- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The United States yesterday won a two-month battle to oust the Brazilian head of a global body on chemical weapons who was at odds with Washington over Iraq inspections.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) decided at a meeting in The Hague to remove its director-general, Jose Bustani, after 48 of the 145 members voted for the U.S. proposal. Six countries abstained and 43 were against. The rest of the countries did not attend the session.

An OPCW spokesman, Peter Kaiser, said Mr. Bustani was "dismissed with immediate effect."

The United States waged an unusually vocal public campaign after Mr. Bustani refused to resign, saying that caving in to U.S. pressure would compromise the organization's independence. Washington has accused Mr. Bustani of "disastrous" management.

The State Department said it was "pleased" with the decision and called it "an essential first step in restoring stability and sound management to this very important organization."

"We hope that a new, highly qualified director-general will be approved by the member-states very soon," a State Department official said. "Our expectation is that this post will be filled by someone from a developing country. We would particularly welcome a person from Latin America."

The Bush administration also was annoyed by Mr. Bustani's plans to pursue OPCW membership for Iraq, instead of going ahead with inspections called for by the U.N. Security Council.

OPCW members are required to disclose their chemical-weapons programs and are subject to inspections, but they are less severe than those the United Nations would conduct in Iraq.

Inspections in Baghdad under the U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM, began after the 1991 Gulf war but ended in 1998, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled the inspectors.

The United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Italy are the biggest contributors to the OPCW's $55 million annual budget. France was the only one of them not to back the U.S. proposal before the vote.

Mr. Bustani, who was handed the top post in 1997 and was re-elected unanimously in May, last month survived a no-confidence vote initiated by the United States.

"The choices that you make during this session will determine whether genuine multilateralism will survive or whether it will be replaced by unilateralism," he told delegates of the current session in The Hague, which opened Sunday.

The OPCW was established five years ago to guarantee implementation of the 1994 Chemical Weapons Convention. Last summer, the Bush administration rejected a widely supported protocol to strengthen the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, and the resolution of that matter was yet to be decided.

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