The recent meeting of the Second Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in Geneva was notable for an increasingly public conflict between the United States and Iran, which the Bush administration is accused of being determined to incite.
Displaying antagonism not seen at previous PrepComs, the US accused Iran of developing a nuclear weapons programme, and demanded that Iran declare its intentions openly.
In response Iran and said its own nuclear intentions were peaceful and criticised the US of double standards for failing to deal with Israel's refusal to join the NPT. Iran also called on the US not to prejudge it in advance of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report expected in June on its nuclear programme.
The PrepCom was held from 28 April to 9 May 2003 ahead of the Third PrepCom in 2004 and the next Review Conference in New York in 2005. PrepComs are held in between the NPT Review Conferences, which occur every five years. This meeting took place amid increasing public focus on non-proliferation and disarmament.
At its closure a procedural report was adopted, and attached to this was the chair's factual summary containing 42 paragraphs reflecting his account of the range of issues discussed. While the summary was generally well-received and was considered something of a diplomatic triumph as a balanced and creditable effort, not surprisingly it prompted 19 statements in response. These recorded member states' concerns that it failed to reflect their respective priorities, emphases and interpretations.
The PrepCom has also been criticised for severely restricting the access of attending NGOs, press members and observers to diplomats, statements and working papers. “This PrepCom was symbolised by the widening gulf between the honeyed rhetoric that UN officials and governmental representatives utter about civil society, and the actual reality of life on the ground for the NGOs and press representatives,” said Rebecca Johnson of the Acronym Institute.
Since the NPT was launched in 1970, neither of its objectives of bringing about nuclear disarmament and halting the spread of nuclear weapons has been achieved.
Faith in the eventual implementation of these objectives is on the wane, fuelled by the unwillingness of the nuclear weapons states to dismantle their own capabilities while simultaneously denying such capability to other states, as well as the US's counter-proliferation strategies since 11 September 2001.