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US biological weapons stand a serious setback


26 July 2001

Media Statement

US biological weapons stand a serious setback

Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Matt Robson today described the United States' decision to walk away from talks to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention as troubling and a serious setback to the control and eradication of biological weapons.

"The ban on biological weapons needs strengthening. We need systems in place that give the international community more confidence that countries are not hiding biological weapons programmes, says Matt Robson.

"But to strengthen the ban globally requires collective action, and this latest move by the US to walk away from collective action over a significant disarmament issue is troubling.

"After over six years of talks, negotiation had focused on a single text presented by the chairman, Tibor Toth of Hungary, which provided a strong basis for a Protocol to establish a workable verification regime.

"We are dismayed at the US decision to step away from the negotiation, citing national security and commercial confidentiality as reasons for rejecting the verification regime.

"The US decision is undoubtedly a major set-back to the control and eradication of biological weapons.

"New Zealand will be talking with like-minded nations to see if a way forward can be found and to urge the US to remain engaged in the process."

ENDS


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