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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 16, 1997


Strengthened International Safeguards

On May 15, the international community took a major step toward significantly reducing the danger that any nation can secretly acquire a nuclear arsenal. Last September, in my speech at the United Nations, I called on the international community to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and improve our ability to identify and isolate those states that seek to violate its rules. In the most dramatic strengthening of nuclear inspections in the last quarter-century, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its member states have agreed in Vienna to develop strong new tools to assist in tracking the use and location of nuclear materials around the world.

During the last four years, we have made significant progress in curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ending the dangerous legacy of Cold War weapons stockpiles. But as the clandestine efforts of nations such as Iraq to acquire nuclear weapons have made clear, we must reinforce our ability to find and stop secret nuclear weapons programs. Only in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War were we able to discover the full scope of Iraq's activities and intentions.

The strengthened safeguards system adopted by the IAEA will give international nuclear inspectors greater information and access to nuclear and related facilities worldwide. By accepting a new legally-binding protocol, states will assume new safeguards obligations that will make all their nuclear activities more transparent -- including by allowing inspections at all suspicious sites, not just at declared sites.

I urge all nations to adopt as soon as possible appropriate protocols to their own safeguard agreements or to make other legally-binding arrangements that will put this new system of safeguards in place. And I call on all nations that have not already signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to do so without delay.

Reducing the threat of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is one of our highest obligations. Since I took office, we have made the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty permanent, dramatically cut existing nuclear arsenals under the START treaties, and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention that will outlaw poison gas forever. I look forward to working with the Senate as we seek ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and as we seek congressional approval of this protocol and other arms control measures. Together, we must continue our efforts to provide the American people with real and lasting security.

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