he United States is pressing the U.N. Security Council
to endorse a draft resolution that would allow the use of force against "entities
and individuals" suspected of trying to develop, possess or transfer weapons
of mass destruction (WMD), diplomats and observers here say.
Though they say they are equally concerned about proliferation of the weapons,
many Security Council members fear the resolution would give Washington a free
hand to unilaterally deal with the as yet undefined "entities and individuals".
The draft resolution states that some countries "may require assistance
within their territories, and invite states in a position to" prevent the
proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, rockets and vehicles
capable of delivering such weapons, a phrase that makes many suspicious of U.S.
The proposal "should not be a context to whip the countries", says
an Asian diplomat who did not want to be named. "How can we talk about
faceless actors when there's no agreed definition of terrorists? You know, whom
you called a terrorist yesterday could be a president today".
According to the draft, Washington wants the Security Council to ask all member
nations to help prevent and "if necessary, interdict shipment of nuclear,
chemical and biological weapons, their means of delivery and related material
in accordance with the international and national laws".
"This is a dangerous concept," says an Asian diplomat who also requested
anonymity. "This can be misused by adversaries in the name of interdiction".
The US resolution stems from the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a
plan announced by President George W. Bush in May last year as a step towards
creating new legal agreements authorizing the search of planes and ships carrying
The PSI has been endorsed by nine European nations, including Britain, Germany
and France, as well as Australia. Washington and its allies claim the proposal
is legal under the UN Charter and the Security Council Presidential Statement
But legal experts say neither of those regulations gives nations the authority
to interdict shipments on the high seas.
Diplomats say negotiations have stalled on the question of the definition of
"interdiction" because two of five permanent Council members, China
and Russia, have refused to go along with the current draft resolution.
"The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a serious issue,"
Russia's UN Ambassador Sergey Lavrov told reporters recently. "But we need
to develop a language which is clear".
"It's a sensitive issue," said Chinese ambassador Wang Guangya, who
is also president of the Security Council for February. "It can be best
solved by the judgments of the International Atomic Energy Agency" (IAEA),
the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, he added.
Recent IAEA investigations into Iran's nuclear program led to the arrest of
Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who publicly confessed his
involvement in transferring his country's nuclear technology to other nations.
Diplomats say so far that case is the only example that could be used to define
the "entities and individuals" in the draft US resolution.
But Pakistan, a non-permanent Security Council member, sees the case in a different
light. "Dr. Khan was an aberration," a Pakistani diplomat told IPS.
"He has been taken care of."
A US diplomat had a different interpretation. "This resolution is trouble
for (Pakistan)," he said.
Negotiations on the resolution have so far been confined to the five permanent
members of the Security Council, which frustrates some non-permanent but elected
"Why is it up to the P-5 (permanent five) to determine the agenda of non-proliferation?"
asked a diplomat from a non-permanent member nation. "On the one hand,
they are the preachers. On the other hand, they are the sinners".
All permanent members the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China
continue to posses thousands of nuclear weapons in their arsenals. Washington
is no longer making it a secret that it is producing a new generation of those
Experts on international law say they share the concerns of the elected members
of the Security Council that Washington might use force against some
nations under the pretext of implementing a UN Security Council resolution.
"They are right," says John Burroughs, executive director of the
Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy, a U.S.-based
non-profit disarmament advocacy group.
"They think if you get this resolution on paper, the US may use military
force like it did in Iraq, even though the UN did not approve it."
Washington is seeking Security Council approval under chapter 7 of the UN Charter,
which binds states to implement Council decisions. But Burroughs says he and
his colleagues, who have been working on issues related to weapons of mass destruction
for more than two decades, doubt if the move to adopt the WMD resolution is
"There is nothing in the UN Charter that gives the Security Council the
authority to adopt global legislation," he says. "This resolution
deals with complex situations" and involves individuals not acting on behalf
Burroughs suggests that any effective implementation of such a proposal would
require the involvement of the UN secretary-general and the body's department
of disarmament, in addition to negotiations on multilateral agreements such
as the Biological Weapons Convention.
Diplomats say non-permanent Security Council members want to address the issue
of proliferation by enhancing the agenda on disarmament. But Washington and
other permanent members prefer to deal with it separately, they add.
"This is the basic problem with the US and others," says Burroughs.
"They think the terrorism threat can be solved with nonproliferation efforts.
That's not right. It's going to require eliminating weapons of mass destruction
everywhere. It requires political will to do so."
(Inter Press Service)