UN waits for working nuclear test-ban treaty

Vienna —The world was a more peaceful place when a newly sworn-in President Barack Obama pledged to “aggressively pursue” a global ban on nuclear arms tests. But as his term winds down, a working test-ban treaty remains a dream and some of the loudest voices out of Washington are hostile.
Seven years on, the Obama administration continues to publicly back ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Secretary of State John Kerry vowed late last year to “re-energize” efforts for congressional approval — a move that the head of the U.N. organization created to enforce a ban says would lead at least some of the other holdouts to do the same.
“The U.S. needs to show leadership,” said CTBTO chief Lassina Zerbo ahead of the 20th anniversary of his organization. “We need to keep the momentum on what President Obama said in 2009.”
But with Obama’s days in office numbered, that appears to be a forlorn hope. His deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told the Arms Control Association last week that Republican control of the Senate had left the administration “with no viable path forward” for ratification.
Zerbo’s organization had hoped that Kerry would come to events marking Monday’s anniversary, prompting the foreign ministers of the four other permanent Security Council members plus Germany to follow. But Kerry decided to send his undersecretary for arms control, Rose Goettemoeller, and his five counterparts from the six powers that signed the nuclear deal with Iran also are no-shows.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner says ratification is “still a priority,” adding Kerry’s absence does not mean that Washington is “no longer interested in CTBT.” White House officials also say Obama still supports ratification and is providing substantial funds to the effort.
Anti-treaty minded Republicans already rejected ratification 17 years ago under President Bill Clinton, with Senate approval falling far short of the required two-thirds majority. But there are also other hurdles.— AP

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