US, China urged to stop hindering atom test ban pact

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VIENNA, Sep 18 (Reuters) The United States and China should show leadership and ratify the decade-old Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty so it can take effect, the president of a CTBT review conference said today.

Some 100 treaty members at the meeting were expected later in the day to issue a declaration calling for ratification from 10 laggard signatories to transform the 1996 accord from an informal moratorium into a binding document.

Backing from the United States and China, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, is urgent, said Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno of Costa Rica, which with Austria co-chaired the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT.

''We believe that (US) leadership is necessary, much like we would also like to see leadership on behalf of China,'' Stagno told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting of around 100 nations in Vienna - home of the CTBT's administrative body.

''A political binding moratorium is simply not sufficient, it does not give us sufficient confidence and trust,'' Stagno said.

''When we look at North Korea and Iran, (and) developments in other areas, we need to ensure that there is mutual confidence and trust,'' he said, mentioning two CTBT signatories that have not ratified and are now seen as nuclear proliferation threats.

The CTBT has so far been ratified by 140 states in all and lists in an annex 44 that have nuclear capabilities already. Of those, 34 have both signed and ratified the pact - including nuclear weapons powers Russia, Britain and France.

Both North Korea, which sparked global condemnation when it tested a nuclear bomb last year, and Iran, suspected by Western powers to be secretly developing nuclear weapons, are on the list of annex countries that have yet to ratify.

India and Pakistan, both with nuclear arsenals, and Israel, an unconfirmed but widely assumed nuclear weapons power, also have not ratified the treaty. They are the only three nations that did not join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Some laggard countries, such as the US and China, were concerned in the past that those not adhering the moratorium could not be adequatly detected or deterred, others faced constitutional problems. While the US supports a moratorium on nuclear tests, it does not support the treaty and has not sent any representatives to the conference.

REUTERS ARB KP1905

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