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Budget Cuts Threaten Support Program for Former Soviet Weapons Experts

Reduced international contributions have endangered the work of a Moscow-based organization dedicated to providing civilian opportunities for weapons specialists once employed by the Soviet Union, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday (see GSN, March 17).

"Our center clearly has less funds available than two or three years ago," said Adriaan van der Meer, head of the International Science and Technology Center.

The program has assisted more than 70,000 former Soviet scientists with employment opportunities and supplemental income, in an effort to keep them from selling their expertise to a rogue nation or terrorist organization. It remains involved in efforts to prevent proliferation of potential biological-weapon agents in Russia, Asia and Europe, according to Van der Meer.

"In the bio sector we are catching up by providing possibilities for high-level, safe storage of collections," Van der Meer said. "The preventive approach needs to be stronger, and we are working on that."

The organization spent only $26.2 million last year, barely one-third the amount it spent in 2003.

Van der Meer blamed the funding shortage on the worldwide economic downturn and on a shift of nonproliferation efforts to nations such as Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. The organization receives contributions from the European Union and nations including Canada, Japan, South Korea and the United States (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, June 18).

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