UNITED NATIONS - The 189 member nations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty on Friday adopted a detailed plan of small steps down a long road toward nuclear disarmament, including a sharply debated proposal to move toward banning the doomsday arms from the Middle East.
The 28-page Final Declaration was approved by consensus on the last day of the monthlong conference, convened every five years to review and advance the objectives of the 40-year-old treaty.
Under its action plan, the five recognized nuclear-weapons states - the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China - commit to speed up arms reductions, take other steps to diminish the importance of atomic weapons, and report back on progress by 2014.
The final document also calls for convening a conference in 2012 "on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction." This Arab idea of a WMD-free zone is designed to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal.
Despite vocal dissent in the final hours from Iran and Syria, no objections were raised in the final session. Iran's chief delegate, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, joined with the others in hearty applause in the soaring U.N. General Assembly hall.
"All eyes the world over are watching us," the conference president, Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines, said before gaveling the final document into the record.
The decision was "an important step forward toward the realization of the goals and objectives of the treaty," Egypt's Maged Abedelaziz said afterward, speaking for the 118-nation Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries.
The conference is convened every five years to review and advance the objectives of the 40-year-old NPT, under which nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them; those with them committed to move toward their elimination; and all endorsed everyone's right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.
The last NPT conference, in 2005, failed to adopt a consensus declaration, in part because President George W. Bush had withdrawn U.S. backing for such nonproliferation steps as ratifying the treaty banning all nuclear tests. President Obama's support for an array of arms-control measures improved the cooperative atmosphere at the 2010 conference.