The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament welcomed the ‘Global Zero’ initiative of 100 international political, military, business, and civic leaders, which today launched a campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons worldwide through multilateral negotiations. The leaders, which include former Foreign Secretaries Margaret Beckett, Malcolm Rifkind, Douglas Hurd and David Owen, Richard Branson, former President Jimmy Carter and Mikhail Gorbachev, want a binding agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons through phased and verified reductions.

The Global Zero initiative also today released a poll of 21 countries showing overwhelming support for an agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons by an agreed timetable. Across all countries 76% support such a plan, with 81% backing it in the UK.

Writing on the Guardian website to coincide with the launch of Global Zero, Foreign Secretary David Miliband attempts to defend the ruinously expensive replacement of the Trident weapons system by saying “nuclear disarmament cannot take place in isolation from the international security situation” without noting it is the very lack of action by the UK to prompt progress on multilateral disarmament that shapes the security situation and encourages further countries to become nuclear-armed themselves. Miliband’s article gives six key steps for nuclear abolition, but in chastising Iran and North Korea omits to mention the verifiably extant arsenals of Israel, India and Pakistan.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “We welcome the Global Zero initiative and the fact that alongside three other former Foreign Secretaries, Margaret Beckett – a serving Government minister – is one of its prominent backers. The UK could play a leading role in ensuring the success of multilateral disarmament plans, as supported by President-elect Obama and 81% of the population, but the message from the government is confused and incoherent. Miliband cannot argue we need ‘re-energised action on multilateral nuclear disarmament’, and yet commit Britain to another fifty years of nuclear weapons. The position set out by Defence Secretary John Hutton last month when he said Britain was ‘absolutely committed’ to keeping nuclear weapons ‘and that will not change’ could not be in greater contrast to the Global Zero aims. The British government must now end its contradictory position and take concrete steps to advance nuclear disarmament, at home and internationally.”