11 September 2001>News Stories>Bio-weapons talks suspended

Bio-weapons talks suspended
BBC News . 07 December

The US says work on the ban will continue

An international conference on biological weapons has broken down after the United States suggested the meeting should be terminated.

The news came on the final day of three weeks of high level talks to discuss the effectiveness of the 1972 ban on producing and storing chemical and biological weapons.

The conference, which is based in Geneva, has now been suspended until November 2002.

Unlike other international arms pacts, the Biological Weapons Convention has no enforcement mechanism for checking whether its signatories are abiding by the rules.

For the past seven years the 144-nation group has been working on a document to try to strengthen the treaty - a document the US refused to sign in the summer, claiming it put national security at risk.

Europeans annoyed
Delegates say they are shocked by the latest US move to try to close down the working party.

Ambassador Jean Lint who heads the European Union Delegation said tensions in the meeting were running high.

"We had a kind of agreement with the United States... to be informed of their proposals and that one took us totally by surprise and that was totally different from what the EU wants. So for us this was totally unacceptable," he said.

But the United States Under-secretary for Arms Control, John Bolton, claimed the US had foreshadowed their move for several weeks and accused other delegates of simply not listening.

In a bid to save the working party on the biological weapons convention, meetings have now been suspended until 11 November next year.