Syria, N. Korea and Israel top agenda at WMD meeting

Iranian and Saudi envoys slam Israeli refusal to attend a nuclear-free Mideast conference

The United Nations Security Council votes during a September meeting, at UN Headquarters in New York City (photo credit: AP/Craig Ruttle)
The United Nations Security Council votes during a September meeting, at UN Headquarters in New York City (photo credit: AP/Craig Ruttle)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A landmark UN resolution aimed at preventing terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction has accomplished a great deal in the last decade, with one notorious step backward: the use of chemical weapons in Syria, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said Wednesday.

Tensions over Syria and the nuclear programs of North Korea and Israel rippled through a Security Council meeting commemorating the 10th anniversary of the resolution, which requires all 193 UN member states to take actions to prevent terrorists, criminal gangs and black marketeers from making, acquiring or trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

The council issued a presidential statement approved by all 15 members expressing grave concern that “non-state actors” may acquire and use these banned weapons and urging countries to work harder to implement the resolution.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, whose country chairs the UN committee monitoring the nuclear terrorism resolution, said 172 member states have submitted voluntary reports on measures they have taken to implement the resolution.

The Security Council called on the 21 remaining countries to follow suit.

The day-long meeting featured exchanges over Syria, whose UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari accused unnamed countries of providing chemical weapons to “terrorist groups” — the government’s name for opposition fighters — which have used them “more than once against civilians and the military.”

The US and Western nations have accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in attacks last year, which Damascus vehemently denies. In recent weeks, Western diplomats and activists have accused government forces of attacking rebel-held areas with poisonous chlorine gas, which Syria also rejects.

Wednesday’s meeting also sparked a clash over North Korea’s nuclear program.

South Korea’s Yun said North Korea has defied the international community by continuing to develop nuclear weapons over the last two decades and by threatening its fourth nuclear test.

Yun called on the international community to warn Pyongyang that another test “will be met with the most serious consequences.”

North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador Ri Tong Il, in a statement that was far longer than the four minutes allotted, accused the United States of “increasing nuclear blackmail” and reiterated that his country has targeted the United States with its nuclear weapons.

Ri said the United States has ruined the North’s reunification overtures to South Korea by conducting military exercises with the South and keeping over 1,000 nuclear weapons there.

After being asked at least twice by the council president, a South Korean diplomat, to finish his statement, Ri’s microphone was cut off as he said North Korea’s missile launch and nuclear test “aimed at self-defensive purposes will become annual and …”

On a third issue, both Saudi Arabia and Iran attacked Israel’s refusal to attend a long-delayed conference on establishing a Mideast zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

Israel has never publicly acknowledged its widely reported nuclear arsenal.

Saudi Arabia’s Abdallah Al-Moualimi said Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is “a major obstacle” to Mideast security and stability.

Iran’s Gholamhossein Dehghani said Israel’s weapons of mass destruction threaten neighboring states, while Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor called Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

US deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo warned that “terrorist and militant groups in many parts of the world have actively sought to acquire the means to produce” nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Stopping their spread “is not one of those fields where a ‘pretty good’ record is enough,” she said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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