The Bush administration is urging the UN Security Council to adopt an anti-proliferation resolution that would call upon member states to “criminalize” the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. In a Sept. 23 address at the opening of the UN General Assembly, President George W. Bush warned that “[t]he deadly combination of outlaw regimes and terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away.” He called on states to adopt tighter export controls, stronger legislation, and better border security to prevent the illicit transfer of materials and offered U.S. support to any country that needed help devising such programs.
Bush used the speech to justify further his handling of the war in Iraq and, amid criticism over Washington’s preemptive strike policy, called on member states to lend their support to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Speaking earlier in the day, UN General Secretary Kofi Annan harshly attacked the Bush administration’s position—without actually naming names. “Now, some say…states have the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively, even on the territory of other states, and even while weapons systems that might be used to attack them are still being developed.” Annan condemned such logic, warning it “could set precedents that result in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without justification.”
Beyond calling for the nonproliferation resolution, Bush offered no new initiatives and failed to mention the world’s most pressing proliferation concerns: Iran and North Korea. Instead, the president stuck to familiar themes, reiterating the existence of measures such as the newly formed Proliferation Security Initiative (see page 24) and the Nunn-Lugar program as examples of steps that are being taken to prevent dangerous materials from getting into the wrong hands.
French President Jacques Chirac also stressed nonproliferation in his comments. He proposed holding a council summit meeting to frame a “genuine” UN action plan against proliferation, as well as creating a permanent corps of inspectors under the council’s authority.
In Their Own Words...Excerpts from the UN General Assembly Sept. 23
By President George W. Bush