Reuters: Iran probably has germ warfare weapons, North Korea may have developed them and Syria could have carried out research into such banned weaponry, the United States told an arms control conference on Monday. By Richard Waddington
GENEVA, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Iran probably has germ warfare weapons, North Korea may have developed them and Syria could have carried out research into such banned weaponry, the United States told an arms control conference on Monday.
Addressing the opening session of the sixth review conference of the Convention on Biological Weapons (BWC), U.S. delegation head John C. Rood said those countries were of particular concern given their “support for terrorism”.
“We believe that Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons programme in violation of the BWC,” Rood said. “We also believe North Korea has a biological weapons capability and may have developed, produced and weaponised for use.
“Finally, we remain seriously concerned that Syria … has conducted research and development for an offensive BW programme,” he said.
Both Iran, which Washington also accuses of seeking nuclear weapons, and North Korea, which has them, are members of the 31-year-old BWC. Syria has signed, but not ratified the pact.
Iran firmly rejected the U.S. accusation, but there was no immediate response from either Syria or North Korea.
“I categorically reject what the U.S. delegation has said about my country,” Iranian ambassador Alireza Moaiyeri told the conference. “Their baseless allegations are contrary to the spirit of the review conference.”
The conference, held every five years, will review the working of the 155-state treaty which prohibits the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons, and will seek to agree a programme of future work.
Rood declined to detail his accusations against the three states. He referred journalists to a 2005 report by the United States on various countries’ compliance with the BWC.
The United States has also accused other countries, including Russia and China, of not fully abiding by the treaty.
Opening the three-week conference, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged stronger efforts to protect the world against biological weapons, which he said posed a growing threat due to advances in science and technology.
Awareness of the dangers was heightened by the global concern with terrorism and new highly infectious natural diseases such as bird flu which had underlined the ability of viruses to kill, he said.
But years of negotiation on a new protocol to strengthen the treaty ended in failure in 2001 because the United States opposed measures such as spot checks on laboratories.
Washington had long been sceptical about the chances of putting in place an effective system of verification of compliance with the treaty and said spot checks could just encourage industrial espionage.
However, states agreed to work on improving cooperation in areas such as disease surveillance, the strengthening of national legislation against germ weapons and tightening codes of conduct for scientists.
In the coming five-year period, Washington wants enforcement of national laws to be addressed to ensure that non-state actors seeking such weapons are caught and punished.