UK sets out blueprint for nuclear weapons-free world

LONDON Tue Feb 3, 2009 6:46pm EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain sets out a six point plan on Wednesday for a nuclear free world, at a time when global powers fear Iran will produce a bomb and Barack Obama's inauguration has renewed interest in disarmament.

The British document calls for watertight measures to stop terrorists or emerging states getting atomic weapons, deeper cuts in U.S.-Russian nuclear arsenals and the activation of a global nuclear test ban treaty.

"Although the challenges are considerable, progress on these six steps would mark a decisive break from the deadlock of the past decade," Britain's Foreign Office said in a policy document.

Entitled "Lifting the nuclear shadow: Creating the conditions for abolishing nuclear weapons," the document is to be launched by Foreign Secretary David Miliband later on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said Britain will play a key role in efforts to speed up nuclear disarmament, though it was not immediately clear why Britain was proposing the new plan now, or what its timeframe would be.

Brown, unpopular at home because of the economy's woes but well-regarded abroad, is due to host a conference in March on cooperating with countries that want to develop a civilian nuclear energy industry.

Nevertheless, Brown's government plans to spend up to 20 billion pounds ($28.50 billion) on a new fleet of nuclear weapons-armed submarines to replace the aging current fleet. He has warned against unilateral nuclear disarmament.

The British initiative comes against the background of a meeting of world powers on Iran's nuclear program in Germany on Wednesday. The West suspects Tehran is using a civilian program as a cover to make nuclear arms, which Iran denies.

Obama has backed direct diplomacy with Iran, which could involve talks, a departure from the policies of former President George W. Bush.

Obama has also said he would seek reductions in all U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, signaling an interest in arms treaties not shown by his predecessor.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)

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