Bush urges improvements in treaty banning germ weapons

Thursday, November 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush urged nations Thursday to prohibit the purchase, production or acquisition of biological weapons for terrorists attacks and said the United Nations should oversee investigations of suspicious activities.

The proposals, outlined in a two-page White House statement, were billed as improvements to the 1972 treaty banning germ weapons. The statement came as the Bush administration grapples with a spreading wave of anthrax cases in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

``We just thought that the particular protocol that was being discussed was not addressing the problems that biological weapons pose,'' said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. ``We thought it was important now to put some proposals on the table.''

To the dismay of allies, the administration had already abandoned the push to create a new international organization under the Biological Weapons Convention for inspections of plants that could house germ weapons. The White House has said there was no way to verify the inspections, and countries could easily cheat.

Rice said the Bush administration developed the proposals during the summer, although there have been discussions with allies about the effectiveness of inspection regimes ``for some time.''

``There has been a positive reception to a lot of these ideas,'' Rice said.

Hoping to ease the frustration of U.S. allies, Bush issued a statement declaring his intent to crack down on bioterrorism around the world.

``We know that the scourge of biological weapons has not been eradicated. Instead, the threat is growing,'' Bush said. ``All civilized nations reject as intolerable the use of disease and biological weapons as instruments of war and terror.''

He urged all treaty-signing nations to:

_Enact strict national criminal legislation against biological weapons activities with strong extradition requirements.

_Establish a United Nations procedure for investigating suspicious outbreaks or allegations of biological weapons use.

_Commit to improving international disease control and to enhance mechanisms for sending expert response teams to cope with outbreaks.

_Devise a code of ethical conduct for scientists.

_Promose responsible conduct in the study, use, modification and shipment of pathogenic organisms.

``I have directed my administration to consult with our friends and allies, as well as with Congress, industry, and non-governmental experts, on these proposals,'' Bush said. ``We look forward to hearing the new ideas on how best to achieve our common aim of eliminating biological weapons.''

``Our objective is to fashion an effective international approach to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention,'' he said. ``If we can strengthen the Convention against the threat of biological weapons, we will contribute to the security of the people of the United States and mankind as a whole.''