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U.S. Suspects Several Nations of Seeking Bioweapons

Global Security Newswire

Iran, North Korea and Syria have all taken steps toward developing biological weapons banned under an international treaty, a senior U.S. official said yesterday (see GSN. Nov. 20).

Assistant Secretary of State John Rood told delegates at the sixth review conference of the Biological Weapons Convention that the three countries — of concern due to their “support for terrorism” — all skirted the controls of the ban on bioweapons, Reuters reported.

“We believe that Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons program in violation of the BWC,” Rood said. “We also believe North Korea has a biological weapons capability and may have developed, produced and weaponized for use.

“Finally, we remain seriously concerned that Syria … has conducted research and development for an offensive BW program,” Rood said.

Iran and North Korea are full treaty states. Syria has signed but not ratified the pact. All three nations have previously denied seeking biological weapons.

“I categorically reject what the U.S. delegation has said about my country,” said Iranian envoy Alireza Moaiyeri. “Their baseless allegations are contrary to the spirit of the review conference.”

Syrian and North Korean diplomats had no immediate response to Rood’s comments, according to Reuters.

Representatives from treaty nations meet every five years to review the convention. At the last meeting in 2001 the United States successfully led opposition to a verification protocol for the convention. Measures such as spot checks on biological laboratories could encourage industrial espionage, Washington contended.

The 155 treaty states instead agreed to work on other areas, such as improved cooperation in international disease surveillance and codes of conduct for scientists.

Moving forward from 2006, Rood said the United States wants to see enforcement of national laws addressed to prevent biological weapons from falling into the possession of terrorist groups (Richard Waddington/Reuters, Nov. 20).

Rood said it would be irresponsible to take steps to strengthen the convention, “yet turn a blind eye to the problems with the foundation itself,” he said according to a U.S. government release. The U.S. government is anxious to bring all countries into the 155-member treaty, he said.

Noncompliance with the ban is best dealt with directly, he said, adding that the international community must “root out violators that undermine the integrity of the convention” (Jacqui Porth/Washington File, Nov. 20).