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United States and the Biological Weapons Convention.

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Laurie Brereton - United States And The Biological Weapons Convention Wednesday, 23 May 2001

United States And The Biological Weapons Convention Laurie Brereton - Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

Media Statement - 22 May 2001

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today called on the Howard Government to make direct representations to US Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld urging them not to back away from concluding the verification protocol for the Biological Weapons Convention.

"Reports that the Bush Administration is preparing to pull back from international efforts to conclude a verification protocol for the BWC are a matter of serious concern", Mr Brereton said. "What is required is a renewed US push for a successful conclusion of negotiations, not another withdrawal of support for multilateral disarmament efforts."

"Concluded in 1972, the BWC was the first multilateral treaty to outlaw completely an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. Now ratified by 143 countries, the BWC prohibits the development, production and possession of biological weapons."

"The threat of biological warfare is as great as that posed by nuclear weapons. Advances in biotechnology are making these weapons easier to develop, produce and conceal. This exposes a fundamental weakness of the BWC - the lack of a verification mechanism."

"Six years of negotiations at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva have now produced a draft verification protocol. It is hoped that these negotiations can be completed by the Fifth BWC Review Conference, scheduled for 19 November to 7 December this year."

"This is the only new arms control instrument currently under negotiation."

"The successful negotiation of an effective BWC verification regime has been a bipartisan Australian foreign policy goal for a decade. Australia played a key role in initiating its negotiation and we have since been active as Vice Chair of the negotiations and Coordinator of the Western Group."

"Should the US back away from the conclusion of a robust verification protocol this year, a severe blow

will be dealt to Australia's disarmament and non-proliferation objectives. It would be detrimental to Australia's national security interests."

"It would also reinforce concerns about US unilateralism following on from the US Senate's refusal to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Bush Administration's preparedness to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty."

"Refusal by the US to support the successful conclusion of the BWC verification protocol will damage the cause of disarmament and non-proliferation. The Howard Government must be forthright in telling Washington of Australia's strong concern." Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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