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U.S. pushes new curbs on spread of weapons

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WASHINGTON — Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton called on the 66-nation Conference on Disarmament on Thursday to approve new curbs on the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Bolton, in a speech prepared for the conference in Geneva, Switzerland, said the spread of nuclear weapons technology directly threatens international security.

The Bush administration "will treat it accordingly," he said, and "the same holds true for nations that traffic in deadly chemical and biological weapons technology and missile systems."

Bolton said North Korea, Iraq and other countries he did not identify were violating a worldwide ban on proliferation. He did not say specifically what actions the Bush administration might take.

At the same time, he defended the administration's approach to arms control, and President Bush's decision to withdraw from a treaty with Moscow that blocked development of a U.S. anti-missile shield.

Bolton said the administration is interested in treaties and arrangements that meet today's threats to peace and stability, not yesterday's.

Long paralyzed by disagreement, the Conference opened a new session Tuesday with allegations that the United States was unraveling the limited progress made in recent years to counter weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking of "the overall gloomy picture of multilateral disarmament," Russian Ambassador Leonid Skotnikov took the Bush administration to task for pulling out of the 29-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.

He said the administration had also undercut efforts to put teeth in a ban on biological weapons.

Bolton said the administration was committed to working out arrangements with other nations to curb the spread of dangerous technology and improve international security.

He said this included an existing treaty to ban biological weapons. But, Bolton said, new ways are needed to strengthen the pact, including tightening controls on exports.

Bolton defended Bush's decision to withdraw from the 1972 treaty with Russia that banned national anti-missile defenses.

He said the administration intended to rely more on missile defenses and less on offensive nuclear forces.

"It is an undeniable fact that the United States simply has no defense against a missile attack on our homeland," Bolton said. "While we do have a defense against shorter-range missiles, we have none against even a single missile launched against our cities. We must fill this void in our defenses."

Bolton said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks "taught us not to underestimate the intentions of rogue states and terrorist groups."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a message to the conference this week, said the attacks "reminded us that effective measures are needed, and need to be swiftly implemented, the eliminate the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists."

Bolton's speech, in effect the U.S. response, contained a pledge that "the fight against terrorism will remain a top international security priority" for the Bush administration.

He said too many nations are not doing enough to stop companies from exporting missile technology.

Companies in at least a dozen countries are involved in these activities, and the United States might punish the companies by restricting business with them.

"The United States calls on all countries to control missile-related transfers and ensure that private companies operating within their borders cease illegal missile transactions," Bolton said.