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U.S. Says Opportunity Missed on Enhancing Biowarfare Pact Activities

U.S. Special Representative Laura Kennedy on Monday said a chance had been missed to “do something new” to help strengthen an international accord prohibiting the creation, manufacturing, possession and use of biological warfare materials, according to a United Nations release (U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Geneva photo). U.S. Special Representative Laura Kennedy on Monday said a chance had been missed to “do something new” to help strengthen an international accord prohibiting the creation, manufacturing, possession and use of biological warfare materials, according to a United Nations release (U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Geneva photo).

The United States on Monday said an opportunity had been missed "to do something new" during a recent review conference on the Biological Weapons Convention, "reflecting ... concern about the lack of a verification mechanism," according to a press release from the U.N. First Committee.

The BWC accord prohibits the production, stockpiling and use of biological warfare materials such as anthrax and Ebola. However, the treaty lacks any verification measure so ensuring state signatories are in full compliance with the pact has never been possible.

Laura Kennedy, the Obama administration's special representative for BWC issues, reportedly said it was too early at the most recent treaty review conference in December 2011 for reaching agreement on new measures, which might include trust-building approaches. Some nations did not support the idea of taking new steps, while others advocated for new approaches but did not agree on specifics, she was reported to have said.

"The United States has repeatedly said that a formal verification mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention just won’t work, and that view has not changed," Jamie Mannina, a State Department spokesman, told Global Security Newswire.

Kennedy noted that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in addressing the BWC gathering last year, had said that nations "may not always agree on how to do it, but we all agree that it is important to have confidence that our treaty partners are living up to their obligations," according to the U.S. envoy's prepared statement.

Kennedy's remarks to the First Committee, which focuses on disarmament matters, received backing from Switzerland and others. Representatives of Peru and the Non-Aligned Movement were among those specifically calling for the creation of a BWC verification protocol to help ensure compliance.

The Swiss representative also warned the BWC regime would grow ineffective if it did not stay current with the latest scientific breakthroughs.

Correction: This article was updated to add context to Ambassador Laura Kennedy's remarks.

NTI Analysis

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