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
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
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
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
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. …