USIS Washington 

20 February 1998


(Clinton advocates stronger barriers to BW proliferation) (600)

(The following fact sheet on the Biological Weapons Convention was
issued by the White House on January 27, 1998.)


The President announced January 27 that the United States would lead
the effort to erect stronger international barriers against the
proliferation and use of biological weapons (BW).

We must act to prevent...the use of disease as a weapon of war and
terror, the President said. The Biological Weapons Convention has been
in force for almost 25 years, but frankly, it lacks the teeth of tough
enforcement measures. This year, we must strengthen that treaty with
an international inspection system to help detect and deter cheating.

Under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), some 140 countries
have committed not to develop, produce or possess biological or toxin
weapons. However, the BWC lacks provisions for enforcing these
commitments through mandatory declarations and inspections and thus
for deterring violations.

Negotiations have been underway in Geneva since 1995 on a compliance
and transparency protocol for the BWC. Under the new initiative
announced by the President, the United States will seek to complete
the framework of a strong BWC protocol by the end of 1998. The United
States will work closely with U.S. industry to develop and reach
international agreement on the following tools:

-- Declarations: BWC Parties would be required to submit annual
declarations to the BWC implementing organization about facilities
and/or activities that are especially suited for possible BW purposes,
such as facilities that contain certain types of aerosol test chambers
or that send or receive international transfers of dangerous
pathogens, such as anthrax.

-- Voluntary Visits: BWC Parties would be encouraged to allow a visit
to any of their facilities declared under the protocol to address
questions regarding the BWC or the protocol. These voluntary visits
would be at the discretion of the facility concerned, and all
decisions regarding access during this type of visit would be the made
by appropriate authorities of the particular facility.

-- Non-challenge Clarifying Visits (NCV)s: BWC Parties would be
required to accept a reasonable number of on-site visits by the BWC
implementing organization to clarify an ambiguity, uncertainty,
anomaly, omission or other issue related to their annual declaration.
Such NCVs would be different from routine or random visits, which the
United States opposes, and from challenge investigations, which are
discussed below.

-- Challenge Investigations: BWC Parties would be required to accept
an investigation by the BWC implementing organization of any location
under their jurisdiction and control if there is evidence of
noncompliance with the basic prohibitions of the BWC. Such
investigations should be subject to a green light filter, under which
a simple majority of the governing body of the BWC implementing
organization must vote to approve an investigation before it can

In negotiating these measures, the United States will ensure that the
protocol includes strong provisions for protecting constitutional
rights, Confidential Business Information (CBI) and National Security
Information (NSI) during any on-site activity. These protections
should include the use of managed access procedures, appropriate
timelines and other protective mechanisms. In the event that access is
limited to protect constitutional rights or CBI or NSI, the BWC Party
should be obligated to make every reasonable effort to provide
alternative means to clarify the ambiguity or compliance concern that
generated the on-site activity. The protocol should also require the
BWC implementing organization to protect any sensitive information it
receives from BWC Parties.