US Diplomatic Might Irks Nations ; A Senior UN Chief Who Policed the Chemical Weapons Ban Was Voted out Monday Night

Article excerpt

The United States scored an unprecedented diplomatic coup here on Monday evening, ousting the head of the organization policing an international chemical weapons ban who had tried to bring Iraq into the group.

It marked the first time that the director general of a United Nations agency had been fired in midterm. His removal, following the dismissal of a UN scientist last week who disagreed with the US position on global warming, is prompting concern among some countries about the way Washington is able to influence the fate of international officials who fall foul of its policies.

Jose Bustani, the Brazilian head of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Warfare (OPCW) was dismissed immediately, following a vote in the 145 member body called by the United States. US officials had accused him of mismanagement and "ill conceived initiatives."

Forty-eight countries, mainly from Europe, voted against Mr. Bustani. Seven, including Russia, China, Cuba, Mexico, and Iran, voted for him, while 43 abstained.

A senior US official says he was "gratified" by the vote, which he says "clearly demonstrates the breadth of understanding in the organization that the kinds of things we were talking about were indeed life threatening" to the OPCW.

Bustani, however, attributed the result to US pressure on developing countries to abstain. "My independence and my refusal to take orders" were behind the US bid to sack him, he claimed in an interview hours before his dismissal.

The OPCW was set up in 1997 to oversee the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty banning such weapons and providing for the destruction of stockpiles. The organization runs inspections of military and industrial facilities to guard against proliferation.

The United States, which voted for Bustani's reelection in May 2000, began campaigning openly for his dismissal last February, accusing him of budgetary mismanagement, taking on tasks outside the convention, and of what the senior US official called "impetuous and arbitrary" decisions.

Bustani's push for Iraq

Several OPCW officials and delegates to this week's special session at OPCW headquarters here agreed that Bustani had displayed a secretive and abrasive management style, offending a number of key governments in the organization.

The United States was also angered by Bustani's attempts to persuade Iraq to join the OPCW, which Washington argued would undermine the UN Security Council resolutions demanding that Iraq submit to inspection by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, (UNMOVIC) of any nuclear, biological and chemical weapons facilities it might still possess.

Critics of US policy have suggested that hardliners in Washington feared Iraq's membership in the OPCW, which would subject it to the organization's own chemical weapons inspections, might undercut their plans to topple Saddam Hussein on the grounds that he was keeping international weapons inspectors out. …