British Church Leaders Disappointed With Nuclear Treaty

A group of British churches are voicing their disappointment over the lack of deadlines for nuclear disarmament set by delegates attending a recent United Nations conference in New York.

Delegates from 189 member nations were in attendance at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review, which ended on Saturday with the unanimous signing of final agreement that prevents the further spread of nuclear weapons, promotes peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and looks to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone.

Clear deadlines on when disarmament will happen, however, were omitted in the final accord – a detail that church leaders say is crucial.

"Consensus on non-proliferation is a major achievement, and one that reflects a growing understanding that nuclear weapons are a threat, not a guarantee, to our security. But in failing to agree a timeframe for further discussions, world leaders appear simply to be paying lip service to the concept of nuclear disarmament," the Rev. David Gamble, president of the Methodist Conference in Britain, said in a statement.

"We didn't expect the conference to produce a detailed plan for banning nuclear weapons, but we were looking for a commitment to move forward on the issue," Gamble continued. "The International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and a whole host of others, from NPT state parties, former ambassadors and NGOs have all produced versions of a road map that could take us to zero nuclear weapons. The nuclear states stand alone in shying away from discussion of the detail."

Gamble represents one of nine UK churches that have joined a campaign called Now is the Time, which calls on the British Government to make a commitment to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons and building a safer future for all.

On Wednesday, British foreign secretary William Hague said that the country's stockpile would not exceed a maximum of 225 warheads, and that the maximum number of warheads that are "operationally available" would be 160.

Later in the day, Gamble and other Now is the Time leaders delivered a petition to Prime Minister David Cameron urging the country to declare a "no first use" policy and to continue to support efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have expressed anger over a measure in the NPT Review's final accord that specifically requests the country to comply with current international non-proliferation treaties.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement "distorted and flawed" for singling out Israel, which he called the "only true democracy in the Middle East and the only country anywhere on Earth threatened with annihilation."

Netanyahu further pointed out that Iran, which "brazenly violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty," was not mentioned in the document.

The White House has also voiced opposition against efforts to single out Israel and said that it will not pressure the state to do anything that would undermine its security.

A conference for Middle East states to begin negotiations on denuclearization is set for 2012.

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