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Blix calls for Swiss help on nuclear issues

Samuel Schmid (right) held talks with Hans Blix on Tuesday Keystone

Former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix has urged Switzerland to do more to encourage nuclear disarmament in the world.

This content was published on May 1, 2007 - 21:52

Speaking after meeting Swiss Defence Minister Samuel Schmid on Tuesday, Blix said that the Swiss had a lot of technical expertise at their disposal.

For his part, Schmid said that stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a "central concern" for the future.

Blix said that small countries like Switzerland and Sweden could "bring a contribution" to current international disarmament efforts.

The Swedish diplomat said that Switzerland – which will hold the rotating presidency of the UN's Conference on Disarmament in Geneva for four weeks this year – had lots of technical expertise.

He particularly commended the Spiez Laboratory near the capital Bern, which contributes to the reduction of the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Terror purposes

Schmid said that Switzerland should take into account the fact that weapons of mass destruction could be used for terror purposes, even if the country was not considered a target.

He added that Switzerland had contributed to the fight against mines, cluster bombs and small arms. He also underlined the "pragmatic position" that Switzerland has for reinforcing existing accords on these issues.

Schmid said it was indispensable that international standards were adopted concerning the import, export and transport of weapons.

Blix said that in general more could be done worldwide and called for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which bans nuclear explosions in all environments, to be extended. China and the US have not yet signed up to the accord.

Both Blix and Schmid said that the political context for disarmament had become more difficult since the end of the Cold War.

Threat still present

"The threat has not diminished," said Schmid, referring to the rise of "non-state actors" and terror groups.

However, Blix pointed out that the events in Lebanon and Iraq had shown that not all conflicts could be solved through military means.

He said that US willingness to start negotiations with North Korea showed a change of heart by Washington and added that diplomacy was the best way when dealing with Iran's nuclear plans.

Blix was called out of retirement to head the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from January 2000 to June 2003. In 2002 the commission began searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction without results.

He was the head of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC), an independent body funded by the Swedish government, from 2004-2006.

In its final report, the WMDC said there had been a dangerous loss of momentum and direction in efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons and called for more to be done to counter the problem.

swissinfo with agencies

Hans Blix

Born in Sweden in 1928, Blix studied at Uppsala, Columbia and Cambridge universities, earning a PhD. He is a law specialist.

He served as Swedish foreign minister from 1978-9 and later held diplomatic posts. From 1981-1997 he was head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Blix was called out of retirement to head the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from January 2000 to June 2003. In 2002 it began searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction without result.

From 2004-2006 Blix chaired the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC), an independent body funded by the Swedish government. This is no longer in operation.

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