The Paris Chemical Weapons Conference
Recall from Chapter 3 that during the fall of 1988, the United States called for an international conference to address questions related to chemical weapons, especially in the Middle East. The Soviet Union and France supported the U.S. call, but most Middle Eastern nations were unenthusiastic, arguing that the problem was international and not limited solely to a single region. After French President Mitterrand agreed to host the conference, planning proceeded for a meeting in Paris in early January 1989.
In examining the Paris Chemical Weapons Conference, this chapter first briefly explores the international situation just prior to the conference and looks at some preliminary positions. The conference itself is then discussed. And the chapter concludes with an analysis of the aftermath of the conference.
As the key proponent for a conference on chemical weaponry, the United States had assumed a major role in attempting to halt the proliferation of chemical arms. From 1987 to 1989, it had not been successful either in halting the spread or in gaining international support for its positions. However, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, and even West Germany supported the United States in this general aim.
On the eve of the conference, Washington continued to charge Libya of constructing a chemical weapons plant at Rabta.1 Of course, the Libyans persisted in denying this charge, arguing, as on previous occasions, that the plant was producing only medicinal products. Although the United States had succeeded in alerting the international community to Libya's alleged attempt to acquire a chemical arsenal, it had apparently not succeeded in altering Libya's development plans.