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Nuke Summit Parties Insist Progress Made Powers Agree To Seek Test Ban, Stop Smugglers; Other Matters Ignored

Sun., April 21, 1996

Concluding their summit, President Boris Yeltsin and the leaders of major industrialized nations called on Saturday for a speedy enactment of a nuclear test ban and announced measures to stop the smuggling of nuclear bomb ingredients.

But the session was also noteworthy for its warm embrace of the embattled Yeltsin, who is running for re-election in June, although President Clinton was careful not to declare his preference for Yeltsin openly.

President Jacques Chirac of France, who was co-chairman of the meeting with Yeltsin, put aside any pretense of impartiality in Russia’s hard-fought presidential race.

At a celebratory news conference at the Kremlin after the meeting, Chirac declared that his visit to Moscow had convinced him that the greatness of Russia was being restored.

And a visibly fatigued Yeltsin also used the occasion to assume the role of a dynamic leader of a still-powerful nation.

“The status of Russia not only as a great power, but also as one of the leading countries of the world was recognized,” Yeltsin boasted.

The substance of the summit, however, was the subject of considerable debate.

American officials insisted that the meeting had made important, if undramatic, strides toward staunching the spread of nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union and improving nuclear safety on a range of fronts.

But public interest groups criticized the meeting for being long on ceremony and short on concrete results.

Among the more important steps was a declaration by the eight nations that a total ban on nuclear tests should be negotiated by September. The ban would include small experiments in which only tens of pounds of nuclear power are released and so-called “peaceful” nuclear explosions.

That endorsement, while not a surprise, was significant because it increases the pressure on China, a major hold-out in negotiations to establish a comprehensive test ban. Last month, China’s representative at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Sha Zukang, called for an exemption to the test ban treaty to allow “peaceful nuclear explosions” for scientific purposes, without elaborating.

The eight leaders also called for better coordination to prevent nuclear smuggling, including the sharing of intelligence and collaboration on customs and law enforcement.

This step, American officials said, is actually under way and involves such measures as the sharing of technical data so nations can better pinpoint the origin of smuggled radiological material.

But many difficult questions were sidestepped.

The leaders did not call for a major infusion of additional funds to improve the security of Russian nuclear materials.

Experts outside government, and even some American officials, have said the Western nations should double their assistance to better protect bomb-grade materials in the former Soviet Union.

No major new ground was broken toward the closing of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine, which spewed radiation across Europe 10 years ago after a disastrous fire. The summit accords reiterated earlier understandings that the reactor is to be closed by 2000 in return for about $3 billion in Western aid.

Nor was there any discussion of Russia’s agreement to sell a nuclear reactor to Iran, Yeltsin disclosed on Saturday.

The United States has objected to the sale, saying it would help Iran develop the ability to build a nuclear bomb.


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