Holy See Calls for Firm Response to Weapons of Mass Destruction

Official Addresses International Atomic Energy Agency

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VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See has called for a firm and far-reaching response to the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.



The spokesman of the appeal was Monsignor Leo Boccardi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), when addressing the institution's general conference, held in Vienna last week.

"The acts of violence recently perpetrated in Russia and in other parts of the world gravely offend all humanity," the papal representative said.

"The continued violations of human dignity and the innocent victims of terrorism draw the attention of all to the need to face the causes which underlie such modern forms of barbarism and to deal with them effectively," he added.

"We must also continue to believe in dialogue as essential to establishing peace and security," he indicated.

"Continued threats to peace and stability due to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and humanitarian and environmental emergencies, call for firm and far-reaching responses," Monsignor Boccardi said.

"The response of the international community must be an integral one, combining security, solidarity and the defense of human life," he continued.

"From various quarters, we have been warned that nuclear proliferation is on the rise and that there are countries interested in the illicit acquisition of weapons of mass destruction," the monsignor said. "There is also a risk that terrorists will gain access to such materials and technology."

"In this context, we need to agree on certain measures to ensure that nuclear 'business as usual' cannot continue," he continued. "The Non-Proliferation Treaty has contributed to international peace and security, but still has much to accomplish, and the international community must work harder to diminish the risks of nuclear proliferation and develop a framework more suited to the realities of the 21st century."

"Better control over the export of nuclear material and the universalization of the export control system are necessary," the Holy See representative said. "Consequently, there is a need to give more authority to inspectors, as the recent discovery of an illicit market for nuclear material and equipment makes clear."

"With regard to the Middle East, my delegation shares the concerns about the growing signs of rising insecurity, due to the ongoing war in Iraq and its security implications for the region and the unresolved conflict in the Holy Land," he added.

"Respect for the legitimate aspirations of both sides, a return to the negotiating table and the concrete engagement of the international community can lead towards a solution acceptable to all," the monsignor suggested.

"For this, it is desirable that all the countries of the region and the international community initiate a serious dialogue for creating a Middle East region free of weapons of mass destruction," he said.

"This, together with limitations on conventional armaments and appropriate security and confidence-building measures, can contribute to establishing peace in the region," he added.

The IAEA, headquartered in Vienna, arose within the United Nations in 1957. The agency works at the world level to promote technologies that use nuclear energy in a safe and peaceful manner. The IAEA benefits from the contribution of 2,200 experts in diverse areas who come from 90 countries.

The Vatican representative acknowledged the work done by the IAEA, especially in 2003 when, on the eve of the attack on Iraq, it itself was on the receiving end of what turned out to be unjustified attacks.

Monsignor Boccardi said that the "IAEA was able to respond in an efficient manner to numerous challenges in all areas of its work -- preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, improving and strengthening nuclear safety, and helping to develop the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for sustainable development -- and thus make a unique contribution to the goals of peace and prosperity in the world."