US rejects bioweapons agreement

 作者:益憷     |      日期:2019-03-06 09:12:19
By Debora MacKenzie After six years of negotiation, the US has rejected an agreement aimed at enforcing the treaty banning biological weapons. The other negotiating countries must now decide by mid-August whether to go ahead with the agreement, without the US, or to start over on a new agreement. Campaigners warn against starting over, saying the world cannot wait another six years to strengthen its guard against germ warfare. But the US says it will propose alternative verification measures in the coming months. The Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention of 1972 bans germ weapons, but has no way to check whether members comply. Talks on a protocol to “enhance confidence in compliance” began in 1995, and were to have finished at a meeting now underway in Geneva. They almost made it. “We had unprecedented consensus on the protocol as it now stands from every other country here,” said Oliver Meier of VERTIC, an arms control think tank in London, at the talks in Geneva. Even lukewarm participants such as Iran and China said in Geneva that they could support the draft with minor changes. US rejection was widely expected (New Scientist magazine, 12 May 2001 p 4). But it was unexpectedly unequivocal. Donald Mahley, the chief US negotiator in Geneva, said the draft protocol “will not enhance our confidence in compliance, and will do little to deter” prospective biowarriors. He said the US could not support it even with changes, because it failed to address the “inherent difficulty” of monitoring biological weapons. The draft requires nations to declare certain biological facilities, then submit to inspections. But although this “has worked well for many other types of weapons, (it) is not a workable structure for biological weapons” said Mahley, partly because the huge number of easily-concealed facilities where biological work can be done defies inspection. He charged that the inspections would “put national security and confidential business information at risk” without catching wrongdoers. That objection has been voiced repeatedly by the US pharmaceutical industry. “They say the provisions are too weak,” says Meier. “Yet they were weakened during the negotiations to try and satisfy the US.” The US, however, favours other kinds of verification. The draft protocol permits export controls on organisms or equipment which might be used for weapons. But these would eventually be administered by a new Organisation for the Prohibition of Biological Weapons, to which all protocol members would belong. Mahley said the US instead intends to strengthen such export controls through the Australia Group of industrialised countries. He also said investigating disease outbreaks would be “an important capability for any protocol regime”. Outbreaks could reflect a bioweapon attack or accidental release. But, he complained,