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Thursday, April 30, 1998

UN may drop "peace zone" proposal for Indian Ocean

LONDON, April 29: The United Nations is on the verge of "abandoning" a long standing proposal for declaring the Indian Ocean as a "zone of peace," because of vehement opposition from the United States, UK and France.

"The proposal is on the threshold of being abandoned because of very rigid stand taken by these three countries," the outgoing chairman of the 44 member United Nations ad hoc committee on the Indian Ocean, Herman Leonard De Silva, was quoted by the Jane's Defence Weekly as saying.

The committee was set up in 1972 to implement a General Assembly resolution calling for the establishment of a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean.

De Silva, who is also the Sri lankan ambassador to UN, said if the proposal is left out of the General Assembly agenda in September this year, "it will die".

The US has, in fact, already called for elimination of the committee as part of an attempt to reduce overheads in the financially ailing United Nations.

Defence experts said that the United States andBritain were against the proposal because of their large military presence in the region and the region's strategic importance to rapid build up for confrontation in the Gulf and the Far East. US, Britain and France, the three key members of committee, withdrew from the committee in 1989 arguing that superpower rivalry had "substantially diminished" with the end of the Cold War and there was no justification for a zone of peace.

Earlier, the UN, through a resolution, said it was convinced that with the participation of five permanent members of Security Council in the committee would facilitate the agenda to be worked out and implemented.

After walking out of three members, US, UK and France, only two other members China and Russia are now serving on the committee.

The report said that the United States in the last two decades had viewed the proposal as being "Soviet backed" to neutralise bigger American naval and nuclear presence in the region.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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