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Western Press Review: Ban Nuclear Testing--Easy To Say, Hard To Do

Prague, 10 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Efforts to ratify an international test ban treaty has captured the attention of Western press commentators.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: In the 1960's, milk became unsafe because of nuclear weapons testing

Merrill Goozner wrote in a news analysis yesterday: "For many (persons born just after World War II), the recognition that they were growing up in the nuclear shadow began with this nightmare: Milk had become unsafe because of nuclear weapons testing." He wrote: "The ensuing national outcry led directly to the United States and the Soviet Union signing the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned nuclear tests in the air, under water and in space. It also spawned a global movement to end all forms of nuclear testing."

The writer continued: "More than three decades later, that global campaign is nearing its cherished goal. A Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was to go before the United Nations General Assembly on Monday. However, it must overcome one last roadblock. A campaign spearheaded by India threatens to sidetrack the treaty, or at least make its verification provisions unenforceable."

NEW YORK TIMES: More than 2,000 nuclear tests have taken place since 1945

In an analysis in yesterday's edition, Barbara Crosette wrote: "Using a maneuver never tried before to win adoption of a major international arms control treaty, Australia and more than 115 other countries (were to) go to the General Assembly on (yesterday) and seek approval of a pact banning all nuclear explosions worldwide. The treaty could be adopted and ready for signing by individual countries within a few days. Since 1945, when the United States tested its first atomic bomb, 2,045 nuclear tests have taken place. While major nuclear powers have imposed moratoriums on testing, this would mark the first time that they have all agreed to outlaw nuclear explosions."

She continued: "The unusual move by Australia, acting with the support of all five declared nuclear weapons powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- follows India's decision last month to block the accord's adoption through the normal process, consensus in the 61-member standing Conference on Disarmament in Geneva." Crossette wrote: "Opposition to a test-ban treaty has been strong over the years in a number of major countries with nuclear programs."

NEW YORK TIMES: U.N. delegates expect the treaty to be approved today

Crossette writes in today's edition: "A special session of the General Assembly began an unexpectedly smooth debate yesterday on a treaty banning nuclear weapons tests. With no procedural hurdles introduced by India, which had blocked acceptance of the accord during negotiations at a disarmament conference in Geneva last month, delegates expect the treaty to be approved (today). India's representative at the United Nations, Prakash Shah, gave an almost somber, low-key address, ignoring editorial advice in the Indian press to go in fighting with demands for changes in the treaty text. His speech was in part a history of India's long commitment to disarmament and in part a detailed explanation of New Delhi's unbending opposition to the treaty as it now stands. But Shah strongly defended India's right to a nuclear option."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: Australia is one of the most committed supporters of the ban

Pierre Simonitsch comments today: "Australia is one of the most committed supporters of a nuclear test ban. The Australians protested sharply against the French test series at the Mururoa atoll and are architects of the nuclear-weapons-free zone in the South Pacific, which is recognized by the Western nuclear powers." He says: "Observers expect the ban treaty easily to overcome the hurdles in the General Assembly." Simonitsch writes, "Diplomats expect that individual countries like Iran, Cuba or Lybia may suggest changes. But the five declared nuclear powers and their allies reject the idea of renegotiation, with the attendant difficulties of again achieving compromise."

NEW YORK TIMES: After Clinton signs the treaty, the Senate should ratify it

The paper says today in an editorial: "Australia deserves the world's gratitude for leading a last-minute diplomatic rescue of the nuclear test-ban treaty. The treaty, which is likely to be voted on in the UN General Assembly (today), can thwart the development of new generations of dangerous weapons, encourage further reductions of nuclear weapons stockpiles and spare the environment the shock of further underground nuclear blasts. The UN should approve the treaty, and after President Clinton signs it later this fall, the Senate should ratify it"

The editorial concludes: "In a disconcerting bow to anti-internationalist sentiment, the recently adopted (U.S.) Republican Party platform calls for opposition to the test-ban treaty. Yet many responsible Republicans know better and would probably ignore the platform once the treaty comes to a Senate vote. The important vote for now, however, is the one in the General Assembly, and the chances there are much better than they looked just a few weeks ago."

WASHINGTON POST: A heavy vote for the treaty puts pressure on India to abide by the ban

Writer John M. Goshko says today in a news analysis: "Despite the shadow cast over (yesterday's U.N.) proceedings by opposition from India and Pakistan, both undeclared nuclear powers, delegates pushed ahead on what many describe as a giant step toward universal nuclear disarmament. The Indian and Pakistani positions mean the treaty will have only limited applicability for at least the immediate future. But the test ban accord has the support of the world's principal nuclear powers, and they are expected to respect it once it is approved, according to delegates and legal experts. In addition, supporters of the treaty believe that a heavy vote for the treaty will put pressure on India to abide tacitly by the ban and eventually to approve it'

Goshko writes: "The five principal nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- support the treaty. Israel, which is an undeclared nuclear power like India and Pakistan, also has said it will approve the pact. Acceptance by these states and others with the capability to someday develop nuclear devices would, in the view of many legal experts, obligate them under international law to eschew future testing. That would give those countries that have suffered nuclear fallout from past tests much greater guarantees of relief than when individual nuclear powers would unilaterally adopt and abandon testing moratoriums."