Tracking Number:  304635

Title:  "US Seeks to Strengthen Biological Weapons Convention." Speaking in an interview in Geneva, US ambassador and ACDA official Edward Lacey said that the US believes more can be done to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention and considers it an important goal to develop international measures to bolster the treaty's effectiveness. (930923)

Translated Title:  EU procura fortalecer convencion armas biologicas. (930923)
Date:  19930923


(Lacey stresses universal adherence to BWC) (600) By Wendy Lubetkin USIA European Correspondent Geneva -- The United States believes that more can be done to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and views the development of international measures to bolster the treaty's effectiveness as an important goal, says Ambassador Edward Lacey.

Lacey, a top-level expert on verification at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), said enhancing compliance with the BWC could soon be the focus of a special international conference, and he added that the issue is currently under review in Washington within the context of overall U.S. non-proliferation policy.

"The U.S. view is that the single most useful thing we can do to enhance the effectiveness of the BWC is to work toward universal adherence," Lacey said in an interview September 23 in Geneva. At present 134 countries are party to the 1972 convention which prohibits the development, production and stockpiling of biological (bacteriological) and toxin (organic poisons) weapons.

Lacey is participating in a September 13-24 meeting of international experts who are examining possible verification measures for the convention.

Lacey stressed the high priority the administration gives to deterring proliferation. He noted that the international treaties covering two classes of weapons of mass destruction -- the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention -- include policing mechanisms or verification measures, but the BWC has no such verification regime.

The verification of biological weapons is problematic because of the small size and dual-use nature of the agents, Lacey explained. "Much of the equipment and many of the agents that are of potential use for biological warfare also have legitimate uses that could help mankind," he said, pointing out that a strain of bacteria with potential use in warfare could also be used to make a vaccine.

Lacey said the ad hoc group of governmental experts on verification of the BWC (known as VEREX) had identified 21 potential verification measures, each of which "could provide information of some utility in monitoring the BWC."

But he said that it was not yet clear whether the information would be comprehensive enough to truly ensure compliance with the treaty -- rather than simply creating a sense of false security. He said a "cost-benefit" analysis was now needed to determine "how effective the measures would be versus the cost of the effort."

"We need to look at costs, not just in terms of finances, equipment and personnel, but also in terms of how intrusive these measures would be, and the impact they might have on legitimate commercial activity, academic research, and military defense work," he said.

A final report on the potential verification measures identified by VEREX is nearly complete and will soon be circulated to the states that are parties to the convention. Those states will then decide whether to convene a special conference strengthening the convention.

If a majority of member states agree in principle to the conference, a preparatory meeting could take place as early as next spring or summer, followed by a convening of the conference in late 1994 or early 1995.

Lacey noted that the convention had already been strengthened through confidence-building measures under which parties to the convention inform the United Nations about unusual outbreaks of disease, specialized biological containment facilities, and present biodefense programs. He said it was a "very positive step" that participation in the confidence-building measures -- which are politically binding -- had risen by 50 percent over the number participating last year.