On the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) President Obama reaffirmed the United States’ intention to push forward with dialogue on the three pillars of the non proliferation question – disarmament, non-proliferation and civil nuclear cooperation.

First, to promote disarmament, the U.S. was working with Russia on a new START Treaty aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals, Mr. Obama said. “Our forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review will move beyond outdated Cold War thinking and reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent”, Mr. Obama stated, adding that he would also press for the ratification of CTBT and FMCT.

Second, in the context of non-proliferation Mr. Obama shifted the spotlight to the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit in April, during which 40 nations would come together “with the goal of securing the world’s vulnerable nuclear materials in four years”. This would be linked to enforcing the rights and responsibilities of every nation, he added.

Third, arguing that all nations have an inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy Mr. Obama said he would seek “a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation among nations, including an international fuel bank and the necessary resources and authority to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency”. This would unlock advances in the fields of medicine, agriculture and economic development.

Alluding to his speech in Prague last year, the President recalled his ultimate vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Deplorable

Meanwhile, the State Department today issued a statement condemning Iran’s planned execution of 20-year-old university student Mohammad Amin Valian.

The State Department on Saturday issued a statement condemning Iran's planned execution of 20-year-old university student Mohammad Amin Valian.

Mr. Valian, reported to have been a member of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi's local election office, was arrested in late December. He was charged with throwing stones during the Ashura demonstrations, a crime to which he confessed.

He was subsequently found guilty of Moharebeh, or “warring against God” by the courts, punishable by death under Iranian law.

The statement issued in Washington by Philip Crowley of the Bureau of Public Affairs, said, “We find this disproportionate punishment deplorable and urge his immediate release”.

Mr. Valian was reported to have testified during his trial that he threw stones at security forces and plainclothes pro-government militiamen as they “savagely” beat demonstrators during the December 28 rally in Tehran.

Mr. Crowley noted that this would be the first person facing execution after the controversial Presidential elections last year, adding however that the U.S. did “note due process concerns about other executions”.

Addressing the question of political prisoners in Iran more generally he also said, “We join the international community in calling on Iranian authorities to release all political prisoners”. He argued that if the Iranian government wanted the respect of the international community, it must respect the fundamental freedoms of its people.

According to reports it was still unclear whether Mr. Valian was among a group of 11 people who the Iranian media in January said had been sentenced to death in connection with election unrest of last year. Of those, two were executed in January.

Amnesty International statistics for 2008 place Iran just behind China in terms of known applications of the death penalty. Saudi Arabia, the USA and Pakistan follow in descending order of the number of executions.

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