|Author (Person)||Cronin, David|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.22, 31.5.01, p2|
EU NEGOTIATORS fear that efforts to strengthen an international pact on outlawing biological weapons are doomed because of deeply entrenched differences with their US counterparts.
The Bush administration is citing national security concerns as the reason why it cannot support proposals aimed at making the 1972 biological and toxin weapons convention (BTWC) more relevant to today's realities.
After six years of talks, the final phase of negotiations on agreeing a revised treaty begins in July. EU foreign ministers are expected to express their exasperation with the US approach when they meet on 11 June.
In a step which some diplomats are hailing as a concrete example of the EU's common foreign and security policy at work, the Union's states are united in advocating that tough provisions be introduced into the updated convention, so that signatories will be prevented from secretly developing highly destructive missiles.
But Washington is at odds with some of the key proposals, including one to give international monitors the power to conduct unannounced searches of chemical and biotechnology installations. Insiders say that the US feels such provisions would run counter to its constitution and that it is arguing it must be able to protect sensitive subjects from industrial espionage.
"The US fears that if it had to give detailed information on its bio-defence programme, it would reveal to potentially hostile countries its areas of weakness," said one diplomat.
A review of American policy on the convention - launched after George W. Bush came to power in January - is still not completed. "It's expected that the outcome of the review will be negative," the source added.
The view that the convention was a flawed product of the Cold War began to gain currency in the early 1990s, when the West grew perturbed over the chemical warfare capabilities of Iraq, the old Soviet Union and subversive organisations like the Aum Shinkrikyo cult in Japan. Hungary's UN Ambassador Tibor Tóth, who is chairing the talks, is hoping they will be concluded by the end of this year.
"It seems that the US are launching an almost systematic assault on multilateralism," said Simon Whitby, a peace studies expert at the UK's University of Sussex. "If you combine this with the US policy on the Kyoto agreement [on climate change] and the national missile defence issue, then this is the third example of this kind of thing in almost as many months."
EU negotiators fear that efforts to strengthen an international pact on outlawing biological weapons are doomed because of deeply entrenched differences with their US counterparts.
|Subject Categories||Security and Defence|
|Countries / Regions||United States|