THE former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, today warned against any military attempt at regime change to resolve the nuclear crises surrounding Iran and North Korea.
Both countries figured prominently in a report from the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission that Mr Blix presented to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The 14-member international commission - set up by Sweden in 2003 to probe ways of reducing the dangers from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons - argued that any negotiations with Iran and North Korea had to consider their security concerns.
"In such states, incentives to acquire nuclear weapons may be reduced by offers of normal relations and assurances that military intervention or subversion aimed at regime change will not be undertaken," the report said.
In the case of Iran, Mr Blix, who chairs the commission, said it was also important to recognise the depth of national pride in nuclear accomplishment.
"There is very much a question of prestige here ... and I think that the other side negotiating with them would do well to take that into account, as well as issues of security," he told reporters at the UN's New York headquarters.
The commission report generally decried the stagnation of global nuclear disarmament efforts and offered a list of 60 recommendations, topped by a call for all governments to accept the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that was agreed 10 years ago.
It also urged all nuclear states to reduce their arsenals and halt the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
And it firmly rejected the idea that nuclear weapons were only dangerous in the hands of rogue governments.
"The commission does not accept that argument," Mr Blix said.
"These weapons are dangerous in anybody's hands, although that doesn't exclude that some could be more reckless than others."
In his preface to the report, Mr Blix urged Washington to take the initiative in bringing the CTBT into force and negotiating a treaty to halt fissile material production.
"In both these areas, the US has the decisive leverage," he said.
"If it takes the lead, the world is likely to follow. If it does not take the lead, there could be more nuclear tests and new nuclear arms races."
The report was welcomed by several non-governmental organisations dealing with disarmament issues.
John Burroughs, executive director of the New York-based Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy, welcomed the case made for a return to multilateralism in US policy on nuclear weapons.
"The problems of existing arsenals, potential spread and potential acquisition by terrorists are all linked," Mr Burroughs said. "The problems can be solved only by a comprehensive approach leading to elimination of all weapons."