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Foreign Minister discusses the comments of the Indian Ambassador to the United Nations General Assemby who claims the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty will not come into force; comments on suicide of Australian at Bangkok Airport

REBECCA GORMAN: Our Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has joined us in our Canberra studio to discuss the test ban treaty, and to talk with him, Catherine Job.

CATHERINE JOB: Minister, welcome to the studio. What's your response to the Indian Ambassador to the UN who says he's surprised Australia has spent so much time and money on something that you know very well is not going to come into force?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: We have a good relationship with India so I won't couch my words in terms of a response to the Indian Ambassador, but just to say this. We regard the passing of this resolution overnight as an enormously important development in the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime. The fact is that we've got 158 countries which have now been prepared to support a comprehensive test ban treaty. Obviously it hasn't entered into force because of the passage of the resolution, but what we've been able to do is salvage this treaty from certain death in the conference on disarmament, which depended on a consensus, and a consensus couldn't be reached.

Now the treaty will be open for signature. Obviously many countries will sign the Treaty and, having signed it, there will be the moral force on them to maintain the commitment they've made through the signing of the Treaty, even before it has entered into force.

CATHERINE JOB: Well, once again, the Indian Ambassador said that even with those numbers, those 158 countries, he said no major non-aligned country voted for that because they thought it was satisfactory but simply because they were going along with the non-aligned group.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, some of the non-aligned countries actually co-sponsored the resolution, so I have to say that our view is that there was very strong support amongst the non-aligned movement. I, myself, spoke to some of the non-aligned Foreign Ministers over the last week, and they expressed to me their support for the treaty.

Of course this treaty, like any international treaty, is a compromise. We weren't perfectly happy with the wording of it, as a matter of fact, either. But the fact is, the fact is it's a compromise, it's the best that could be achieved. And when you've got all five nuclear weapons states now supporting a resolution to open for signature a treaty banning nuclear testing, then you can definitely conclude that those five countries are now firmly committed not to proceed with nuclear testing. And that's a very big achievement for the world.

CATHERINE JOB: Or are you saying that's more important than having the treaty actually come into law, which it will never do, because India will never sign it?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, no, not more important. We would like to see it become part of international law and enter into force, but that's not going to happen in the immediate future because, as you quite rightly say, the Indian Government has never supported the treaty in its current format. So I would just put it to you this way: If you get the United States and Britain and France and Russia and China, the five nuclear weapons states, all signing the treaty, all signing the treaty and saying that effectively we will no longer proceed with nuclear testing, then that is a great achievement for the world. And you get many other countries around the world signing up to the Treaty. Obviously that is a statement by their governments that they are not going to conduct nuclear tests.

CATHERINE JOB: Briefly, just before we go, we're about to run a rather horrific story about a young Australian man who's apparently committed suicide at Bangkok Airport. It's reported he arrived at the airport in a distressed state and was detained. Can you tell us anything more about this?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I understand from my department that an Australian has indeed committed suicide at Bangkok Airport. Consular officers from our Embassy in Bangkok are on their way to the airport to investigate the matter further, and also the Thai police are investigating it. So we'll have more news once those investigations are complete. But I can confirm that it's happened.

CATHERINE JOB: Mr Downer, thanks for your time.


REBECCA GORMAN: Alexander Downer, the Foreign Minister, with Catherine Job.