Facebook Twitter

Bush against plan to enforce arms ban

But he still backs ’72 biological weapons treaty

SHARE Bush against plan to enforce arms ban

WASHINGTON — The White House said Saturday the Bush administration had problems with a proposed agreement for enforcement of a 1972 treaty banning biological weapons.

"We have problems with the protocol, but we fully support the Biological Weapons Convention . . . the issue is the protocol," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told Reuters. "We think there's more work that needs to be done."

Fleischer declined specifically to state the administration's objections to the proposed plan for enforcing the treaty, which prohibits the development, production, stockpiling, or use of biological weapons.

A State Department official said U.S. agencies had been reviewing the protocol.

"They agreed that more work needs to be done to examine measures to strengthen the biological weapons convention in a way that effectively responds to the biological weapons threat," the official said.

Diplomats have worked on the enforcement protocol, which would establish measures to monitor the ban, for six years and hoped to complete it by autumn.

More than 140 nations, including the United States, have ratified the 1972 Biological Warfare Convention. But it has lacked an effective means of enforcement.

The draft protocol would allow routine plant inspections by four-member teams on two weeks' notice and "challenge" inspections on a few days' notice. It limits the time inspectors can spend at a site and allows them to bring relatively simple equipment, like tape recorders and laptop computers.

The Washington Post reported in its Saturday editions that President Bush's administration had decided it could not accept the proposed enforcement agreement.

The decision was to be announced Monday by the U.S. envoy to long-running negotiations in Geneva. He would say the United States supports the treaty but has serious objections to a proposed agreement on how to enforce it, the newspaper said.

"There is agreement throughout the government that (the protocol) is unworkable and unacceptable," according to a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

John Isaacs, president of the Washington-based Council for a Livable World, which supports arms control, said Saturday he had been told the United States was set to reject the agreement.

"I did check with someone at the State Department, and it turns out it is likely this coming week the administration will inform our allies that we won't play the game and we'll take our marbles and go home," Isaacs said in an interview.

Isaacs said the United States had expressed concern that compliance with the agreement would be extremely difficult to verify. He said the protocol may be flawed, but that should not be grounds for rejection.

"It's really part of the Bush administration's unilateralism, where we declare the U.S.' right to opt in or opt out of international agreements on our own terms," Isaacs said.

The Washington Post report was the second in two months indicating U.S. dissatisfaction with the protocol. According to The New York Times on May 19, an administration review concluded the protocol would be inefficient in stopping cheating, and its deficiencies could not be overcome before the negotiations deadline.