updated 5/18/2006 6:44:39 AM ET 2006-05-18T10:44:39

The United States on Thursday proposed that the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament negotiate a new treaty banning production of the nuclear material needed to make atomic bombs.

Stephen G. Rademaker, acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, told the body that developments in the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran showed it was time for a rapid agreement on the treaty to ban production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, known as “fissile material.”

“The treaty text that we are putting forward contains the essential provisions that would comprise a successful legally binding FMCT,” or Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, Rademaker said.

“It bans ... the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” he said.

Rademaker said the proposal has widespread support and would give the conference a positive role for the first time since it completed the ban on nuclear bomb testing 10 years ago.

“The only possible avenue for progress in this conference is to concentrate its efforts on the one topic on which we most likely shall be able to take action,” he said.

Iran defends itself
But Hamid Eslamizad, a senior official at Iran’s mission in Geneva, stressed that his country’s uranium enrichment program was entirely peaceful.

Eslamizad said U.S. criticism of Iran’s nuclear activities was reminiscent of similar, incorrect allegations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, a move which led to the invasion of the Middle East country.

Rademaker responded that Iran was merely repeating its usual defense that all nuclear material in the country has been accounted for by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

“The question is, is there any undeclared nuclear material in Iran? And that’s the whole issue,” Rademaker told reporters.

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