New OPCW Head Appointed

By Gordon, Rose | Arms Control Today, September 2002 | Go to article overview
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New OPCW Head Appointed


Gordon, Rose, Arms Control Today


ON JULY 25, members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) chose Rogelio Pfirter, a former Argentinean undersecretary for foreign policy, to head the international body for the next four years.

The OPCW, which is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), had been without a director-general since April, when Brazilian Jose Bustani was ousted by a special session of CWC states-parties. (See ACT, May 2002.)

The United States led the initiative to remove Bustani from office. In a speech to statesparties shortly before Bustani's removal, Donald Mahley, the U.S. representative to the OPCW, charged the director-general with destroying staff morale, mismanaging funds, and refusing to consult with member states. Bustani dismissed the charges in repeated statements to the press and OPCW members.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher rapidly signaled U.S. approval of the new OPCW leadership, saying July 25 that Pfirter "will do an excellent job."

One of the primary challenges facing the new director-general is the budget shortfall the OPCW has experienced since January 2001, which resulted in the organization completing little more than half of its chemical industry inspections last year. Assuring members that he shares their budget concerns, Pfirter said during his acceptance speech at The Hague, "[O]ne of my top priorities will be to ensure appropriate funding in 2003."

In a telephone interview August 23, Deputy Director-General of the OPCW John Gee, who served as acting director-general after Bustani's dismissal, called the organization's financial situation "precarious" and cited late payments from the four member states that possess chemical weapons as a major strain on the budget.

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