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13. Chemical and biological warfare developments and arms control



I. Introduction

II. Biological weapon disarmament

III. Chemical weapon disarmament

IV. Iraq

V. Intelligence issues

VI. Other past and present activities and allegations

VII. Conclusions


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In 2004 the states parties to the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) held the second of their annual expert and political meetings, which considered ways to enhance international capabilities for responding to, investigating and mitigating the effects of cases of alleged use of biological or toxin weapons or suspicious outbreaks of disease. It also considered how to strengthen and broaden international institutional efforts and existing mechanisms for the surveillance, detection, diagnosis and combating of infectious diseases affecting humans, animals and plants.


The states parties to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) approved a request by Libya to convert two former chemical weapon production facilities (CWPFs) for peaceful purposes, after Libya’s chemical weapon (CW) programme had been dismantled under international supervision. The parties also decided to adopt a new system of budgeting for the operations of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)—the third recent major managerial change at the OPCW following the removal of the original Director-General in 2002 and the introduction of limitations to staff tenure in 2003.


Destruction of CW continued. Six states declared possession of CW at the time the convention took legal force for them. Of 71 373 agent tonnes of declared CW, 10 698 tonnes had been verifiably destroyed as of 31 January 2005. The largest remaining CW stock to be destroyed is in Russia and further international assistance for this destruction was agreed in 2004.


In 2004 the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) completed its inspection and investigation activities into alleged nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapon programmes and weapon-related activities in Iraq. In October the ISG released a substantial unclassified report on the search for such weapons and its findings.


Controversy continued over what had, or had not, been known about Iraqi activities and capabilities in the years before the military action that began in March 2003. A number of official inquiries into the handling of intelligence, including how it had been interpreted or presented, published reports during the year. The inquiries found a common theme that pre-war assessments were inaccurate and unsupported by the available evidence. Government officials were accused of pressuring the intelligence community to produce intelligence to build a case for war, and the intelligence community was accused of generating inaccurate information.


In 2004 programmes were implemented in Iraq and Libya in order to redirect the work of scientists and technicians who were part of the countries’ former NBC weapon and longer-range missile programmes.


On 2 December the UN High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change published its report. In his introduction to the report, the UN Secretary-General welcomed the panel’s ‘innovative focus on issues of biological security’ and noted the panel’s ‘attention to the deterioration of our global health system, its vulnerability to new infectious disease; and the promise and peril of advances in biotechnology’.


In response to continued widespread concern about the lack of monitoring and enforcement machinery under the BTWC, a number of states raised the possibility of making use of the authority of the UN Secretary-General to investigate alleged use of biological weapons. Addressing this subject within the BTWC meetings was resisted by other states parties. For example, the USA indicated that it felt that because these powers derived from UN resolutions citing the 1925 Geneva Protocol, it was not for the states parties of the BTWC to review these powers. A number of states parties (including Iran) expressed concern that the Secretary-General’s mechanism was a distraction from a proper verification system for the BTWC.

Dr John Hart