- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 20, 2001

GENEVA The United States yesterday said Saddam Hussein's drive to develop offensive biological weapons was "beyond dispute," laying out a case that could make Iraq the next front in President Bush's global war on terrorism.
"The United States strongly suspects that Iraq has taken advantage of three years of no U.N. inspections to improve all phases of its offensive biological weapons program," said Mr. Bolton, who was in Geneva for an international conference to review a proposed treaty on biological weapons. "The existence of Iraq's program is beyond dispute."
In addition to Iraq, Mr. Bolton said Washington strongly suspects that North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and Sudan also are seeking to develop germ-warfare programs.
But he refused to say whether any of the named states have assisted Afghanistan-based Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden in his reported quest for biological weapons.
Mr. Bolton's comments were the latest in an escalating series of remarks recently by senior Bush administration officials singling out Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The administration has been internally divided over whether to expand the war on terrorism to Iraq.
Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, on Sunday left open the possibility that Iraq could become a target in Mr. Bush's war on terrorism.
"We do not need the events of September 11 to tell us that [Saddam Hussein] is a very dangerous man who is a threat to his own people, a threat to the region and a threat to us because he is determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction," she said.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, briefing reporters at the Pentagon yesterday, lumped Iraq with bin Laden's al Qaeda network and the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization as critical to the international network of "terrorist-sponsoring states."
"There is no question but that there has been a good deal of interaction" among these groups, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan told the official INA news agency yesterday that Iraq "was capable of standing up to the challenges posed by the United States in a bid to undermine [Iraqs] security and weaken its resolve."
The Iraqi newspaper Babel, which is run by Saddam's elder son Uday, said that the failure so far of the U.S.-led campaign to capture bin Laden increased the chances Washington would go after Iraq.
Iraq "will be the focus of attention of the U.S. administration, as will be Syria, Somalia and Sudan," the paper theorized.
In Geneva, Mr. Bolton told the 144 nations that have signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention that the United States finds North Korea's biological weapons program "extremely disturbing."
He said the United States believes that North Korea has a dedicated, national-level effort to achieve a biological weapons capability and that it has "developed and produced and may have weaponized" biological agents.
He also said the United States was "quite concerned" about Iran, Libya, Syria and Sudan, all of which appeared to have biological weapons programs.
Mr. Bolton said the United States knows "that Osama bin Laden considers obtaining weapons of mass destruction to be a sacred duty and wants to use them against the United States."
"We are concerned that he could have been trying to acquire a rudimentary biological weapons capability, possibly with support from a state," he added.
But he said the United States was "not prepared to comment whether rogue states may have assisted" bin Laden in the plan.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian ambassador to the conference, said the accusation that his country was developing biological weapons is "unjustified and baseless."
The United States, which has rejected a legally binding inspection plan under the treaty, said it would rather set up a mechanism under which the U.N. secretary-general would order inspections when violations are suspected.
Other countries, including Japan, said the binding commitment is necessary if the treaty is to be effective.
American officials in July rejected more than six years of negotiations on enforcement measures of the 1972 treaty, arguing they were ineffective.
Mr. Bolton was speaking at the start of a three-week meeting in Geneva planned as a review of the agreement. He was presenting to other countries the new U.S. approach since the United States has come under an anthrax attack.
The emergence of anthrax-tainted letters in the United States in the weeks after the September 11 terrorist attack has thrust the issue of biological warfare into the spotlight.
Mr. Bush has demanded that all 144 countries that have signed the treaty enact "strict national criminal legislation" against violations of the treaty and apply strict extradition requirements.

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