UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Wednesday the world was "sleepwalking" down a path of nuclear proliferation and that new efforts must be made urgently to stop this trend.
Addressing a plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament, Annan said the world was facing two very divergent courses.
One path is active engagement, which "can take us to a world in which the proliferation of nuclear weapons is restricted and reversed through trust, dialogue and negotiated agreement," he said.
The other leads to a world in which a growing number of states feel obliged to arm themselves with nuclear weapons, and in which non-state actors acquire the means to carry out nuclear terrorism.
"The international community seems almost to be sleepwalking down that latter path - not by conscious choice, but rather through miscalculation, sterile debate and paralysis of the very multilateral mechanisms created for confidence-building and conflict-resolution," he warned.
He further noted that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), one of the achievements of the Conference on Disarmament, was facing a twin crisis of compliance and confidence.
Disarament and further non-proliferation measures are both essential for world security, he added.
The secretary-general said the 65-state Conference on Disarmament was the only group that had the collective power to wake the world up to the proliferation dangers.
He urged members states to break the decade-long impasse on disarmament and anti-proliferation efforts.
The last success achieved by the Conference was the signing of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty nine years ago. Since then the Conference has been barren of achievement, he said.
In his speech, Annan also called for solutions to the nuclear crises related to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran.
"The impasse on the Korean Peninsula is especially disappointing ...I hope the leaders of the DPRK will listen to what the world is telling them, and take great care not to make the situation even more complicated," he said.
Iran, for its part, needs to enable the International Atomic Energy Agency to assure the world that its nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful in nature.
"In both cases, we need solutions that are not only peaceful, but that buttress the NPT's integrity," he stressed.