[Reader-list] USA goes it alone, again...

rustam rustam at cseindia.org
Fri Dec 14 16:53:45 IST 2001

The irony of George Bush's "Either you are with us or against us" 

>From The Lancet, to be published on 15 December 2001.

USA goes it alone again on bioweapons convention 
A conference to review the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention 
(BWC) ended in disarray on Dec 8 after the USA shocked even 
close allies by intensifying its opposition to a globally agreed 
inspection regime. 
In the closing hours of the 144-nation meeting, the US delegation
submitted a surprise proposal declaring the work of a special ad 
hoc committee, which has spent the past 7 years drawing up a 210-
page protocol with detailed verification methods to monitor 
compliance with the bioweapons ban, was "terminated". 
To avert total failure, Tibor Toth--a Hungarian diplomat who chaired 
the negotiations--suspended the conference for 1 year, saying he 
hoped governments would come back with a better appreciation of 
the ramifications of the anthrax attacks in the USA. "Too little time 
has elapsed since the anthrax incident", said Toth. 
Caught unawares by the American proposal, the European Union 
said it "deeply regretted" the collapse of the meeting. "It left 
everybody shocked and stunned", said Indian Ambassador Rakesh 
Sood, summing up the general mood of the 3-week conference, 
which is normally held every 5 years to review progress in the 1972 
The BWC was drawn up during the Cold War era. It lacked 
enforcement provisions because, at the time, the risk of attack was 
considered minimal. 
During the review meeting, governments from Russia, China, 
Europe, and developing countries pleaded for the ad hoc 
committee's verification protocol as the best protection against 
bioterrorism, as did humanitarian, medical, and scientific non-
governmental organisations.  The USA effectively pulled out of the 
ad hoc committee talks this summer (see Lancet 2001; 358: 389), 
saying the proposed inspection system would expose US defence 
and commercial biotechnology secrets to enemies and rivals. But 
many countries hoped the Sept 11 terrorist attacks and the
anthrax mail scare would prompt the Bush administration to come 
back on board. 
Instead, US delegation leader John Bolton proposed a new 
approach: to authorise the UN Secretary General to order 
inspections of "noncompliant BWC state parties" while leaving the 
five permanent Security Council members with veto powers to 
prevent themselves being investigated. 
Bolton accused Iraq of violating the biological weapons ban, saying 
its programme was "beyond dispute"--a charge rejected by the 
Baghdad government as a US pretext for setting up military action 
against Iraq. He also maintained that North Korea, Libya, Syria, 
Iran, and Sudan were at various stages of bioweapons 
But the US proposal found few takers and left arms-control experts 
and observers lamenting its refusal to join the multilateral treaty. 
"This outcome leaves us all worse off", said Oliver Meier, Senior 
Arms Control and Disarmament Researcher at the Verification 
Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC). "While US 
citizens are dying from biological weapons, even the most modest 
proposals to strengthen the bioweapons ban were not acceptable 
to Washington." 

By Clare Kapp
Copyright by The Lancet. For personal use only. Not to be 
reproduced commercially without consent by The Lancet.

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