Cuba announced September 14 that it will accede to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which would leave India, Israel, and Pakistan as the only countries that have not joined the treaty.
In an address to the United Nations General Assembly, Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Felipe Perez Roque said that Cubas decision was motivated by a desire to provide a signal of the clear political will of the Cuban government and its commitment to an effective disarmament process. He cited the NPTs discriminatory nature and the lack of nuclear weapons states concrete disarmament-oriented commitments as the reasons for Cubas previous refusal to sign the treaty.
Roque also announced that Cuba would ratify the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, also known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which opened for signature in 1967. The treaty prohibits the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons by its signatories and establishes a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America. Cuba is the last country in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean to ratify the treaty. Cuba signed the treaty in 1995 but did not ratify it.
The announcement was well received by the international community. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei praised Cubas decision in a September 17 statement and called upon Cuba to conclude a comprehensive safeguards agreement, as required by the NPT and the Treaty of Tlatelolco.
A U.S. State Department official stated September 23 that the United States supports Cubas decision, adding that Cuba has always claimed that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. We have no reason to challenge that assertion. The NPT allows member countries to have civilian nuclear programs.
Representatives of more than 100 countries that have ratified or signed the Ottawa Convention banning the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) met September 16-20 in Geneva. The United States, which has not signed the treaty, did not officially participate in the conference, although it attended public portions of the meeting.
During this annual meeting, the fourth since the accord entered into force March 1, 1999, states-parties took stock of the treatys implementation as the four-year deadline for destroying all APL stockpiles draws nearer for countries that became states-parties in 1999. To date, 34 states-parties have fulfilled their stockpile destruction commitments, bringing the total number of states-parties that do not have APL stockpiles to 88. Another 22 are currently working toward their destruction commitments.
In addition to living up to their own obligations, meeting participants identified their other major objective as persuading as many countries to adhere to the treaty as possible. Ottawa members also explicitly urged nonstate actors for the first time to stop using landmines. German Ambassador Volker Heinsberg noted September 17 that of an estimated 230 million APLs worldwide about 90 percent are being used or stockpiled by governments and irregular forces outside the treaty.
Currently, 145 countries are states-parties or signatories to the accord, but some key countries have shied away, including the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and several countries in the Near East.
The United States ended its role in negotiating the treaty in 1997 when countries rejected Washingtons proposals for exempting U.S. APLs deployed on the Korean Peninsula and permitting the use of some mixed U.S. mine systems with both APL and anti-vehicle capabilities. But the Clinton administration announced the following year that it would join the treaty by 2006 if the United States could identify and field suitable alternatives to its mines outlawed by the treaty.
The Bush administration, however, initiated a review of U.S. landmine policy after taking office and has yet to finish it. A U.S. government official interviewed September 24 said the review is nearly complete, and findings could be announced imminently.
The next annual meeting of Ottawa Convention states-parties is scheduled to take place September 15-19, 2003, in Bangkok.
On September 12, the United States made public an August decision to sanction three Russian companies for shipping arms to Libya, Sudan, and Syria. At the same time, Washington decided that it would not be in the U.S. national interest to impose sanctions on the Russian government, even though the Kremlin was considered responsible for the exports.
The United States determined August 2 that Russia had provided lethal military equipment, a term that refers to conventional weaponry, to Libya, Sudan, and Syria. All three, along with Cuba, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, are classified by the State Department as sponsors of terrorism, and U.S. law mandates that foreign assistance be halted to world capitals that provide weapons to such countries. But sanctions can be waived, as they were in this case, if it is determined to be in the U.S. national interest to do so.
The U.S. move appears to be a shot across Russias bow, warning Moscow against selling arms to countries that the United States deems threats to international security. Although Russia has been seen as generally helpful in the declared U.S. war on terrorism, Moscow is also seeking closer ties with the very countries President George W. Bush labeled an axis of evil earlier this year. The Bush administration has most aggressively lobbied Moscow against its stated intentions to pursue increased arms deals and nuclear cooperation with Iran. (See ACT, September 2002.)
While the Kremlin received a warning, the three Russian companiesthe Tula Design Bureau of Instrument Building, the State Scientific Production Enterprise Bazalt, and Rostov Airframe Plant 168will be prohibited for one year from receiving U.S. government assistance or contracts, as well as from exporting to or importing from the United States. The sanctions are largely symbolic since none of the companies are known to do much business with the United States. Nevertheless, Moscow protested the U.S. action, claiming the Russian sales broke no international laws.
The United States slapped similar sanctions on Tula Design Bureau in March 1999 for selling anti-tank missiles to Syria.