February 1, 2016 / 7:14 PM / 2 years ago

Anti nuclear test agency urges nations to ratify ban

PARIS (Reuters) - North Korea’s recent nuclear test shows a ratification of an international ban on nuclear bomb tests is more urgent than ever, the head of the Vienna-based organization tasked with enforcing the ban said on Monday.

Negotiated in the 1990s, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) enjoys wide global support but must be ratified by eight more nuclear technology states - among them Israel, Iran, Egypt and the United States - to come into force.

“We must act urgently,” Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) told reporters in Paris after meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Tension rose in East Asia last month after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, this time of what it said was a hydrogen bomb.

“The only way to stop that is for the CTBT to come into force,” said the head of the organization, which is independent but linked to the United Nations.

Zerbo said the nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six other nations last year could help speed up the process, which “has been dragging on for 20 years”, and that he hoped to organize a meeting at the ministerial level in Vienna in June.

The CTBTO hopes the eight nations that have not ratified the treaty could agree to a roadmap in June, that would include a moratorium in the Middle East, a discussion with North Korea to “bring it toward a moratorium” and a trust agreement between China and the United States.

Zerbo said a U.S. ratification was a priority for President Barack Obama but that “his hands are tied because he doesn’t have a majority in the Senate.”

Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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