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U.S. Official Accuses Five Nations Of Developing Biological Weapons

By Greg Miller

A top United States diplomat on Monday accused Iraq, North Korea and three other countries of pursuing germ weapons programs, an unusually pointed diplomatic charge designed to put pressure on nations suspected of flouting an international ban on biological arms.

John R. Bolton, the U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, said that evidence of Iraq’s biological weapons program is “beyond dispute,” and North Korea, Libya, Syria and Iran are believed to be developing bioweapons capabilities of their own.

The United States has long suspected these countries of pursuing germ weapons capabilities. But Bolton’s remarks reflect an aggressive new diplomatic posture shaped by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent outbreak of anthrax.

“I plan to name names,” Bolton said in a speech delivered on the opening day of a three-week conference in Geneva on biological weapons. “Prior to Sept. 11, some would have avoided this approach. The world has changed, however, and so must our business-as-usual approach.”

The speech was seen as an effort to heighten international pressure on rogue nations at a time when U.S. officials believe they can credibly claim the moral high ground.

But critics said the United States undermined its position at the conference by neglecting to mention other suspected bioweapons producers, including Russia, and by refusing to take part in a proposed international germ weapons inspection program.

The Geneva conference is aimed at strengthening the 30-year-old Biological Weapons Convention, a treaty that bans germ weapons production in more than 140 countries that have ratified the accord, including the United States. Iraq, North Korea and Iran have signed the agreement, but Syria and Libya have not. All five countries deny the charges.