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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 11, December 1996

Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference edges towards overhaul

The Fourth Review Conference of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was held in Geneva from 25 November to 6 December. The Conference was attended by all 138 States Parties. At the top of its agenda was the issue of the scope and speed of progress toward agreeing a verification regime. Although many States, including the US, had hoped that the Conference would endorse a target date of 1998 for setting in place such a regime, the Final Declaration called for arrangements to be in place no later than 2001. See Documents and Sources for a summary of the Conference and the Final Declaration. See also last issue for extracts of statements by the UK and US.

Opening the Conference on 25 November. UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali argued:

"There is a clear need for a coherent regime to enhance compliance with the Convention, given the evidence that came to light a year ago that a party to the Convention [Iraq] had been able to acquire a full-scale biological weapons programme...

It is clear that the need for access to high technology will become more and more acute as countries seek to develop... Thus, in elaborating any verification regime, strenuous efforts will have to be made to achieve the delicate balance between this need and the need to prevent the proliferation of sensitive technology for weapons purposes."

Reports: UN chief calls for stronger control in biological arms treaty, Agence France-Presse International News, 25 November; Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference opens, United States Information Agency, 25 November; Disarmament - verification system for bio-weapons, but only by 2001, Inter Press Service International News, 9 December.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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