It is rare for an American president to devote an entire speech to the problem of nuclear proliferation. But in February George W. Bush did just that. "America will not permit terrorists and dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most deadly weapons," he said.

In keeping with his promise, and his definition of a dangerous regime, the US has led calls for North Korea to freeze its nuclear programme. The US has also argued that Iran should be reported to the United Nations Security Council, as it claims that Iran has failed to honour its commitments to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But all is not going to plan. The pleas have been ineffective, and the US stands accused of hypocrisy on nuclear proliferation. "It's like a guy with a cigarette dangling from his mouth telling other people not to smoke," according to Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the organisation responsible for policing the NPT. And many claim this perception, coupled with America's wider foreign policy, is making it more, not less, likely that other countries will seek a nuclear capability.

New Scientist | US Election 2004

merica: Bomb builders or peacemakers?


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