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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

20 November 2006

Nations Need to Step Up Biological Weapons Treaty Enforcement

U.S. delegation head Rood calls for measures to strengthen treaty compliance

Washington -- Failure to comply with an international treaty banning biological weapons poses a direct threat to world peace and security, says U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Rood.

Rood, addressing the opening session of a three-week conference in Geneva that is reviewing the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), said the international community should root out those who would violate or undermine the treaty.

He told delegates November 20 that the United States is anxious to discuss measures to combat the biological weapons threat, reinforce and strengthen the treaty and bring all countries into the convention.

It would be irresponsible to take steps to strengthen the treaty structure “yet turn a blind eye to problems with the foundation itself,” he said.

Rood, who heads the State Department’s International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau, expressed concern about the activities of North Korea, Iran and Syria because of their lack of compliance with other international obligations and their known support for terrorist groups.

U.S. officials believe Iran might have a biological weapons program and North Korea might have a biological warfare capability -- both situations that would be in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention.  Syria, which has signed but not ratified the treaty, also has prompted U.S. concerns because Damascus might have conducted research and development for an offensive biological weapons program, Rood said.


Rood, at a later press conference, singled out Egypt as another country that stands outside the treaty framework.  With 155 members of the BWC, he said, “there is room for significant growth.”  As a model, he suggested that the success of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, with 180 members, should be emulated.

Rood said noncompliance with the BWC is best dealt with directly.  The international community must be vigilant and steadfast, he said, “and root out violators that undermine the integrity of the convention.”  (See related article.)

Besides promoting an action plan at the review conference that would seek universal adherence to the BWC, the United States also is looking for members to implement practical measures on a national basis to prevent trade that could be used to produce such banned weapons, and to ensure that treaty violators are pursued by effective law enforcement.

Rood said the United States remains fully committed to the convention banning the development, production and acquisition of biological agents or toxins.  Even on the first day of the conference, he said, the U.S. delegation already had received positive feedback regarding its proposal to concentrate on four areas for further work: disease surveillance, better biosecurity for material and technology that could be misused, implementation of national enforcement legislation and better oversight to prevent misuse of related research.

“We want nations to live up to their obligations,” Rood said, and to find ways to improve the performance of the decades-old treaty.

Rood said U.S. delegates are focusing on pursuing a positive agenda as an article-by-article review of the treaty proceeds, and they hope other delegates will not be drawn into divisive debates that have slowed progress at past conferences.  The BWC is reviewed every five years.

The full text of the Biological Weapons Convention is available on the State Department’s Web site.

Transcripts of Rood’s remarks and his press conference are available on the Web site of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

For more information about U.S. policy, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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