U.S. Defends Stance on Biological Warfare

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Kralev

U.S. officials went out of their way yesterday to assure European allies and other major powers that Washington's rejection of a germ-warfare protocol doesn't mean it is walking away from biological arms control.

The officials, speaking in both Washington and Europe, also strongly disagreed with the notion that the Bush administration is allergic to international treaties, as many critics have suggested since President Bush abandoned the 1997 Kyoto protocol on climate change and denounced the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as archaic.

"It's not a case where the administration came in and said, `Ah, another multilateral agreement that we can trash,'" a senior State Department official told reporters.

Another official called the charges of unilateralism, which have accompanied many of Mr. Bush's policies, totally unfounded.

"I reject that completely because we work bilaterally with individual countries and very much multilaterally through the United Nations," said Phillip Reeker, the State Department's deputy spokesman.

At a meeting in Geneva yesterday, the United States dismissed the proposed draft of the protocol, which attempts to toughen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), as unworkable and dangerous to U.S. security.

"We think this text is unfixable and our preference would be to close this chapter and move on to the alternatives," said the senior official, who asked not to be named.

The decision frustrated other participants in the 56-nation talks, who were virtually unanimous in their support for the draft, the result of almost seven years of negotiations.

"We regret that the United States has decided to reject this protocol. The concern is that germ weapons talks could just sink into the doldrums," said one European diplomat quoted by Reuters news agency in Geneva.

The document, which called for inspections and other means of verifying compliance with the germ-warfare ban, was reviewed by several U.S. government agencies, all of which reached the same conclusion. …