unconditional, legally binding global security assurances as a practical measure towards the implementation of Article VI. The NATO-5 was divided between those that wanted security assurances to be addressed and those which did not regard the issue as a priority, so they merely noted that legally binding security assurances by the NWS "would strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime".

Egypt put forward a comprehensive working paper with seven principles: the recognition of the threat nuclear weapons pose; a trigger mechanism to ensure Security Council response to threats or attacks; commitment by the Security Council to take effective collective measures to prevent such threats and suppress aggression involving nuclear weapons; the renunciation by the P-5 of their Security Council veto with regard to security assurances; the commencement of negotiations in the CD on a legally binding treaty; an unconditional commitment by the NWS not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against those NNWS parties to the NPT that do not possess or place nuclear weapons in their territories; and an undertaking in a joint statement by the NWS not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against NNWS parties to the NPT or NWFZ "at any time or under any circumstances" pending negotiation and adoption of a legally binding treaty. In response, the United States told NPT parties not to "spend time trying to accomplish the unachievable".

Though France and the United States seemed to regard their security assurances as entirely adequate, Britain attempted to bridge the chasm between them and the NNWS by suggesting that the review conference recognise the reaffirmation of UNSCR 984 by the NWS in their statement and that the issue remains "of continuing concern" to the Security Council. In the end, the conference reaffirmed that the only absolute security guarantee against the use or threat of use is the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It noted the N-5 reaffirmation of UNSCR 984, and agreed that "legally binding security assurances by the five nuclear-weapon states to the non-nuclear-weapon states Parties to the [NPT] strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime", and called for the PrepComs to make recommendations to the 2005 review conference. This is interesting chiefly because omission of a conditional 'would' implies that the existing security assurances are already legally binding.

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones

Many states referred to the importance of NWFZ in their general debate and MC.II statements and there were working papers from Belarus, China, the EU, Mongolia, and the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It was also acknowledged by many that countries that are party to NWFZ treaties can acquire security assurances through the treaties, although few agreed with France that this was sufficient. Support was expressed by a number of delegations, including China, for the establishment of a NWFZ in Central Asia, which Japan noted would be the first NWFZ in the northern hemisphere. The five countries tabled together a working paper asking the conference to recognise and welcome the steps they have taken towards a draft treaty and expressing their firm commitment to conclude the process.

One issue, however, that was not resolved until the very end of the conference concerned Belarus' proposal for a nuclear-weapon-free 'space' in Central and Eastern Europe. Belarus wanted the final document to note its proposal, which was opposed by 15 countries from the region and the European Union. Belarus held out until the last moment, and then settled for a paragraph based on UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) language, which noted all initiatives to promote new NWFZ and "welcomes the efforts and proposals" put forward since 1995 "in various regions of the world".

The importance of signing and ratifying the existing NWFZ treaties was underlined, including the protocols relevant to the NWS. With regard to the Bangkok Treaty, Thailand urged the NWS to ratify the protocols and the conference noted that consultations were underway to facilitate adherence by the NWS to the relevant protocols.

Safeguards and Export Controls

In his opening address, the Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, spoke of the importance of safeguards and verification and summarised some of the problems, challenges and developments in the IAEA's work. In particular, he urged all states to conclude their Article III safeguards obligations and also to sign up to the Model Protocol developed from Programme 93+2 after the problems with Iraq and North Korea, as this would enhance the effectiveness of inspections and the enforcement of the NPT.

Main Committee II reflected strong support for the IAEA, including the strengthened safeguards, which Ireland characterised as an important achievement that showed the non-nuclear countries' political will to enhance the non-proliferation regime. There was, however, much disappointment over the sluggish pace at which states have signed and/or ratified their additional protocols. In their N-5 statement, the NWS urged all NNWS to sign the additional protocol and said that they were in the process of seeking ratification for their own agreements. A working paper from the G-10 proposed that the next review conference should consider making the additional protocol an element of full-scope safeguards and thus, under the 1995 Principles and Objectives decision, also a requirement for the supply of nuclear material and equipment.

The NAM working paper endorsed the IAEA safeguards regime and supported full-scope safeguards as a "necessary precondition" for new supply arrangements, but no mention was made of the additional protocols of the strengthened safeguards regime. Much was made of the "inalienable right" to develop nuclear energy, and the paper called for the removal of "unilaterally enforced restrictive measures" - by which they meant the export controls operated through the Zangger List and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) - saying that no NPT party should be denied technology, equipment or assistance on the basis of "allegations of non-compliance not verified by the IAEA".

The sharpest differences in approach were demonstrated in the working papers on export controls from the G-10 and Iran. The G-10 wanted the conference to recognise the role of the Zangger Committee and existing national export control mechanisms in the prevention of proliferation. Perceptions differed as to whether the goal of increased transparency regarding export controls, called for in the 1995 Principles and Objectives, had been met. Italy, which presently chairs the NSG, gave examples of the ongoing measures the NSG had taken to increase transparency. The EU joined the G-10 in encouraging further efforts and dialogue to increase export control transparency, but Iran, Egypt and others complained that as long as the arrangements were limited in participation and transparency and the non-nuclear countries outside the arrangements could not take part in the decision-making process, they could not feel confident that their concerns were being taken into account. Iran argued that "unilaterally enforced export controls" hampered the developing countries' access to nuclear materials, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes. Joined by others from the floor, Iran pushed for multilateral negotiations on effective transfer guidelines and, pending the negotiations, wanted the NSG to take practical steps to practise greater transparency in its proceedings and decision-making process and to allow all interested States Parties to take part.

During the debates, there were disagreements over allegations of non-compliance and the relation between the responsibilities of the IAEA and the UN Security Council and General Assembly in upholding compliance. Some countries wanted stronger or more binding obligations than the proposed references to the voluntary offer safeguards agreements undertaken by the nuclear-weapon states and the voluntary measures to place fissile materials designated by them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA safeguards. Brazil and others objected strongly to France's argument that the verification costs for monitoring fissile material transferred from nuclear weapon use should come out of the IAEA's regular budget and be shared, because "cuts in nuclear armaments serve the common interest". In the view of the non-aligned countries, verification costs should be borne by the possessors of such material - the nuclear-weapon states.

Export controls were raised in both MC.II and MC.III, but addressed primarily in MC.II. Among the contentious issues were language on dual use items, the Zangger Committee, attempts by the NSG to be more transparent, concerns about transfers to states not party to the Treaty and proposals requiring the weapon states not to enter into any kind of nuclear technical cooperation and assistance with such states. To the disappointment of many, China opposed a paragraph reaffirming the 1995 Principles and Objectives decision (paragraph 12) to require full-scope safeguards and internationally legally binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons as a condition for the supply of nuclear materials and equipment. China, which had expressed reservations about this paragraph in 1995, takes the position that since the Treaty itself speaks of 'safeguards' and not 'full-scope safeguards' the Treaty text "overrides" the language of the 1995 Principles and Objectives.

Despite the best efforts of the Chair, Adam Kobieracki, it had proved impossible to resolve the remaining disputed paragraphs in MC.II's report by midday on the last Friday. During the long night, when most of the delegates were sitting round waiting for news from the US and Iraqi delegations, many were surprised that Baali did not get MC.II to resolve its differences. Given the deep-seated positions on the remaining issues and the determination by Belarus, Iran, Egypt and the G-10 not to surrender their positions before they had to, perhaps the extra time would not have been productive. The committee was hastily reconvened on Saturday afternoon only when it became clear that the United States and Iraq were close to agreement. At that point, Belarus gave in and accepted a non-specific paragraph that did not mention its proposal by name. In hurried negotiations on the outstanding issues relating to export controls and safeguards, Iran suggested that the remaining disputed paragraphs be simply deleted. The G-10 and EU countries participating in that meeting were dismayed at the prospect of losing their language on the NSG, Zangger Committee and efforts at transparency, but were under immense pressure to agree so that the conference could adopt its final document before any State changed its mind. On the understanding that in the absence of new language in 2000 the default obligation would rest with the 1995 Principles and Objectives, they gave in.

Regional Issues

Subsidiary body 2, chaired by Canada's Chris Westdal, principally covered the Middle East and South Asia, but with consideration also of DPRK and Iraq. Egypt and the Group of Arab States were determined that Israel be named as the only state in the region not to have acceded to the NPT. In agreeing to this, the United States insisted on a parallel paragraph naming Iraq as non-compliant with the Treaty.

In one of several papers and statements on the Middle East Resolution, Egypt proposed follow up work for the period 2000-2005, suggesting appointing a special representative/envoy or committee or having the three depositary states pursue discussions with Israel regarding accession to the NPT. Although there was initial interest in some of these ideas, Egypt's proposals were opposed by the United States, France and others, who did not want the review conference to establish precedents for intersessional work.

Some states opposed references to the Middle East Peace Process, and Arab states wanted to avoid mentioning that states from the region had not yet concluded their safeguards agreements or additional protocols with the IAEA. They also supported deletion of the US-sponsored paragraph quoting the IAEA Director General's letter to the UN Security Council on the status of Iraq's compliance with the NPT and Security Council resolutions.

With regard to South Asia, the language was weaker than in MC.1. There was some disagreement within the subsidiary body over whether and how to express international concern about the nuclear tests, but this was dropped in favour of reiterating the points made in the N-5 statement, which called on India and Pakistan to implement UNSCR 1172 and emphasised that the nuclear tests did not confer nuclear-weapon state status. There was little controversy over proposals urging both countries to accede to the NPT and CTBT, maintain the testing moratorium, undertake a moratorium on fissile material production for weapons, and strengthen their non-proliferation export control measures with regard to technologies, material and equipment capable of use for the production of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. In the absence of the DPRK from the review conference, there was little opposition to a paragraph expressing concern that the IAEA was unable to verify that no nuclear material had been diverted for weapons purposes.

The major conflict, which came to a head on the last day and risked the Conference outcome, concerned bitter disagreement between Iraq and the United States over how to characterise Iraq's status with regard to compliance with the Treaty. In addition to the United States, a number of countries had raised concerns about non-compliance by Iraq, including Canada, Italy, Germany, Britain, Netherlands, Austria, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and Australia, although many would have preferred the issue to be dealt with in relation to safeguards in Main Committee II rather than as a regional issue. Iraq, arguing that it was in compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreements, had initially resisted any mention of non-compliance and then tried to turn the tables on the US delegation by accusing the United States of non-compliance, citing a US-Israeli agreement dated February 22, 2000. In addition to a number of Arab States, Russia also questioned whether Iraq could still be said to be non-compliant. China argued that there was "no evidence" of present non-compliance, and that where nuclear weapons were concerned, the Iraqi file should be closed. The United States, however, insisted that since the Resolution on the Middle East concerned all aspects of non-proliferation in the region, Israel's non-adherence to the NPT could not be criticised without also addressing Iraq's non-compliance.

On May 9, a letter written by the IAEA Director General to the President of the UN Security Council on April 10, 2000 was delivered to subsidiary body 2 by an IAEA representative.4 Iraq subsequently accepted the principle of including a paragraph based on this statement in the NPT final report. An early draft of the subsidiary body 2 report from Westdal quoted a large section of the Director General's letter and called on Iraq to comply with its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions 687, 707, 715, and 1284. For a long time Iraq held out against any reference to the Security Council, arguing that the NPT review document should contain only references to NPT compliance. The United States agreed to drop the references to resolutions other than 687, but refused to move beyond that. Westdal's difficulties were compounded by the fact that the US delegation was forbidden to meet directly with Iraq's representatives, and so he had to conduct shuttle diplomacy between the two groups of diplomats in different rooms.

Believing that agreement between the United States and Iraq was possible, the President stopped the clock at 11.50 pm on Friday, May 19 to allow more time for negotiations. At around 2.00 am things looked bleak and a number of delegations began encouraging Baali to call a halt. Some wanted him to declare a failure. Others suggested finding a different decision-making formula to salvage what was possible from the agreements already obtained, especially on nuclear disarmament. Among the suggestions, Baali was urged to incorporate the language acceptable to the United States and find a way for the conference to adopt the final document on the basis of 'consensus minus one', effectively excluding Iraq from the decision.

Others suggested he consider taking a vote, as provided for in the rules of procedure; but without careful management, voting could have unravelled the fragile consensus achieved on other issues, besides setting a precedent that many States Parties did not want to establish. Some wondered if the forward looking 'plan of action' on nuclear disarmament could be adopted alone, but that would have been difficult for some delegations which had won acceptance of other issues of importance for their national positions. The nuclear powers were canvassed about whether they would be willing to issue the nuclear disarmament agreement as a further N-5 statement to give it political authority in the event of the conference failing to adopt its final document. Neither France, Russia nor China would entertain the idea, arguing that such a move would take those agreements out of the political conditions governing the delicate balance they had sought to establish.

Baali was not ready to give up. Encouraged by Westdal's conviction that the distance between Iraq and the United States was diminishing and that agreement was possible with enough time and pressure, he suspended the session at 5.00 am and resumed six hours later. Several delegations, including Indonesia on behalf of the NAM, Britain on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States, Portugal on behalf of the EU, Mexico on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, Russia, Japan, Poland and the Netherlands, appealed to both the United States and Iraq to bridge the remaining gap. At 3.00 pm Westdal announced that the paragraph was settled.

Following intervention from senior Administration officials Robert Einhorn and John Holum, the United States agreed to a form of wording that Iraq was also prepared to accept, noting the recent IAEA inspections and recognising that since the "cessation of IAEA inspections in Iraq on 16 December 1998", the IAEA "has not been in a position to provide any assurance of Iraq's compliance under UN Security Council Resolution 687". When the final document was adopted, Ambassador Saeed Hassan registered Iraq's formal reservations, arguing that his country had fully complied with the NPT's requirements. He complained that the United States had imposed its formula and drafting language on the paragraph dealing with Iraq, which "had nothing to do with the NPT or the mandate of the conference" but which could be used "in aggressive American foreign policy directed against Iraq".

Nuclear Energy

Main Committee III, chaired by Ambassador Markku Reimaa, heard many statements reaffirming the right to research, produce and use nuclear energy for non-military purposes. Mauritius, for example, argued that the transfer of nuclear materials and technology for the 'peaceful' uses of nuclear energy was "the only tangible benefit that the developing countries expect out of the NPT". Headed by China and Iran, a number of non-aligned countries stressed the need for unrestricted transfers of technology and better cooperation and technical assistance in accordance with Article IV of the Treaty. Egypt, wanting to restrict Israel's access to technical exchange, proposed that technical cooperation be restricted to NPT parties, but this was not accepted.

Attempts to link nuclear energy with sustainable development, however, almost resulted in deadlock. A number of countries, particularly Germany, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and Samoa on behalf of Pacific Island states, rejected an Iranian-sponsored paragraph claiming a role for nuclear energy in contributing to sustainable development and in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. They argued that nuclear power (as opposed to the non-power uses of nuclear energy, in medicine, for example) was not compatible with sustainable development. In the end the concept of sustainable development appeared in two paragraphs. One required that sustainable development should be a guiding principle for nuclear energy use, and that the IAEA should assist states to meet "the objectives of protecting the global environment by applying sustainable development approaches". A further paragraph recognised the IAEA's contribution to achieving sustainable development. The ambiguity between the two allows for different interpretations by proponents and opponents of nuclear power.

Australia and Canada for a time opposed a proposal by five Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) to include language from the agreed but unadopted Main Committee III report to the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference covering the "serious environmental consequences" resulting from "uranium mining and associated nuclear fuel-cycle activities in the production and testing of nuclear weapons". The Central Asian proposal called for governments and international organisations with expertise in the field of clean-up and disposal of radioactive contaminants to consider giving assistance. France initially stalled, but came on board when it realised it had participated in negotiating the text in 1995. Canada and Australia, which had joined consensus on this in 1995, were reportedly worried that environmental activists might use this to focus attention on disputed uranium mining back home, but towards the end of the final week they withdrew their objections, so the references to assistance for environmental clean-up went into the final document.

Another important dispute focussed on the transshipment of radioactive materials and waste. A large group of states including Ireland, New Zealand, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the South Pacific Islands (SOPAC), and many Latin American countries were at loggerheads with Japan, Britain and France over demands for prior notification, better safety requirements, and more comprehensive liability and compensation arrangements in the event of a nuclear accident, including loss of tourist and fisheries income due to the fear of contamination. New Zealand, at the forefront of the negotiations to get stronger commitments on safety, prior notification and liability, expressed disappointment that Britain, France and Japan had suspended their dialogue on compensation and liability with countries adjacent to the route taken by their nuclear shipments. France offered to inform countries concerned about its shipments of radioactive materials and waste, but, like Japan and Britain, insisted that the rights of navigation and freedom of the seas must not be infringed. These issues were eventually resolved with the help of a group of 'Friends of the President', who offered compromise text stressing national and international regulations and standards for nuclear safety, security and environmental protection, without prejudice to the freedom, rights and obligations of navigation under international law. The importance of national and international liability mechanisms were also stressed.

Strengthening the Review Process

On May 5, Baali held a special, closed plenary to discuss strengthening the review process, at which 22 delegations spoke. There was general agreement that the 1995 decisions needed to be built on and revitalised, but not dropped or replaced, and strong endorsement that the meetings between review conferences should focus primarily on substantive issues, leaving procedural preparations towards the end. While most argued in favour of holding four meetings, this was resisted by Britain, France and the United States, which preferred to keep the 1995 decision on this intact. There was interest among some of the non-nuclear-weapon states in Ireland's proposal for four-day annual conferences of States Parties serviced by a small secretariat to replace the provision for three 10-day preparatory committee meetings. Nigeria also proposed the establishment of an NPT 'Management Board'. Such ideas were regarded as ahead of their time, however. Opposition from some of the major powers ensured that proposals for a more permanent secretariat would be deemed premature.

There was disagreement about whether the preparatory committee meetings should comment on contemporaneous international and regional events, as proposed by Canada, Japan and others, but opposed most strongly by the United States. However, there were also many similarities among the proposed mechanisms for addressing substance in the review process and reporting on the outcome of individual meetings. Among the major proposals, both Canada and Japan preferred that the preparatory committee meetings reflect their discussions in a Chair's summary. Norway and the Netherlands wanted the preparatory meetings to implement a programme of action as determined by the previous review conference, and suggested dividing consideration of the substantive issues among four meetings, each of which would also deal with new developments and review the operation of the Treaty, including regional issues, compliance, accountability and universality.

Myanmar (Burma) wanted subsidiary bodies to be established in the preparatory meetings as well as review conferences. The United States suggested that the first two preparatory committee meetings could consider specific issues, exchange information and receive proposals, and the third meeting could seek to elaborate consensus recommendations to be transmitted to the review conference. There was also a range of proposals for regularising and increasing participation by civil society, particularly non-governmental organisations. Canada wanted to enhance participation and access to meetings for NGOs deemed by the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs to have a track record of work in non-proliferation and disarmament. Mexico wanted to go further, proposing that NGOs be invited to participate in the meetings as full observers.

Baali took note of the proposals and early in the third week produced his own paper on 'Improving the effectiveness of the strengthened review process for the NPT'. Some delegations at first expressed concern that Baali's proposal did not improve sufficiently on the 1995 decisions to warrant a further decision in 2000. Some also feared that the text could even be used to restrict States Parties' options for utilising the PrepComs more flexibly and effectively in the future. Nevertheless, as attention moved to finalising the substantive issues in the final review document, few were prepared to risk the outcome by arguing about the review process. Discussions between the President and four countries (reportedly Canada, Japan, Norway and the Netherlands) resulted in some slight amendments, following which the review decision was attached to the final document with almost no further discussion.

The finalised review document reaffirmed the 1995 decisions with regard to the number of preparatory committee meetings. The President took on board the US proposal for the first two sessions of the PrepCom to consider substance, with the third (or fourth, if necessary) session producing a consensus report containing recommendations for the review conference and making procedural arrangements. To ensure some continuity between the various sessions, the early meetings would provide a factual summary for the next session, the form of which was unspecified, as some States had opposed any reference to Chair's summaries. Baali did not widen NGO participation, as some had wanted, but formalised the ad hoc arrangement begun in 1997 of allocating a meeting for NGOs to address each preparatory meeting and review conference.

Outcome and Assessment

The conference eventually closed around 7.00 pm on Saturday May 20, some 24 hours late. Applause and relief greeted Baali's gavel as the final document was adopted. There was also intense speculation about whether or not the weapon states - and especially the United States - had expected a final agreement when they accepted the disarmament document.

The outcome was much more than anyone had expected, and took disarmament watchers especially by surprise. Newspaper headlines proclaimed "5 Atom Powers Agree to Scrap Arsenals" (International Herald Tribune). Even the generally reserved Financial Times of London noted that "Pressure grows on nuclear powers to disarm".5 As disarmament coverage goes, this was strong stuff. Even allowing for hyperbole, the message went out that the NPT conference had accomplished something significant for nuclear disarmament.

In some of the same articles, however, officials moved swiftly to dampen the expectations. The New York Times quoted an unnamed Clinton Administration official saying that the agreement "did not represent a significant shift in United States policy". On Sunday morning's BBC 'Breakfast with Frost' programme, David Frost asked Britain's Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, about the "exciting" news from the UN: "Is this a mega-step towards global disarmament, do you think?" Hoon's response hardly inspired confidence, despite the very constructive role Britain had played in helping to broker the solutions: "Well what we've agreed there, together with the United States, is that in principle we would like to see the end of nuclear weapons. I think every sensible person around the world agrees to that but there's no specific timetable agreed and obviously it is dependent on every other nuclear weapons state agreeing the same and taking appropriate action."

Therein lies the problem. In diplomatic terms, the outcome was far more substantive and a much greater success than even the optimists would have predicted before the conference. But the gains should not be exaggerated. The NPT review conference gives political underpinning to the ICJ advisory opinion and provides a much stronger tool for the non-nuclear-weapon states and civil society to use, if they can continue to employ effective strategies and tactics. But, like Article VI for much of the 1970s and 1980s, the words adopted in 2000 will mean nothing without political will and pressure to get the steps implemented.

Agreement on Disarmament

Of greatest importance, the States Parties gave consensus to the "unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals", together with several 'practical steps' in fulfilment of the 1995 pledge for systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI. In the agreement brokered first by Pearson in subsidiary body 1 and then in intense negotiations between the N-5 and the NAC, the NPT parties underscored the necessity of achieving the early entry into force of the CTBT and prompt negotiations on a fissile material production ban, presently deadlocked in Geneva. While supporting the full implementation of START II, recently ratified by the Russian Duma, they urged the United States and Russia to conclude START III. Raising concerns that the nuclear powers had not been taking their disarmament obligations seriously enough and that progress had stalled since the end of the Cold War, the NPT parties identified several important steps which must be pursued over the next five years in addition to the bilateral strategic arms reductions currently underway. According to the plan of action contained in the agreement on next steps, the nuclear powers have promised:

  • further unilateral efforts to reduce their nuclear arsenals - Since 1991, Britain, France and the United States have taken important steps in unilateral nuclear disarmament, cutting tactical and obsolete nuclear systems. Unilateral efforts can be very important when bilateral or multilateral negotiations are stalled, and act as a useful complement to disarmament agreements.
  • to provide more information on their nuclear capabilities and the implementation of disarmament agreements - This was hard-fought by China, which resisted language calling for transparency regarding nuclear arsenals. Britain, Russia and the United States have already moved some way towards greater transparency, but France and particularly China have not wanted to reveal nuclear-related information, the first step towards accountability and effective verification.
  • to reduce their non-strategic nuclear weapons - Russia continues to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in large numbers, and the United States retains them in its arsenals, including some 100-150 tactical bombs based in seven NATO countries in Europe.
  • concrete measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapon systems - The non-aligned and New Agenda Coalition had been pressing for nuclear weapons to be taken off alert, de-activated, and for the warheads to be separated from their delivery vehicles. In their statement of May 1, the five nuclear powers had for the first time stated that none of their nuclear weapons remain targetted. They have now promised to go further.
  • a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies - A concern raised over and over again by the non-nuclear countries during this Conference has been the retention by NATO and Russia of deterrence policies based on the potential first use of nuclear weapons and an extended role linking the use of nuclear weapons to the threat or use of biological or chemical weapons.
  • involvement by all five nuclear powers in nuclear reduction and disarmament negotiations - At present Britain, China and France are on the sidelines waiting for the United States and Russia to make much deeper cuts in the numbers of their nuclear weapons before they get involved in strategic arms reduction and elimination. Britain and France weakened this provision by inserting "as soon as appropriate", a qualitative judgment that should not be left solely up to the weapon powers to determine.
The plan of action for nuclear disarmament also called for a moratorium on nuclear testing pending entry into force of the CTBT, and emphasised the 'principle of irreversibility' in nuclear arms control. This is important because of the current tendency among some of the nuclear states to recycle the plutonium, highly enriched uranium or other components from dismantled nuclear weapons so that they can be used again to make new or refurbished nuclear warheads.

The Middle East

Agreements made in advance in Washington and Cairo and squared with Tel Aviv enabled the United States to accept language underlining the validity of the goals and objectives of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and reaffirming "the importance of Israel's accession to the NPT and the placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards". Speaking after the final document had been adopted, Egypt's Ambassador Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the outcome sent a "clear and unequivocal message to Israel". Most other Arab states seemed satisfied, though Syria and Iraq complained when the final document was adopted. Israel, which had observed the conference, appeared satisfied that Iraq had been criticised and that, despite the additional unwelcome focus, the United States had largely fulfilled its promises "to protect the Israeli deterrent", as formalised in the 1998 Memorandum of Agreement between the two countries.6

The issue that nearly wrecked the Conference in the final 48 hours was US insistence that if Israel's non-adherence was to be named in the section on the Middle East, then Iraqi non-compliance with the NPT and relevant UN Security Council resolutions should also be described there. As the stand-off between the two countries dragged on, opinion among other States Parties wavered. Most Western and even many NAM countries believed that Iraq's violation of its NPT obligations in the 1980s and early 1990s should be addressed and condemned. But they had doubts about the way in which the United States sought to do this. Although US representatives have strenuously denied that non-compliance was being coupled with non-adherence, that is how most delegations viewed the US linkage asserted in the subsidiary body on regional issues. Moreover, once Iraq had agreed to being named in the context of the IAEA letter, few delegations could understand why the United States continued to haggle over minor linguistic detail. US obstinacy appeared to give Iraq, which had little to lose, publicity, attention and the de facto power to veto the whole package of hard-won agreements in the draft final document. Because this seemed so irrational and unnecessary, observers and participants began to speculate that the United States would not be too distressed to lose the disarmament agreements as the consequence of a failure to adopt the final document - providing Iraq took the blame.

Although there were reservations about how the US handled the situation, an important procedural question is raised concerning non-compliance, which may need to be addressed in the future. At present, the weight of precedent in favour of consensus means that if NPT parties wish to criticise a state party for non-compliance, the non-compliant party has the ability to prevent or weaken the criticisms.

South Asia

Perhaps the major losers were India and Pakistan, which had been banking on disarray at the NPT conference - or at least a failure to address significantly the nuclear-weapon states' obligations to disarm or their own nuclear tests. Another failed review conference would have suited their arguments that the NPT was an outdated and discriminatory mechanism that gave the weapon states carte blanche to do as they wished.

While most would accept that Treaty has some way to go before full implementation, the 2000 agreements took the 1995 decisions a positive step forward. The substantial plan of action on disarmament belied the view expressed by India's Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, that statements from the NPT about India "rolling back its nuclear programme are mere diversions to prevent focussed attention on the basic goals of the NPT".7 Nor did the conference accept the concept of a 'responsible nuclear-weapon state', as India asserts itself to be, in part because the implication of the NAC position adopted in the final document was that the principal responsibility of the nuclear-weapon states was to eliminate their arsenals, and India is moving in the wrong direction for that.

Contrary to expectation, there were only half-hearted attempts by a few neighbouring States to prevent the conference from criticising India and Pakistan for conducting their nuclear test explosions in 1998. As a consequence, the NPT parties' deploring of the nuclear explosions and declaration that such actions did not "in any way confer a nuclear-weapon state status or any special status whatsoever" were stronger than anticipated. India and Pakistan were also enjoined to implement the measures called for in UN Security Council 1172, passed unanimously just after the nuclear tests.

Speaking after the conference closed, Pakistan's Foreign Minister objected that the NPT conference had treated Pakistan like India, without making a distinction "between the nuclear ambitions of India and the compulsions of Pakistan". He argued, however that "Pakistan's nuclear deterrent now forms an indispensable part of its defence doctrine".8 Pakistan and India have also complained that where they are urged to accept a moratorium on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes, Israel has not explicitly been called on to do the same. Attempts by a number of European countries to link the demand for fissban negotiations with an injunction on all nuclear weapon and nuclear weapon capable states to halt their production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium and accede to a moratorium were frustrated by China, which rejected any mention of such a moratorium.

Safeguards and Export Controls

Although the final document has reaffirmed the decisions adopted in 1995, including the Principles and Objectives, a number of paragraphs backing strengthened export controls and safeguards were dropped. There had been worrying indications during the conference that Russia, China and France wanted to back down from the 1995 commitment that acceptance of IAEA full-scope safeguards should be a condition of new supply. At the time Russia denied reports that a new decree signed by President Putin meant a relaxing of export control agreements. The waters seem to have been muddied, and it will be interesting to see what occurs at the next meeting of the NSG, scheduled for June.

Nuclear Energy

Although nuclear energy was not a major area of contention, two important aspects must be noted. Opposition to nuclear power is increasing in importance. For the first time, several European countries - notably, Germany, Denmark and Austria - have joined those objecting to statements linking nuclear power with sustainable development. Nuclear safety and the transshipment of nuclear materials and waste have also become the focus of bitter exchanges between a growing number of Latin American and Pacific countries on one side, now backed by some European and African delegations, and Japan, Britain and France on the other side.

Factors in Success

The consensus adoption of more than lowest-common-denominator agreements surprised many because political conditions leading up to the review conference had seemed so inauspicious. The low expectations and fear of failure appear to have contributed to the outcome by strengthening the hand of those pushing for a substantive outcome. Whatever the disagreements amongst the N-5, none of them wanted to be held responsible for the failure of a conference at a time when the non-proliferation regime needed to show itself to be alive, relevant and strong. This common desire led to the N-5 statement, which indicated the lowest common denominator agreements the NWS were prepared to accept. Though frustrating for those who had wished to see the conference discuss missile defence more fully and issue an unconditional call for fissban negotiations, the N-5 statement made the prospect of a final agreement seem less remote. It indicated that the weapon states wanted an outcome and simultaneously spurred others to push for a substantive and significant level of agreement.

The outcome was viewed as a triumph for the New Agenda Coalition, whose cohesion at times before the conference had looked in danger. De Icaza's coordination kept the NAC on track through some difficult decisions, Pearson's role as subsidiary body chair was masterfully executed, and the others developed tactics, connections and pressure where needed. Inevitably Egypt was more focussed on the Middle East issues. Sweden was noticeably torn at times between the NAC and its European neighbours, even joining Finland for a statement endorsing the NATO-5 positions in MC.I. Although this was viewed by some as a distancing from the NAC, Sweden emphasised that it did not regard the positions as incompatible or mutually exclusive.

One of the interesting features of this review conference was how Western countries which did not ally themselves with the NAC put forward programmes which were more concrete than they had previously been associated with. Was this because the NAC set the standard for others to try to emulate or because the NAC had moderated its positions so much that they were brought close to those of the middle-ground Europeans? A bit of both. The pressure was on the NAC to put forward a practical programme that had some chance of being achieved. At the same time, civil society and parliamentary pressure was on a number of NATO countries and Japan to challenge the weapon states on disarmament and show that the NPT did not reify the status quo. Even the EU went into the NPT with a common position on nuclear disarmament that went far beyond previous positions and included calls for transparency, irreversibility, addressing tactical nuclear weapons, and a CD working group on nuclear disarmament.

The NATO-5, which had its own internal tensions to deal with, went further than the NAC in seeking target dates for CTBT entry into force and (like Japan and Australia) for the conclusion of an FMCT. Despite Germany almost pulling away from the NATO-5 during the conference, reportedly because it was afraid the group would undermine EU positions and isolate France, the group put forward steps on tactical nuclear weapons, transparency and accountability, and fissile materials that went beyond the broader NAC positions on those issues, though the NAC were stronger elsewhere. Canada's proposals and the 8-point plan from Japan and Australia covered some of the same ground in very moderate language.

While many of these countries have expressed support for the outcome, some are still angry that the weapon states chose to negotiate with the NAC, particularly after such heavy pressure had been exerted by the United States and France to prevent their allies supporting the New Agenda resolutions in the UN First Committee. The US overture to the NAC demonstrated that it viewed the seven nation coalition as the major political player among the non-nuclear countries, more pragmatic and coherent than the non-aligned and more comprehensive and determined than the various different kinds of proposals being put forward by allies such as Japan, Australia, Canada and the NATO-5. This is in part due to the cross-group composition of the NAC, with non-aligned, Europeans, Africans, Latin Americans and a western Pacific nation; in part it is due to the NAC strategy and positioning of its proposals.

The outcome was naturally viewed also as a triumph for the President, Abdallah Baali. What had appeared to be negative indicators beforehand came to be judged factors in his success. Baali's lack of experience in the non-proliferation field was more than made up for by his diplomatic skills, careful preparations and wide consultations in the months before the meeting, and his refusal to be intimidated by the dominant players. Moreover, it made it more possible for him not to become bogged down in conflicts over substance and to exercise the flexibility to ditch ideas that did not fly and try something else. His shrewd decision to push for early agreement on the two subsidiary bodies and, conversely, not to push for an early decision on conference products paid off. The first provided a highly successful mechanism for focussed debate on the more contentious issues, while the latter was not the pivotal issue that it had appeared to be in 1999.

Baali was enormously fortunate in having a strong team of Chairs, including the two subsidiary body Chairs, Clive Pearson and Christopher Westdal, on whose shoulders a large part of the most difficult issues fell. Many remembers (and wanted to avoid) the destructive acrimony generated by weeks of partisan and egotistical chairing by the MC.I Chair in 1995. Baali's insistence on receiving the Chair's reports by the end of the third week was also an important factor, giving him the whole of the final week to lock the different sections into place one by one.


A clear success in diplomatic terms, time will show whether the commitments agreed by the Sixth Review Conference can be translated into concrete progress towards the full implementation of the Treaty. This was no bland, minimal consensus, but the outcome of difficult compromises, with the pressure kept on the weapon states right up to the end. Important progress was made in recognising the need for greater transparency, accountability and irreversibility in nuclear disarmament. For the first time, steps were identified for addressing tactical nuclear systems and reducing reliance on nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, there are no target dates or timetables, so the weapon states and proliferators still have too much wiggle room.

The treaty's commitment to nuclear power has been questioned more than ever before. While important gains were made in some areas, others, including security assurances and NATO nuclear sharing, were less significant than many had anticipated. Problems with sustaining the strengthened safeguards system and fullscope safeguards as a condition of supply have been flagged up, which are worrying, but may act as a wake-up call.

The conduct and success of the 2000 review conference may also be regarded as having gone some way to vindicating the difficult compromises made by non-nuclear parties in 1995. Although the review process had disappointed, the outcome of the conference derived from some of the issues most hotly debated during the three PrepComs, including establishment of the subsidiary bodies. Especially on nuclear disarmament, there were overt strategies to use the 1995 programme of action as a yardstick and to take it further. Although it proved difficult to get stronger commitments on the CTBT and fissban, the NAC based its proposals for practical steps on the language from the 1995 Principles and Objectives in 4 (c), successfully achieving a 2000 plan of action with some explicit markers for the next five years. Despite flaws in the five year process, the outcome of the 2000 review conference makes it possible to say that overall the review process has provided greater accountability and more leverage on the weapon states than in the past.

A historic consensus may have been achieved at the NPT, but the first few weeks back in Geneva indicate little shift in the positions of most of the weapon states. National missile defence was swept under the political carpet, making the final agreements possible, but the dust has re-emerged with a vengeance the minute the review conference closed. Russia and China are adamant that NMD and preventing the weaponisation of outer space are of primary importance, above the fissban; Britain, France and the United States want the fissban first and foremost, but the United States is contributing to the impasse by refusing to allow outer space issues to be addressed in any substantive way at the CD. Where Britain (at least) appears to accept CD discussion of the nuclear disarmament plan of action agreed by NPT parties, France and Russia are making it clear that they don't see the point. Russia and the United States insist that their bilateral negotiations on strategic nuclear weapons are the important practical agenda to pursue, and France questions how the CD could usefully address the kinds of issues identified in the plan of action.

The conference is over. The important question now is how to use the tools it has provided to translate the words into action. Perhaps it is now time to set a date for nuclear disarmament.

Notes and References

1. Rebecca Johnson, together with and Jenni Rissanen, attended the whole of the NPT review conference. The 18 reports they produced over the four weeks can be found at the Acronym Institute website on http://www.acronym.org.uk/index.htm. For greater detail of the substantive issues, statements and working papers issued at the NPT, see also R. Johnson and J. Rissanen, 'The Review Conference Opens: Dominant Views and Contested Claims', in Disarmament Diplomacy No. 45, April 2000.

2. Statement by the Republic of South Africa to Cluster 1 (Nuclear Disarmament, Non-Proliferation, General and Complete Disarmament Issues), Second Session of the Preparatory Committee of the 2000 NPT Conference, April 29,1998. See also R. Johnson, "Using the Review Process to Address Nuclear Disarmament", UNIDIR Newsletter No. 37, Geneva, March 1998 and R. Johnson, Reviewing the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Preparing for the Future, ACRONYM 11, London, April 1998.

3. Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States emphasised that the statement was made in their capacity as nuclear-weapon states, not as permanent members of the UN Security Council, in which role they are usually designated the P-5. In keeping with this distinction, they will be referred to as the N-5 when acting as NWS and as the P-5 when acting in their Security Council role.

4. S/2000/300.

5. "5 Atom Powers Agree to Scrap Arsenals", International Herald Tribune, May 22, 2000. "Pressure grows on nuclear powers to disarm", Financial Times, May 23, 2000. "5 Nuclear Powers Agree on Stronger Pledge to Scrap Arsenals", New York Times, May 22, 2000.

6. See Gerald M Steinberg, "Israeli Interests Protected at NPT Conference", Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2000.

7. Suo Motu statement on the NPT Review Conference by the Minister of External Affairs in the Parliament of India, May 9, 2000.

8. Statement by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan on the Sixth Review Conference on the NPT, Islamabad, May 23, 2000, issued to the CD as CD/1615 (May 25, 2000).

Rebecca Johnson is Executive Director of the Acronym Institute and a close observer of multilateral disarmament negotiations. There are many diplomats and NGOs the author would like to thank for sharing information and insights. Especial thanks go to Jenni Rissanen for her work at the NPT Review Conference. This report has benefitted from her close monitoring of the safeguards and nuclear energy debates.

Disarmament Diplomacy plans future articles on aspects relating to the NPT Review Conference, including the role of NGOs. We would also like to solicit articles from any readers over the next few months with ideas and strategies for how best to put the words into action.

Appendix: Nuclear Disarmament Plan of Action, Final Document

15. The Conference agrees on the following practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and paragraphs 3 and 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on 'Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament':

1. The importance and urgency of signatures and ratifications, without delay and without conditions and in accordance with constitutional processes, to achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

2. A moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions pending entry into force of that Treaty.

3. The necessity of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in accordance with the statement of the Special Coordinator in 1995 and the mandate contained therein, taking into consideration both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation objectives. The Conference on Disarmament is urged to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate commencement of negotiations on such a treaty with a view to their conclusion within five years.

4. The necessity of establishing in the Conference on Disarmament an appropriate subsidiary body with a mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament is urged to agree on a programme of work which includes the immediate establishment of such a body.

5. The principle of irreversibility to apply to nuclear disarmament, nuclear and other related arms control and reduction measures.

6. An unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals leading to nuclear disarmament to which all States Parties are committed under Article VI.

7. The early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the conclusion of START III as soon as possible while preserving and strengthening the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons, in accordance with its provisions.

8. The completion and implementation of the Trilateral Initiative between the United States of America, the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

9. Steps by all the nuclear-weapon states leading to nuclear disarmament in a way that promotes international stability, and based on the principle of undiminished security for all:

  • Further efforts by the nuclear-weapon states to reduce their nuclear arsenals unilaterally.
  • Increased transparency by the nuclear-weapon states with regard to their nuclear weapons capabilities and the implementation of agreements pursuant to Article VI and as a voluntary confidence-building measure to support further progress on nuclear disarmament.
  • The further reduction of non-strategic nuclear weapons, based on unilateral initiatives and as an integral part of the nuclear arms reduction and disarmament process.
  • Concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems.
  • A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimise the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination.
  • The engagement as soon as appropriate of all the nuclear-weapon states in the process leading to the total elimination of their nuclear weapons.
10. Arrangements by all nuclear-weapon states to place, as soon as practicable, fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant international verification and arrangements for the disposition of such material for peaceful purposes, to ensure that such material remains permanently outside of military programmes.

11. Reaffirmation that the ultimate objective of the efforts of States in the disarmament process is general and complete disarmament under effective international control.

12. Regular reports, within the framework of the NPT strengthened review process, by all States parties on the implementation of Article VI and paragraph 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on 'Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament', and recalling the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice of 8 July 1996.

13. The further development of the verification capabilities that will be required to provide assurance of compliance with nuclear disarmament agreements for the achievement and maintenance of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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