- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

THE HAGUE The head of the global body that monitors chemical weapons stocks rejected a U.S. demand for his resignation yesterday and accused Washington of threatening his organization's independence.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday that the 145-nation Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "is beset by a number of problems that have resulted in a loss of confidence in the current director."
He accused Director Jose Bustani of "ill-considered initiatives" at the organization, which is based in the Netherlands.
Mr. Bustani, a Brazilian, said the U.S. government had never approached him directly with complaints, but had circulated them to other nations in a campaign to oust him.
"The very principle which is at the foundation of the work of every international organization, its independence and that of its chief executive officer, is being jeopardized," he said.
The U.S. criticism of Mr. Bustani came less than a year after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell praised him for his leadership in a personal letter.
A senior official at the organization's headquarters in The Hague described the criticism as "lean on specifics" and said Mr. Bustani had no intention of stepping down.
"The director-general is very surprised by the charges leveled at him by the United States, which came pretty much without warning," Gordon Vachon, Mr. Bustani's special assistant, told the Associated Press.
"The director-general has done no wrong, as he sees it. He's got nothing to hide. He cannot simply step down when no reasons have been put forward that would warrant such a serious step," Mr. Vachon said.
In Brasilia, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry disputed Mr. Boucher's charge, saying the government "considers that [Mr. Bustani] has conducted himself with a sense of responsibility and correctness."
Brazil's permanent representative to the organization, Affonso Emilio de Alencastro Massot, also spoke in defense of Mr. Bustani, saying Tuesday that Brasilia "does not share the view that Mr. Bustani's tenure was flawed by a poor managerial performance."
Neither Mr. Bustani nor Mr. Boucher referred to the underlying cause of the dispute, but it could center on the organization's inability to monitor chemical weapons in Iraq, which is not a member of the organization.
The countries in the organization are subject to regular inspections of chemical weapons stockpiles. The organization's mandate also allows it to inspect factories of companies producing chemicals that could be used for weaponry.
Mr. Vachon said as far as Iraq was concerned, Mr. Bustani can only try to persuade Baghdad to join the organization.
In a message dated Feb. 28, Mr. Powell pressed for "a change in management style," Mr. Vachon said. The message indicated the United States would seek Mr. Bustani's replacement at an executive meeting this week.
Mr. Bustani could be forced aside if the United States can persuade two-thirds of both the 41-member executive committee and the full membership to back a no-confidence vote.
The issue was dominating the four-day executive council meeting, which started Tuesday.
The organization was created to verify a 1997 treaty that bans chemical weapons. The United States pays about 22 percent of the organization's annual budget of $60 million, but is 50 percent behind on its 2002 payments.

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