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CURRENT ISSUE:  October 23, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 18Oakland, CA

U.N. nuncio warns of ‘sleepwalking’ toward nuclear terrorism

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The world seems to be “sleepwalking” down the path of nuclear weapons proliferation, increasing the risk of nuclear terrorism, said the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations.

The United Nations must foster greater international dialogue to ensure compliance with treaties restricting the proliferation of nuclear weapons and banning their testing, said Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s U.N. nuncio.

Without a firmer commitment to these treaties, more states will arm themselves with nuclear weapons, increasing the possibility that such weapons will fall into terrorist hands, he said Oct. 5 in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

The Vatican has observer status at the United Nations which means that it can speak at sessions but cannot vote.

The world is at a crossroads regarding nuclear weapons, said the archbishop.

“One path can take us to a world in which the proliferation of nuclear weapons is restricted and reversed through trust, dialogue and negotiated agreement,” he said.

“The other path leads to a world in which rapidly growing numbers of states feel obliged to arm themselves with nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear terrorism grows,” he said.

“The international community seems almost to be sleepwalking down the latter path, not by conscientious choice but rather through miscalculation, sterile debate and the paralysis of multilateral mechanisms for confidence-building and conflict resolution,” he said.



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The Vatican has repeatedly asked governments “which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them” to change their plans and “strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament,” the archbishop said.

“Policies of nuclear deterrence, typical of the Cold War, can and must be replaced by concrete measures of disarmament based on dialogue and mutual negotiations,” he said.

Archbishop Migliore also asked for greater efforts to restrict the spread of small arms, saying that greater emphasis should be given to the “human dimension” of the destruction caused by these weapons, especially to children.

He said that there are 643 million small arms in the world today and these weapons “kill and maim tens of thousands, spark refugee crises, undermine the rule of law and spawn a culture of violence and impunity.”

The Vatican supports establishing “an obligatory legal framework aimed at regulating the trade of conventional weapons of any type, as well as regulating the know-how and technology for their reproduction,” he said.

It also favors international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons, he said.

In an Oct. 2 talk to the General Assembly, Archbishop Migliore asked for “more focused initiatives” to combat AIDS in poor countries.

“The concentration of our financial, logistic and human resources would enable the countries most affected by HIV/AIDS to put an end to this scourge and consolidate the hope that humankind will overcome the pandemic worldwide,” he said.

The archbishop also reiterated the Vatican position that “ensuring access to reproductive health” as stated in the U.N.’s 2005 World Summit Outcome Document means “reducing maternal mortality.”

In the past, when the phrase on reproductive health has appeared in U.N. documents it has been interpreted by many people as meaning support for access to abortion.

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