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ARF deplores nuke tests in South Asia

By Mergawati Zulfakar
Source: The Star
              July 28, 1998

MANILA: The Asean Regional Forum (ARF) here yesterday strongly deplored the recent nuclear tests in South Asia.

A statement issued by the chairman od the fifth ARF, Domingo Siazon, said ARF ministers expressed grave concern and called for the total cessation of such testing and urged the countries concerned to sign the Treaty on Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty without delay, conditions or reservations.

Both documents, however, did not mention India and Pakistan but referred to them as South Asian Countries.

It is learnt that India, which is a member of ARF, has disassociated itself from the statement on nuclear on nuclear testing. Pakistan was not invited to the forum.

Others in ARF are the Asean members, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, European Union, and the United States. Papua New Guinea and Cambodia were present as observers.

The statement, issued at the end of ARF, was seen as a stronger one compared with the joint communique issued by the 31st. Asean Ministerial Conference two days ago.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said this was so because ARF had the participation of other countries and some of them had strong views on nuclear testing.

"Certain countries wanted to use the word 'condemn' but Asean felt this was not necessary. However, we need to take into account the views of all present," Abdullah told Malaysian journalists.

The arf also asked the South Asian countries concerned tk refrain from weaponisation or deploying missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, and prevent any transfer of nuclear weapon-related materials, technology, and equipment to third countries.

"In the interest of peace and security in the region, the ministers called on the countries putes and security concerns through peaceful dialogue," the statement added.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting criticised India and Pakistan over the nuclear tests.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reminded ARF of the challenge to stop the spread of dangerous weapons and technologies.

"As nations that work together to build security and confidence in Asia, we agreed that the region was getting safer until India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons.

"While both nations have legitimate security concerns, neither faced an imminent threat that could justify the far greater danger we all now face," she said.


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