Kofi Annan has called it a disgrace and Australian Prime Minister John Howard termed it a major disappointment.
After months of wrangling, world leaders were shaking their heads over the dumping of proposed UN reforms to check nuclear weapons proliferation and disarmament.
Despite increasing concerns over illicit nuclear weapon networks and terrorists seeking weapons of mass destruction, negotiators working for months on a reform package to beef up the United Nations failed to agree on how to revamp global non-proliferation rules.
They adopted a watered-down package of reforms to be endorsed by the leaders of the world attending the 60th anniversary meeting of the global body.
Proposed new rules on nuclear weapons proliferation and disarmament were completely disregarded.
“It’s a real disgrace,” said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, lamenting the omission, which reportedly came after Washington gave only lukewarm support for the reforms.
He blamed “posturing” for the failure to find a common approach to the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Annan called nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament “our biggest challenge, and our biggest failing,” citing a similar failed effort at a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference earlier this year.
Diplomats said the United States had vehemently objected to focusing on disarmament by major powers rather than on the spread of nuclear weapons among rogue states and terrorists.
Norway crafted the proposals and submitted them to the United Nations in July, with Annan backing the initiative as a basis “for a wide-ranging consensus.”
The United States initially stayed mum on the proposed reforms.
But only days before the summit, the world’s only superpower reluctantly came into the fold, joining about about half the 191 UN member nations led by Britain, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Chile and Romania.
John Bolton, an ex-arms control chief at the US State Department and currently the new US ambassador to the UN, reportedly was against the proposal initially and, some claim, had campaigned against it.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard did not hide his disgust.
“I’m very, very disappointed” by the omission, he said.
“We think issues concerning Iran and North Korea and proliferation issues are the most important item on the disarmament agenda, and if serious progress is to be made then we have to make progress in these areas,” he said
Indonesian government spokesman Marty Natalegawa agreed.
He said it was a “matter of concern” that various parties had expressed concern over proliferation and disarmament and yet did not back the much needed reform.
“It is a glaring omission. The absence is disquieting. We find that one of the most deserving aspects of the whole document,” he said.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said both the proliferation and the perpetual possession of nuclear weapons posed an “unacceptable global danger.”
He called for a “new consensus” to achieve disarmament and non-proliferation.
The lukewarm US support for disarmament efforts stems from concerns relating to issues such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which Washington has refused to ratify, one Western diplomat said.
It was the collapse of the NPT review conference, which the United States was again blamed for, that prompted the reforms crafted by Norway together with Britain, Australia, Indonesia, Chile and Romania.