Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Russia backs African nuclear treaty

MOSCOW, Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Even though Russia and the United States have the world's largest nuclear arsenals, Moscow is backing a nuclear initiative to ensure that Africa remains free of nuclear weapons.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has submitted to the Duma for ratification two protocols to a treaty establishing Africa as a nuclear-free weapons zone, Itar-Tass reported.

The protocols propose a ban on nuclear tests in Africa along with the use of nuclear weapons against African countries.

The African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Pelindaba Treaty was signed in Cairo in 1996 but only formally entered into force last year. Twenty-four African countries have signed but not yet ratified the treaty.

The Pelindaba Treaty's Article Three prohibits the development, production and acquisition of nuclear weapons in Africa or in the surrounding islands, while Article Four bans their stationing throughout signatory countries and Article Five prohibits their testing.

In an article with possible relevance to Israel's standoff with Iran over its civilian nuclear program and rumors of a possible attack on its recently completed nuclear power station at Bushehr, the Pelindaba Treaty's Article 11, "Prohibition of armed attack on nuclear installations" states, "Each Party undertakes not to take, or assist, or encourage any action aimed at an armed attack by conventional or other means against nuclear installations in the African nuclear-weapon-free zone."

The Pelindaba Treaty requires all signatory states to apply International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to all their peaceful nuclear energy activities and the treaty contains mechanisms to verify compliance, including the establishment of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy, which would have headquarters in South Africa.

Russia has long supported as the Pelindaba Treaty, having signed it in 1996 at the headquarters of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa. One of the Russian protocols states that the signatory is obliged not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against "any area within the zone free from nuclear weapons in Africa," while the other concerns nuclear tests.

Britain, France and China have already signed and ratified the protocols.The United States has persistently supported efforts to denuclearize Africa since the first U.N. General Assembly resolution on the issue in 1965.

Roiling international issues around the treaty is the status of the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, controlled by the United Kingdom and currently leased as a military base by the United States, leaving its status under terms of the treaty unclear, especially as Diego Garcia is part of the Chagos Archipelago claimed by Mauritius despite British claims of sovereignty.


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