UN session urges US, others to ratify and clear way for treaty banning nuclear tests

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Two dozen foreign ministers from around the world on Thursday urged a handful of remaining nations to ratify the nuclear test-ban treaty, allowing it to take effect.

Advocates said approval by the U.S. Senate, in particular, would encourage some of the other eight governments whose ratification is required to bring the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, to outlaw all nuclear test explosions.

"I believe the national security interests of the United States are enhanced by ratification of the CTBT," Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters after chairing the two-hour meeting to promote the treaty on the 2010-11 General Assembly's opening day.

"Be courageous. Take the initiative. Be the first mover," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged non-ratifiers in a speech to the meeting.

The treaty specified 44 nuclear-capable states — from Algeria to Vietnam — that must give full approval before it can take effect.

Besides the U.S., the others among the 44 that have not ratified are China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan. Indonesia has announced it will ratify by year's end. A total of 151 nations have ratified the pact.

The U.S. Senate rejected the treaty in 1999, but President Barack Obama plans to resubmit it for ratification. Some Republicans are again mustering opposition, but Democrats are hopeful of approval next year.

The U.S. opponents again object that the U.S. might need to test to maintain a reliable nuclear stockpile, and the treaty's monitoring system wouldn't detect all clandestine tests by cheaters.

Treaty supporters counter that the U.S. weapons stockpile has been certified reliable annually since the 1990s, and the $1 billion monitoring system of seismic and other detectors built up since 1999 has proven it can spot even small explosions.

Led by Australia, Japan, Canada and Morocco, Thursday's session adopted a statement endorsing the capability of the monitoring system and calling upon "all states that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the treaty without delay."

The major nuclear powers have refrained from testing since the 1990s.