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Keeping WMDs Out Of Terrorist Hands

The United Nations Security Council during a meeting at UN headquarters in New York.
The United Nations Security Council during a meeting at UN headquarters in New York.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to extend Resolution 1540.

Seeking to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to extend by ten years, Resolution 1540: its main legal weapon in stifling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The "United Nations Security Council has taken a firm and unanimous stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," said the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, in a written statement. "Today’s action sharpens the tools of the UN’s 1540 Committee, which helps states build their capacity to address these challenges."

Resolution 1540 was first introduced in 2004, just as the International Atomic Energy Agency was investigating a wide-ranging black market in nuclear equipment and know-how. The investigation was spurred by Pakistan's admission that its leading nuclear scientist passed technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Thus Resolution 1540 compels all UN member states to enact domestic measures to prevent rogue actors from producing, obtaining, or moving weapons of mass destruction, associated goods and their delivery systems. It also provides for a Security Council panel to oversee the execution of the Resolution.

In passing Resolution 1540, the United Nations recognized that terrorist and militant groups pose a serious threat. It was the first world body to do so. By extending the Resolution by a decade, the UN signals that the threat has not diminished.

As Ambassador Rice said, "The threat of these dangerous weapons – especially in the hands of the non-state actors who are determined to acquire them – is just as serious today as it was in 2004, when the Council first enforced effective nonproliferation and counterterrorism measures."

Under the Administration of President Barack Obama, the United States has pursued an aggressive non-proliferation agenda -- at the United Nations, and in partnership with individual nations -- as an important aspect of achieving the President’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons. "These efforts have yielded concrete successes – from President Obama’s leadership of the Security Council when it adopted Resolution 1887 in 2009 to the consensus outcome at the nuclear nonproliferation treaty review conference in 2010," said Susan Rice.

"Today’s action is a significant next step – for the United States and for all who are working toward a more peaceful, secure world.