- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Three months after rejecting a protocol to strengthen a 1972 convention banning germ warfare, the Bush administration is seeking to rally international support for a new proposal that would commit the treaty's 143 signatories to criminalizing bioweapons activities on their territories.
The administration's effort to ban biowarfare on a national in addition to international level marks a clear departure from traditional biological arms control, which aims to prevent nation-states from production, use and export of bioweapons, but doesn't cover terrorists or other individuals and groups.
With a new sense of urgency in light of the escalating anthrax attacks, the United States is discussing the new proposal with European governments this week and will try to make it part of a declaration to be adopted by a November conference of all countries that have signed the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), including Iran and Iraq, an administration official said.
"Our first goal is to get broad support for our ideas and we hope that a series of measures can be introduced at the review conference that starts on Nov. 19," the official said yesterday. "We hope to see them reflected in the final declaration, which is a political, not legal, document, and what happens after that will be a matter of a diplomatic follow-up."
In late July, the administration rejected a widely supported protocol that involved ways to enforce the BWC through on-site inspections. It said the proposed regime would threaten U.S. military and trade secrets while allowing "rogue states," such as Iran and Iraq, to "cheat."
Having concluded that compliance verification is "not possible," Washington started "looking at things that can be implemented on a national basis and don't require lengthy treaty negotiations," the official said.
The United States, which has had criminal legislation dealing with germ warfare since 1989, will try to "ensure that countries have in place criminal penalties for bioweapons-related activities," he said. "We have to worry not only about nation-states, but also about sub-state actors, terrorists and state support for terrorism."
Two U.S. officials Avis Bohlen, assistant secretary of state for arms control, and Donald Mahley, the chief U.S. negotiator on biowarfare are traveling to several European countries this week and will visit Canada next week to "consult the allies" about "alternative measures" to enforce the BWC, a State Department official said.
Although the new proposal comes in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and an ongoing anthrax threat in the United States, officials said the Bush administarion always intended to come up with new suggestions after dismissing the BWC protocol draft during the summer.
"It was right for the administration to identify the problems of the protocol and, in light of the danger and the urgency, it's right to try to fix it," said Lee Feinstein, former deputy director of policy planning at the State Department, who is now a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
"You can't beat something with nothing," he said. "Once you put something on the table, you engage in the process."

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