US leads boycott of UN talks on nuclear weapons ban

United Nations (United States) (AFP) – More than 100 countries on Monday launched the first UN talks aimed at achieving a legally binding ban on atomic weapons, as Washington led an international boycott of a process it deems unrealistic.

Before the conference had even begun, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, spoke out to reject the proposal in the 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 who are boycotting the negotiations, including Britain, France and 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 talks.

Haley estimated that “almost 40 countries” were not in the General Assembly on Monday.

Some 123 UN members announced the nuclear weapon ban initiative in October, even as most of the world’s declared and undeclared nuclear powers voted against. Leaders of the effort include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden, supported by hundreds of NGOs.

They say the threat of nuclear disaster is growing thanks to tensions fanned by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and an unpredictable new administration in Washington.

But Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the United States all voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained.

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.

– ‘Step-by-step’ –

While acknowledging the promoters of the treaty were acting in “good faith,”…

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