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US Forces Suspension of Germ War Pact, EU Angry

Dear all,

I found this article in an Iraq newsgroup. Why should Iraq allow arms inspection teams if you read this story?
Dirk Adriaensens.


We've impoverished a whole nation and threaten a bloody military action in order to "STOP WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION."


By Richard Waddington

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States forced a germ warfare conference to break up on Friday without new measures to toughen an international ban, angering its European allies.

In a bid to save face, the review conference of the 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention opted formally to suspend work for a year until November 2002 after Washington put forward what one European delegate called a ``conference breaker.''

In a last-minute demand, Washington sought an end to attempts to give teeth through verification mechanisms to the pact outlawing biological weapons.

The move, which caught even European Union (news - web sites) states by surprise, came just an hour before the end of the three-week meeting aimed at finding ways to beef up the 30-year-old pact.

``They have fired a missile at the conference. We are deeply disappointed,'' one senior European diplomat said.

Under pressure from the anthrax attacks in the United States, countries agreed on a number of measures but remained deeply divided on key issues.

Amongst these was the future of the so-called Ad Hoc negotiating committee -- backed by all countries except the United States -- which had sought to make the treaty testable.

Unlike other arms treaties, the biological weapons pact has no mechanism for checking whether members are obeying the rules.

The United States had already rejected ahead of the conference a draft protocol proposed by the committee that would have instituted a system of spot checks.

Washington said it would have exposed its industrial and military facilities to spying without giving any guarantees that it could catch cheats.


On Friday it went a step further by formally proposing that the mandate of the committee -- agreed at the last convention review conference in 1994 -- be withdrawn.

``It is a direct provocation to everybody. Their (the U.S.) position is completely unacceptable,'' another senior diplomat from a European state said.

European diplomats said it reinforced a view that the administration of President Bush (news - web sites), which has already spurned a number of global accords, including on climate change, preferred to go it alone in international affairs.

In a statement, the European Union said it remained fully committed to ``multilateral'' arms negotiations, adding that the 1994 mandate remained ``completely valid.''

At the review conference, Washington turned up the heat by accusing some of its fellow treaty signatories -- including Iraq and Iran -- of violating the treaty.

U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton said six countries either had germ weapons programs or were interested in developing them.

He said Iraq and North Korea (news - web sites) had developed such weaponry and Iran had probably done so. Libya and Syria might be in a position to produce small quantities of biological weapons and Sudan had expressed interest in a program, he said.

All the countries except Syria and Sudan are members of the convention. They deny the accusation.


``I wish we could have continued talking but it was obvious that we would not reach an agreement,'' Bolton told Reuters. ''There were just too many areas of disagreement...a cooling off period will be a good thing,'' he said.

Independent arms experts said the result was a set-back to efforts to restrict access to biological weapons.

``This outcome leaves us all worse off,'' said Oliver Meier, senior arms control and disarmament researcher at the London-based VERTIC organization.

Others also regretted that the conference could not make progress in view of the international concern generated by the anthrax attacks in the United States in which five people have died after handling mail contaminated with the deadly powder.

The U.S. authorities have not ruled out a connection with the September 11 suicide plane hijackings in New York and Washington that killed nearly 4,000 people.

``Better to have an adjournment than a failure. The bad thing is that the international community has been unable to act,'' said Jenni Rissanen of the Acronym Institute.

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