US leads boycott of talks to ban nukes

NEW YORK: More than 100 countries on Monday launched the first UN talks aimed at achieving a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, as Washington led an international boycott of a process it deems unrealistic.

Before the conference had even begun, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley spoke out to reject the proposal in light of current global security threats.

"As a mom and a daughter there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons," Haley, who represents the world's largest nuclear power, said on the sidelines of the meeting.

"But we have to be realistic," she added.

"Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?"

Haley spoke in a group of some 20 ambassadors from US allies which are boycotting the negotiations, including Britain, France, South Korea, Turkey and a number of countries from eastern Europe.

The ambassadors of Russia and China were notably absent, but both major nuclear powers are also sitting out the General Assembly talks.

Haley estimated that "almost 40 countries" were not participating.

The push for a ban was announced in October by 123 UN members who say the threat of atomic disaster is growing thanks to tensions fanned by North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and an unpredictable new administration in Washington.

Leaders of the effort include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden, supported by hundreds of non-profit organisations.

But Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the United States all voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained – together accounting for most of the world's declared and undeclared nuclear powers.

Even Japan – the only country to have suffered atomic attacks in 1945 – voted against the talks, saying a lack of consensus over the negotiations could undermine progress on effective nuclear disarmament.

Japan's ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa addressed the General Assembly to explain why.

"Efforts to make such a treaty without the involvement of nuclear weapon states will only deepen the schism and division" in the international community, he said. – AFP