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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Group of World Leaders hopes to Eliminate all Nuclear Weapons

WASHINGTON — A new international group committed to eliminating nuclear weapons over the next 25 years has enlisted scores of world leaders as its campaign gets under way at a conference in Paris on Tuesday. Richard Burt, chief strategic weapons negotiator for President George H.W. Bush, says the aim is to get to zero. He said even Iran is considered a potential supporter.

Burt says if there is growing support by nuclear powers and public opinion worldwide, he thinks it becomes harder for any government, including Iran, to cross that barrier. The group, Global Zero, is proposing deep cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, a verification and enforcement system, and phased reduction leading to the elimination of all stockpiles. After the kickoff meeting, delegations will go to Moscow for talks with Russian officials on Wednesday and to Washington to see Bush administration officials and possibly advisers to President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday.

Ultimately, the planners are hoping to stage a world summit in January 2010. More than 100 political, military, business, religious and civic leaders have lent their support the campaign. "In recent months, the threat of proliferation and nuclear terrorism has led to a growing chorus of world leaders calling for the elimination of all nuclear weapons," the group said in a statement announcing its plans. Listed supporters include former President Jimmy Carter; former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger; former Defence Secretary Frank Carlucci; former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev; Shaharyar Khan, a former Pakistani foreign minister; retired Air Chief Marshal Shashindra Pal Tyagi of India; and Malcolm Rifkind, a former British foreign secretary.

The launching in Paris follows 18 months of consultations among diplomats and military leaders and in effect established Global Zero as a participant in mobilizing efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 20,000 or more nuclear weapons around the world. The nuclear-armed nations are the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and, presumably, Israel.

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