A United Nations General Assembly committee has voted to launch negotiations on a new treaty banning nuclear weapons despite strong opposition from the world's nuclear powers.
A resolution sponsored by Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, and Brazil was adopted by 123 votes to 38, calling for negotiations to begin in March on the new treaty. It cites deep concern over the "catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons."
Four of the five UN Security Council nuclear powers -- Britain, France, Russia, and the United States -- voted against the resolution while China abstained, as did India and Pakistan.
Opponents argued that nuclear disarmament should be addressed within negotiations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, described the vote as a "historic moment" in the decades-long drive for a nuclear-free world.
"This treaty won't eliminate nuclear weapons overnight. But it will establish a powerful, new international legal standard, stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament."
The measure is expected to go to the full General Assembly in December. The overwhelming vote in committee suggests that most UN members will support it.