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A Call To Arms

A Call To ArmsThere are no universal penalties for spreading nuclear secrets – and a Tufts graduate student says the U.N. must take action. Medford, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.02.04] Nuclear proliferation - the spread of weapons to states that have not previously maintained nuclear forces - is back in the international spotlight after the recent disclosure that a Pakistani scientist had been selling nuclear secrets on the black market. While most world leaders believe the spread of nuclear arms must be stopped, there is no universal set of criminal penalties for offense. The U.N., writes Fletcher School graduate student Erin English, must fill the void.

"Apparently, a proposed resolution for criminalizing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has been sitting in the U.N. Security Council's in-box for some time," English wrote in an op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor. "The U.N. must attend to this issue."

The issue - which had lost momentum - rose to the forefront of international dialogue in early February, when Pakistan's top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan admitted that he gave weapons secrets to other countries.

"Nuclear weapons-related designs and components were smuggled to Iran in the late 1980s and early 1990s," reported CNN. "Nuclear technology was transferred to North Korea and Libya in the 1990s."

For his actions, Kahn apologized on television and in return received a pardon from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. English is among those who feel that this public confession is an example of the highly inadequate penalties in place for nuclear proliferators throughout the world.

"The laws governing the illegal trade of nuclear materials and components are full of holes and vary too widely from country to country," English wrote in the Monitor.

According to English, a U.N. resolution would provide valuable guidelines to the international community. "Once the definition and nature of the crimes becomes universal," countries will better be able to deal with those who enable nuclear proliferation, wrote English.

George W. Bush favors that approach.

"[In February] President Bush renewed his call for a new U.N. Security Council resolution requiring all states to criminalize proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, enact strict export controls, and secure all sensitive materials within their borders," English wrote in the Monitor.

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