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For Immediate Release: June 1, 2006

Contact: John Burroughs (LCNP), 212 818 1861, cell 917 439 4585
Jacqueline Cabasso (WSLF), 212 818 1861, cell 510 306 0119
Jennifer Nordstrom (RCW), 212 682 1265, cell 718 290 6399

Blix Commission Report on WMD A “Wake-Up Call,” Say Advocacy Groups

New York – Representatives of non-governmental organizations specializing in disarmament issues today welcomed the Blix Commission report on nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. “This report is a wake-up call,” said Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of the Western States Legal Foundation. “It identifies the dangers, especially those posed by nuclear weapons, and outlines the solutions, steps leading towards the total prohibition and elimination of nuclear as well as chemical and biological weapons. Civil society groups have been making these points for more than a decade now. Hopefully the message will finally be heard.”

Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms is the final report of The Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission chaired by Hans Blix. Blix is former head of UNMOVIC, which conducted inspections in Iraq, and also former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.S. member of the Commission is former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Blix presented the report to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and General Assembly President Jan Eliasson today at the United Nations. It is available at www.wmdcommission.org.

"For too long now," said John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, "Americans have been hearing the message that nuclear weapons are unacceptable in the hands of rogue states and terrorists. The Blix report rightly says that these catastrophic devices are dangerous in anyone’s hands; that the problems of existing arsenals, potential spread, and potential acquisition by terrorists are all linked; and that the problems can be solved only by a comprehensive approach leading to elimination of all nuclear weapons.”

The report identifies three waves of nuclear proliferation: first, the United States, Soviet Union/Russia, Britain, France, and China; second, India, Pakistan, and Israel; and third Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and possibly Iran. While nuclear weapons programs have been reversed in Iraq and Libya, the report conveys that the “third wave” is sending an ominous signal. The Commission observes that effective use of international institutions can help contain the spread of nuclear and other weapons. According to Burroughs, “The report says while international inspectors rely on national intelligence, national governments should also pay attention to the findings of international inspectors. They were, after all, proved right in the case of Iraq. The United States should take this lesson to heart with respect to Iran, where the IAEA has extensive on the ground experience and so far has not concluded that there is a nuclear weapons program.” Burroughs continued, “Fundamentally, the solution embraced by the Commission, and long advocated by my organization, is that proliferation must be reversed where it began: in the United States.”

Burroughs elaborated: “The Commission effectively makes the case for a return to multilateralism in U.S. policy on nuclear weapons. For a decade now, the world has been adrift on how to cope with these horrific weapons. The United States needs to take leadership on steps like ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, deep cuts in U.S. and Russian arsenals with dismantlement of the reduced warheads, and a verifiable ban on production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.” The Bush administration recently proposed talks on such a ban – but without verification. Cabasso added, “The Commission clearly holds the United States largely responsible for the present crisis. By walking away from tried and true arms control treaties, and by launching an illegal preventive war in the name of 'counterproliferation,' the U.S. has seriously undermined international law and endangered international security.”

Jennifer Nordstrom, project associate for Reaching Critical Will/WILPF, praised the Commission’s forthright finding, in the words of the report, that a “nuclear disarmament treaty is achievable and can be reached through careful, sensible and practical measures.” She explained that civil society groups connected through international networks and campaigns like the Abolition 2000 Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons have insisted that the elimination of nuclear weapons can be practically implemented on the model of the existing Chemical Weapons Convention. Indeed, several groups, including the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, in the late 1990s drafted a Model Nuclear Weapons Convention which subsequently was circulated in the United Nations as a discussion document. Nordstrom commented, “The report clearly explains the best way to remove the threat of WMD is to eliminate them. Such high-level rationality should not be so rare.”

The report points to the frequently overlooked but pressing need to regulate ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and other means of delivery. These systems can carry conventional or nuclear, biological, and chemical warheads, as dramatically illustrated by recent reports of the Pentagon’s interest in the destabilizing substitution of conventionally-armed ballistic missiles for nuclear-armed ones on four Trident submarines (see www.DisarmamentActivist.org). Western States Legal Foundation and other groups proposed a missile disarmament regime, instead of expanded reliance on anti-missile systems, in a 2002 report entitled Beyond Missile Defense. A first step would be a ban on flight testing of ballistic missiles. WSLF’s Cabasso said, “While it is unfortunate that the Commission does not go this far, it does say that states should not deploy missile defenses without first attempting to negotiate the removal of missile threats.”

Cabasso offered one strong criticism of the report, stating: “The Commission explores options for controlling uranium enrichment and plutonium separation activities in order to minimize the risks of proliferation associated with those activities. But the fail to even mention the possibility of phasing out nuclear energy. This is a serious flaw. It is my organization's view that in order to truly address the inherent potential for diversion of nuclear materials for weapons, as well as the environmental risks and unresolved disposition issues associated with 'peaceful' nuclear activities, nuclear power must in the long term be phased out. In addition, we believe that sustainable energy alternatives should be funded and promoted at both the national and international levels.”

The Commission calls on all states to start planning for security without nuclear weapons. Cabasso commented: “This offers us a tremendous opportunity to challenge the state-centric notion of national security based on the threat and use of force, and to call instead for an international system based on collective and human security, with resolution of international conflicts through multilateral institutions and nonviolent mechanisms, and the promise of adequate food, shelter, health care, education, clean water and air for all people everywhere.”

The Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy, Western States Legal Foundation, and Reaching Critical Will, a project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, in partnership with the Arms Control Association, have formed a project to assess the report of The WMD Commission and analyze its implications, especially for U.S. policy, and yesterday launched the project’s website, www.wmdreport.org. Each of the organizations taking part in the project has long experience tracking the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other disarmament/non-proliferation forums.

The New York-based Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy (www.lcnp.org) specializes in the legal aspects of disarmament and security matters. LCNP’s executive director, John Burroughs, is co-editor of a 2003 book, Rule of Power or Rule of Law? An Assessment of U.S. Policies and Actions Regarding Security-Related Treaties. The book covers many of the issues addressed by The WMD Commission.

The California-based Western States Legal Foundation (www.wslfweb.org and the blog www.DisarmamentActivist.org) monitors the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, for instance the recently delayed explosive test in Nevada, “Divine Strake,” that would simulate nuclear effects. WSLF’s executive director, Jacqueline Cabasso, is a widely recognized organizer, advocate, and analyst.

Reaching Critical Will, a project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, based in New York, plays an essential role for both civil society and governments in reporting on the UN and NPT through its intensively used website, www.reachingcriticalwill.org. Jennifer Nordstrom, RCW project associate, has been following developments at the UN and also the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on a daily basis.

The organizations heartily agree with the Commission’s recommendation no. 52, that “foundations should substantially increase their support for [non-governmental] organizations that are working to eliminate global weapons of mass destructions threats”!

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