- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

The United States today will reject a global protocol to toughen a 1972 treaty banning biological weapons — the second time this week it has stood alone in refusing to sign a widely backed international agreement.
In a move that many foreign countries and arms control advocates view as yet another sign of unilateralism, the Bush administration will tell a meeting in Geneva that the proposed draft uses a flawed approach and doesn't serve U.S. interests, administration officials said yesterday.
The protocol involves ways to enforce, through on-site inspections, the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which the United States has already ratified.
Washington's main objection is that the proposed inspection regime would fall short in verifying whether the treaty is being observed by all 143 signatories.
Those inspections, U.S. officials also said, would threaten U.S. military and trade secrets while allowing "rogue states," such as Iran and Iraq, to "cheat."
"We have conducted an in-depth review of the text of the protocol, and we arrived at the conclusion that it doesn't address the threat [of biological weapons], doesn't provide for effective verification, but does put the bio-defense activities, as well as proprietary confidential business information of our industry, at risk," said a senior administration official.
But the official insisted the Bush administration remains "fully committed" to the BWC and to "the goal of strengthening it."
"An ineffective protocol is worse than no protocol," said the official, who asked not to be identified.
On Monday, the administration refused to join an accord to cut emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
The agreement, signed by 178 states in Bonn, ensures the survival of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which President Bush denounced earlier this year as "fatally flawed."
Administration officials, however, warned against comparing the two treaties, since reasons for rejecting the Kyoto accord were primarily economic.
The text of the biological weapons protocol, which European nations and other major powers support, is a result of six years of negotiations within a so-called ad hoc group that is holding a new round of talk this week.
The U.S. representative, Donald H. Mahley, will announce Washington's position today.
Among the nations that have endorsed the document are Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan.
"The problems [of the protocol] are not new and didn't start with this administration," a senior State Department official said.
The official noted that the people who conducted the review and "unanimously" recommended rejection of the draft were the same who worked on it during the Clinton administration.
A former White House official said President Clinton would have accepted the accord in its current form.
"We recognized that verification in this field is very, very difficult," said Elisa Harris, who was a specialist on biological weapons on Mr. Clinton's National Security Council and is now a research fellow at the University of Maryland.
"But the purpose of this protocol is to put in place a system of declarations and on-site activities that would make it harder for cheaters to cheat. Evaluated against those objectives, I think this protocol clearly passes the test," she said.
Michael Moddie, president of the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute in Washington, said the administration was correct in rejecting the protocol because it would not "enhance confidence and compliance" at an acceptable political, financial and security cost.
But John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World, said:
"It's not a perfect agreement and won't stop a country that wants to cheat, but it will help the effort to find out what other countries are doing."

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