MEDIA RELEASE

DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
AUSTRALIA


D68

31 August 1998

New Australian Safeguards And Non-Proliferation Office

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has today announced the establishment of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) to play a central role in Australia's efforts to promote a more secure world environment.

Australia has had a strong commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament with respect to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, the weapons of mass destruction. Recent actions by Australia internationally include the initiation of a series of diplomatic measures to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and active support for commencement in the Conference on Disarmament of negotiations on a "cut-off" treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

ASNO's principal objective is to enhance Australian and international security through activities which contribute to effective regimes against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. ASNO will combine the functions of the Australian Safeguards Office (ASO), the Chemical Weapons Convention Office (CWCO), and the Australian Comprehensive Test Ban Office (ACTBO) established following ratification of the CTBT. ASNO will also assume responsibility for implementation aspects of the Biological Weapons Convention protocol currently being negotiated in Geneva.

The focus of ASNO will be verification of treaty commitments. ASNO will contribute to the development and operation of effective international verification mechanisms designed to promote transparency and provide assurance that non-proliferation obligations are being observed.

Within ASNO, ASO will continue its work with nuclear safeguards to verify that peaceful use commitments for nuclear material and items are being honoured. An important part of ASO's work is ensuring that Australia's uranium exports remain in exclusively peaceful use, in accordance with Australia's bilateral safeguards agreements.

CWCO will continue to work with verification arrangements on the production and use of specified toxic chemicals and their precursors, while ACTBO is set to implement the CTBT in Australia including the establishment of significant elements of the international system to detect any nuclear testing. The close parallels between the nuclear non-proliferation regimes and the chemical weapons prohibition regime will enable the most effective use to be made of available technical expertise and administrative resources, and promote cross-fertilisation of ideas between individual regimes, thereby further enhancing Australian interests.

ASNO will be headed by a Director-General, Mr John Carlson, who has held the statutory position of Director of Safeguards since 1989, and also the position of Director CWCO since 1995.

Media Inquiries: Tony Melville/Kirk Coningham (02) 6261 1555

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