"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement
July 1, 2020
United Kingdom

Blair: Retain UK Nuclear Weapons

Wade Boese

British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently unveiled a plan to extend until about midcentury his country’s possession of a slimmed-down nuclear weapons arsenal. British lawmakers will vote as early as March on the initiative.

The United Kingdom deploys about 200 nuclear warheads aboard four Vanguard-class submarines. Launched separately between 1992 and 1998, these submarines will start reaching the end of their service lifetimes in the early 2020s.

Blair ruled out letting the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons capability expire along with the current submarine fleet. Describing British nuclear weapons as the “ultimate insurance,” he said Dec. 4, 2006, that it would be “unwise and dangerous” to give them up under current conditions and uncertainty about the future.

Still, Blair proposed that the active force could be trimmed down to less than 160 warheads and maybe three submarines. The prime minister’s plan also envisions a 20 percent cut in the backup warhead stockpile, the size of which is secret.

Blair’s government estimates that designing and building the first replacement submarine will require 17 years. Hence, a decision to begin such an effort, according to the government, must be made this year to be able to continue in 2024 the current practice of always having one submarine on patrol.

Another decision that Blair says must be made this year is whether to participate in the U.S. life extension program for the submarine-launched Trident D5 ballistic missile. British and U.S. submarines are outfitted with this missile, which is currently calculated to last until around 2020. The life extension program is supposed to prolong the missile’s service 20 more years.

The government detailed its case for extending the existing nuclear posture in a 40-page white paper, “The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent.” This December 2006 report cites the maintenance and modernization of nuclear arsenals by other major powers, the possibility of additional countries joining the nuclear club, and the threat of nuclear terrorism as reasons for preserving British nuclear forces. “We can only deter such threats in [the] future through the continued possession of nuclear weapons,” the report declares.

Blair acknowledged that terrorists most likely would not be dissuaded by the threat of nuclear attack or retaliation, but implied that such considerations could influence regimes that might aid terrorists. The report asserts that “any state that [the British government] can hold responsible for assisting a nuclear attack on our vital interests can expect that this would lead to a proportionate response.” French President Jacques Chirac enunciated a similar policy a year ago. (See ACT, March 2006.)

In general, the report maintains that the use of British nuclear arms would be considered “only in extreme circumstances” of self-defense or of protecting fellow members of the 26-nation NATO alliance. The government will “deliberately maintain ambiguity about precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate use of our nuclear deterrent,” the report states.

Keeping with this policy, the report notes that the United Kingdom reserves the option of using nuclear weapons first. China and India are the only two nuclear-armed countries that publicly say they will not do so.

Although the report registers concern about biological and chemical weapons, it stresses the “uniquely terrible threat” that nuclear arms pose and emphasizes that the British nuclear force’s “focus is on preventing nuclear attack.” A British government official told Arms Control Today Dec. 8 that “the reason why we keep a nuclear deterrent” is the possession of nuclear weapons by other states.

South Africa, which announced in 1993 that it had secretly accrued and then disposed of six completed nuclear weapons, criticized Blair’s proposal as “disappointing.” In a Dec. 5 press release, the South African Foreign Ministry argued London missed an “opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the irreversible elimination of its nuclear weapons arsenal, consistent with its nuclear disarmament obligations and commitments.”

Article VI of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) obligates the United Kingdom, as well as China, France, Russia, and the United States, to work toward disarmament. Moreover, the five countries pledged in 2000 at an NPT review conference to “an unequivocal undertaking…to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”

The white paper defends Blair’s proposal as consistent with British commitments. It states, “We believe this is the right balance between our commitment to a world in which there is no place for nuclear weapons and our responsibilities to protect the current and future citizens” of the United Kingdom.

Blair contended that British nuclear disarmament would not be reciprocated by other governments and, therefore, was impractical. “Unfortunately there is no evidence that any major nuclear power would follow such an example,” Blair argued. “And, as for the new, would-be nuclear powers, it really would be naïve to think that they would be influenced by a purely British decision.”

Then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a different argument just days before Blair’s comments. Annan said Nov. 28 that the retention of nuclear weapons by some countries might motivate others to acquire such arms. “By clinging to and modernizing their own arsenals…nuclear-weapon states encourage others…to regard nuclear weapons as essential, both to their security and to their status,” he warned.

Such anti-nuclear weapons views used to prevail inside Blair’s ruling Labour Party, which during the 1980s supported unilateral British nuclear disarmament. But the revival of the party’s fortunes in the 1990s and the election of Blair have been attributed in part to Labour dropping its disarmament stand.

Although some Labour lawmakers in the House of Commons have signaled they will break with Blair in the upcoming nuclear vote, the party’s main rival, the Conservative Party, backs Blair’s proposal. Conservative leader David Cameron stated after Blair’s announcement, “This is our only nuclear weapon, it is a minimum deterrent, and we have the right to replace it.”

The government explored replacement options other than new submarines, but these alternatives, including long-range aircraft and land-based silos, were rejected as more vulnerable and expensive. The government projects that procuring up to four new submarines will cost between $29 billion and $39 billion and extending the Trident’s lifetime will total nearly $500 million.

UK Offers Libya Security Assurances

Michael Nguyen

The United Kingdom has agreed to offer Libya security assurances and strengthen their mutual security relationship in an effort to encourage other countries to follow Libya’s lead in abandoning its chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

On June 26 in Tripoli, British Junior Foreign Minister Kim Howells signed a “Joint Letter of Peace and Security” with his counterpart, Libyan Secretary for European Affairs Abdullati Obidi. The letter pledges that the United Kingdom will seek UN Security Council action if another state attacks Libya with chemical or biological weapons. The United Kingdom also pledged to aid Libya in strengthening its defense capabilities, and both states pledged to work jointly to combat the proliferation of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD).

“I believe that this mutual commitment will serve as an example to other states that there is a route back into the international community and the advantages of Libya’s WMD decision,” Howells said. In December 2003, Libya announced that it would abandon its chemical and nuclear weapons programs. Although it had successfully developed a small chemical weapons stockpile, it had not made much progress on its nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, March 2004.)

Diplomatic relations between the two states were severed by the United Kingdom in 1984 following the murder of a British policewoman outside the Libyan embassy in London and worsened after the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. After Libya agreed to accept “general responsibility” for the 1984 murder, the United Kingdom restored diplomatic relations in 1999.

The United States, which had worked closely with the United Kingdom to convince Libya to abandon its weapons programs, does not have plans to enter a similar agreement. A U.S. official told Arms Control Today Aug. 23 that although the agreement would be closely studied, it was premature to consider any arrangement that would involve the United States directly. However, the United States restored full diplomatic relations with Tripoli in May and removed Libya from its list of states that sponsor terrorism. (See ACT, June 2006.) In addition, the United States has been studying the possibility of providing financial and technical assistance to Libya to help meet the country’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention to destroy its small stockpile of chemical weapons and precursor chemicals. (See ACT, May 2006.)


The United Kingdom has agreed to offer Libya security assurances and strengthen their mutual security relationship in an effort to encourage other countries to follow Libya’s lead in abandoning its chemical and nuclear weapons programs. (Continue)

UK Spells Out Arms Pact

Wade Boese

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw set out guidelines March 15 for a global treaty on conventional arms sales that London plans to promote this year. The initiative comes at a time when the European Union is wrestling with whether to waive arms sales restrictions on China.

Speaking at a London event hosted by the nongovernmental organization Saferworld, Straw said that the international community has addressed biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons but has neglected conventional arms such as machine guns, tanks, and combat aircraft. He argued this “gap” must be filled because conventional arms “per item are plainly less lethal than a nuclear or chemical bomb, but which account today for far more misery and destruction across the world.”

London is not seeking to outlaw trade in conventional arms. Instead, the proposed treaty, which Straw first broached last September, would establish legally binding global standards for acceptable weapons exports. (See ACT, November 2004.)

Unacceptable arms deals would be those that might spark regional aggression or tension, end up in terrorist hands, or lead to human rights abuses, he explained. Criteria for judging sales should be derived from “certain basic standards of behavior and policy” enshrined in the UN Charter, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international law, Straw stated.

Governments subscribing to the treaty ideally would be obligated to impose criminal penalties on treaty violations by their citizens and companies, Straw said. He also maintained that the treaty’s effectiveness would rest on governments informing each other of their denials of potential exports. The 34 members of the voluntary Wassenaar Arrangement exchange information on their export denials of dual-use goods and technologies, which have both civilian and military applications, but they do not notify each other of their conventional arms export denials.

“Without enforceability mechanisms and information sharing, a treaty would risk being one simply on paper, not in fact,” Straw warned.

However, Straw tempered expectations for fast results, describing British efforts as the beginning of a “long process.”

The British arms trade treaty push coincides with a debate within the 25-member EU, which includes the United Kingdom, about lifting a 1989 arms embargo on China. (See ACT, March 2005.) Washington is adamantly opposed to the move, in part because it says China has not sufficiently improved its human rights record since Beijing’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors at Tiananmen Square, for which the embargo was originally imposed. The United States is also concerned about China’s use of European weapons and technology during a possible conflict with Taiwan, which might involve the United States.

Until recently, the EU appeared poised to scrap the embargo before June. (See ACT, January/February 2005.) Now, the move increasingly looks like it might be postponed because of a combination of U.S. pressure and China’s March 14 adoption of a law that authorizes the use of force against Taiwan, should it assert its independence. Although Beijing has repeatedly threatened such action against Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province, the anti-secession law’s passage has made some EU countries more uncomfortable with dropping the embargo. Straw said in a March 20 interview on the United Kingdom’s ITV that the new law has “created quite a difficult political environment.”

Previous talks to limit conventional arms trade have been frustrated by a general attitude among arms suppliers that other countries’ exports are the problem, not their own. Talks convened at Washington’s initiative in the wake of the 1991 Persian Gulf War to rein in the global arms trade broke up after the United States announced a sale of up to 150 combat aircraft to Taiwan, upsetting China. (See ACT, September 1992.)

In his speech, Straw said he did not “underestimate the difficulties” of achieving the desired treaty but insisted London would not be daunted.

The United Kingdom intends to raise the matter at the Group of Eight and in the EU this year when it holds the rotating presidency of both forums. London also plans to sponsor an experts meeting before this summer to begin discussing technical aspects of a future agreement, which Straw said should be negotiated by the United Nations.

Caught in the Middle: The United Kingdom and the 2005 NPT Review Conference

William Walker

Although it may feign confidence, the British government is viewing with trepidation the approach of the 2005 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. It is anxious about the treaty’s health, even less able than usual to predict how the conference might unfold, and uncertain how to position itself diplomatically.

London is hoping that an atmosphere of cooperation will somehow be established at the conference, the treaty will emerge intact, and an agreement will be reached on some next steps even if there is no final document. Nevertheless, it recognizes that the British government may find itself unable to sustain a consensus within the European Union and marooned between the United States and that country’s critics, with diminished prestige and little influence in any direction. Avoiding such a diplomatic fate is as important to the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair as seeing its preferred policies taken up at the conference.

From its inception, the NPT has been regarded as vital to London’s political and security interests. The treaty has conferred on the United Kingdom the prestige of a nuclear-weapon state and has helped it to avoid the costs and instabilities arising from nuclear proliferation. Equally important, the cooperative international order represented by the NPT is seen as crucial to the United Kingdom’s security and its position in the world. At no time have British governments worried that the treaty might unduly constrain their security policies. On the contrary, the United Kingdom has generally welcomed the prospect of a strong NPT that progressively tightens its grip on state behavior even to the extent of drawing all states, itself included, toward nuclear disarmament. London does not have the history of ambivalence that one finds in Beijing and Paris.

During the 1990s, London attached still greater significance to the NPT and to multilateral arms control. Successive British governments shared the U.S. concept of a “new international order” resting on wide attachment to international norms and laws and welcomed the U.S. and Russian commitments to treaty-bound nuclear arms reductions. Further, unlike the shift in Washington, London’s attachment to multilateralism did not wane or become a battleground. On the contrary, the Labour government that took office in 1997 placed great weight on multilateral arms control when it published its 1998 Strategic Defence Review. Eager to avoid the divisions on nuclear weapons policy that had earlier caused such electoral damage to the Labour Party, Blair’s government sought a new consensus around the maintenance of a true minimum deterrent and active promotion of multilateral restraint.

The United Kingdom, therefore, had a good story to tell at the 2000 NPT Review Conference about the actions it had taken to meet its Article VI obligations. Its nuclear deterrent was being reduced to one weapon system (Trident) operated by one armed service (the British navy) with a ceiling of 200 operational warheads that were being taken off high alert.

Furthermore, the Blair government had secured Parliament’s ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), had ended production of fissile materials for weapons, was keen to negotiate a verifiable fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), and was bringing all British nuclear reactors and enrichment and reprocessing facilities under international safeguards. London also had expressed a strong preference for the retention of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and negotiation of a third post-Cold War U.S.-Russian strategic arms treaty (START III).

Consequently, the United Kingdom did not hesitate to support the stronger commitments to nuclear disarmament expressed in the 1995 Principles and Objectives and 2000 Final Document. These agreements were consistent with its security goals and were regarded in London as natural outcomes of states-parties’ obligations to implement the treaty and to reinforce nonproliferation and disarmament norms. There was little suggestion, then or now, that these decisions were tactical moves that could later be ignored, as Paris and Washington have recently implied.

With the arrival of President George W. Bush’s administration, the Blair government found itself in a much less comfortable position. It was dismayed by U.S. moves away from multilateral arms control. Indeed, there was anger at U.S. undermining of arms control initiatives in which the United Kingdom had invested heavily (the Bush administration’s attempted destruction of the verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention being a notable example). London did not allow its displeasure, however, to upset its close relations with Washington. A pattern of behavior developed. While adopting a stance on arms control and on multilateralism at variance with Washington’s, the alliance with the United States was preserved even when the United Kingdom’s and its European partners’ multilateral objectives were being thwarted. The judgment had formed in Downing Street that the U.S. government could not be deflected from its chosen course. Opposition would therefore damage the transatlantic relationship without bringing tangible benefits. This judgment would lead the United Kingdom down the road toward siding with the United States in the Iraq war, despite grave misgiving in various parts of Whitehall.

After the shock of 9/11, however, the British perspective on proliferation shifted in the U.S. direction. The Blair government recognized that new actors had emerged with potential to cause untold damage if they gained access to weapons of mass destruction and that existing measures were insufficient to prevent the diffusion of relevant capabilities. Indicative of this shift was the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Non-Proliferation Department’s change of title in 2002 to the Counter-Proliferation Department. This was accompanied by an increasing openness in London, induced partly by the desire to keep in step with Washington, to the use of all instruments of power to shift the behavior of aberrant actors, even if the United Kingdom continued to emphasize the role of diplomacy rather than war (Libya and Iran being held out as examples of what might still be achieved).

Still, the British government remained deeply uneasy, in private if seldom in public, with the aggressive and unilateral approach taken by the Bush administration. It disapproved of its unilateral abrogation of the ABM Treaty and abandonment of the START process, and its unease extended to the intransigent stance taken by the United States at the NPT Prepcom in April 2004.

A general election is expected to be held in the United Kingdom in May 2005 against the background of widespread public disillusion over the transatlantic relationship. Sensitive to electoral risks, there have been signs of some shift in Downing Street’s declared handling of relations with Washington. Efforts are being made to establish “clearer blue water” between British and U.S. policies and to demonstrate that Blair’s close association with Bush has yielded genuine influence over U.S. behavior. This has led in recent weeks to renewed emphasis on the differences between U.S. and British environmental policies and to Blair’s attempts to draw Bush into a stronger commitment to the Middle East peace process.

On nuclear policy, however, the Blair government is still reluctant to oppose the United States, notwithstanding the United Kingdom’s cooperation with France and Germany in striking a deal with Iran to freeze that country’s uranium-enrichment program.[1] Such reluctance was exemplified by the British government’s recent abstention in the UN First Committee’s vote on a verifiable FMCT,[2] a position taken despite strong objections within Whitehall to the verification-less FMCT that the United States now advocates. This decision displays the pitfalls of the British approach: although adopted on the grounds that “some FMCT is better than no FMCT,” it risks reinforcing the impression in other capitals that London is in thrall to Washington and can be used by the United States to divide the opposition.

The Likely Approach
Given its past history, its present diplomatic dilemmas, and the signals coming out of London, a likely British approach to the 2005 Review Conference can therefore be surmised.

Rather than advocating what other countries might do, London can be expected to stress its own Article VI achievements and commitments. Although its major initiatives were launched before 2000, there has been no retreat from the policies announced at the 2000 Review Conference. Attention also will be drawn to studies of disarmament verification techniques conducted by the British Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, although probably without advocating their replication by the other nuclear-weapon states. A bolder government might sense an opportunity here; the Blair government, however, is unlikely to embarrass its fellow members of the nuclear club.

In an attempt to avoid confrontation with any of its key allies, London can be expected to encourage a spirit of compromise among states-parties, beginning with the major groupings to which it belongs. In particular, it will try (preferably in cooperation with France) to steer in a common direction the stances adopted by the nuclear-weapon states and by the European Union. It recognizes that consensus will be hard to achieve in either grouping. There may be particular difficulty reconciling the obviously conflicting interests and perceptions of the now 25 member states of the European Union, containing among them strongly pro-disarmament governments (including Ireland and Sweden) and a French government that has become increasingly allergic to any talk of disarmament. Shaping a consensus within Europe before the conference has begun could be the United Kingdom’s most significant diplomatic contribution.

London will highlight areas of policy on which there is already broad agreement, such as implementation of the 1997 Model Additional Protocol strengthening NPT safeguards, just as it may discourage proposals on which it sees little possibility of agreement, such as the strengthening of negative security assurances or creation of new institutional machinery to oversee the treaty.

In the time remaining before the 2005 Review Conference in May, London will support efforts to develop common proposals on vital but contentious issues. Among the proposals it would like to see are those governing the transfer of fuel-cycle technologies that can produce fissile materials. It would like such proposals to require verified compliance but not institute blanket denials of trade in such technologies. It does not favor the retreat from Article IV obligations recently advocated by the U.S. government.

Although London will try to focus attention on a forward-looking policy agenda, British diplomats can be expected to emphasize that they are not abandoning old agendas. On the status of the 2000 Final Document, for instance, they will probably emphasize that the document exists and deserves respect but that states-parties should not dwell on recommendations that have been made obsolete by events (the ABM Treaty being an example).

In all of its pronouncements, the British government can be expected to stress the need for unity of purpose in preserving this most vital of security treaties. It will not support the U.S., French, or any other government’s attempt to narrow that purpose or downplay the need for unity across a range of issues. Although the United Kingdom may have embraced the U.S. counterproliferation agenda, it will not welcome a diversionary strategy that focuses the main attention on noncompliant states. The British government holds to the view that the NPT is founded on reciprocal obligation and that its legitimacy will drain away if the treaty’s various provisions and bargains are not respected by all states.

Behind London’s increasingly troubled diplomacy lies a hard security reality: the British government wishes to keep open the medium- and long-term options either to sustain its nuclear deterrent or to discard it so that scarce resources can be used for other purposes. It has recently announced that discussions of Trident’s replacement will begin in the next Parliament. Although the government may lean toward replacement rather than elimination, the disarmament option is bound to be examined carefully and may find a surprising degree of support in a Ministry of Defence for which nuclear weapons are increasingly viewed as an expensive luxury. There is thus genuine political and military interest in London in achieving a stronger NPT-centered security order, partly so that it can at least contemplate nuclear disarmament. Yet, this interest cannot be openly expressed in the United Kingdom, let alone at the 2005 Review Conference, for fear of damaging the first option (maintaining the deterrent) and of setting various political hares running.

Furthermore, it is protection of that first option that places the United Kingdom in such a diplomatic pickle, for it knows that a nuclear force can only be retained at a tolerable cost if the U.S. president and Congress continue to sanction transfers of technology, including nuclear weapons know-how under the recently extended U.S.-UK Mutual Defense Agreement. Thus, sustaining the deterrent often drives the British government toward supporting U.S. policies even when it considers them antithetical to its political and security interests.


1. Paul Kerr, “Iran Agrees to Temporarily Suspend Uranium-Enrichment Program,” Arms Control Today, December 2004, pp. 26-28.

2. Wade Boese, “UN Nuclear Disarmament Debate Stalled,” Arms Control Today, December 2004, p. 39.


The United Kingdom on Key Nuclear Issues

Nuclear Warhead Arsenal: Fewer than 200 nuclear warheads total.

Latest Nuclear Force Developments: The United Kingdom announced in 1998 that it intended to maintain a minimum deterrent of four nuclear-armed submarines, of which only a single one would be on routine patrol at any given time.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Signed September 24, 1996. Ratified April 6, 1998.

Fissile Material Production for Weapons: London announced in April 1995 that it no longer produces fissile material for weapons purposes. A longtime supporter of an “effectively verifiable” fissile material cutoff treaty, the United Kingdom, along with Israel, abstained from a vote calling for such an agreement at the 2004 UN First Committee.

Nuclear Use Doctrine: In May 2000, the United Kingdom reaffirmed a commitment not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty subject to certain conditions regarding their behavior and alliances. The United Kingdom is a member of NATO, which reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict, although the 26-member alliance deems the possibility of nuclear use as “extremely remote.” London has stated it would only consider employing nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances of self-defence.”


Sources: Arms Control Association, Institute for Science and International Security, Natural Resources Defense Council, and national governments.

William Walker is a professor of international relations at the University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom, and heads its School of International Relations. His Adelphi Paper, “Weapons of Mass Destruction and International Order,” was published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in December 2004.

UK Proposes Boosting UN Bio Probes

Michael Nguyen

A British proposal to strengthen the capabilities of the UN secretary-general to investigate alleged uses of biological and toxin weapons has run into resistance from the United States.

At the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Annual Meeting of Experts, held in Geneva July 19-30, the United Kingdom proposed updating procedures enabling the secretary-general to investigate alleged chemical and biological weapons use. The procedures have not been revised since 1989.

British officials proposed the measure as a way to publicly prod the United States into reconsidering verification measures for the BWC. That treaty prohibits the stockpiling and development of biological and toxin weapons but lacks strong verification measures. In 2001 the Bush administration shot down efforts to craft a verification protocol, claiming that a draft was too deeply flawed and that biological weapons were “inherently unverifiable.” (See ACT, December 2002.)

The British proposal suggested updating procedures first permitted by a 1982 UN General Assembly resolution authorizing the secretary-general to conduct investigations of alleged violations of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons. This authority has been invoked several times to investigate alleged uses of chemical weapons, most notably during the 1980s when Iraq and Iran traded allegations of chemical weapons use, but no investigations of alleged biological or toxin weapons use have been initiated.

The 1982 resolution does not authorize the secretary-general to investigate alleged development or stockpiling of biological weapons. The scope of the United Nation’s work was last refined in 1989 when a Report of Qualified Experts set out technical guidelines and procedures for the process.

Richard Lennane, secretary of the Meeting of Experts, described the reaction to the British proposal as “cautious.” He said that, although many representatives at the meeting understood the need to update the secretary-general’s procedures and methods, some questioned whether such measures were useful, saying they were a poor alternative to the draft BWC verification protocol.

In addition to the proposal on investigations, the British draft suggested that states-parties revise procedures on how to calibrate and certify laboratories, make aircraft and equipment available for an investigation team to act quickly, and share national epidemiological information. Lennane said that the 1989 procedures for certification were outdated and were primarily intended to deal with chemical weapons, while the other procedures were not addressed 15 years ago.

The strongest opposition to the British proposal came from the United States. Guy Roberts, acting head of the U.S. delegation, said that it was inappropriate for the BWC states-parties to revise a UN mechanism, saying such discussions should take place in the United Nations itself. Moreover, Roberts said, available mechanisms in the BWC and the United Nations “remain viable and that revisions to their scope or procedures are neither necessary nor appropriate.” U.S. resistance also is based on its reluctance to proceed on any process that could create a standing inspectorate for biological weapons, either inside or outside the office of the UN secretary-general.

However, a western European official said that the U.S. criticisms were “off target” because any changes to the guidelines would take place through the United Nations, if at a December meeting, states-parties decided in their final report to pursue that course of action.

This Meeting of Experts was a part of the BWC “new process” outlined in the Final Document of the Fifth Review Conference in 2002. Rather than continue work on the draft protocol that would have added verification measures to the BWC, the Final Document established a series of annual meetings, beginning in 2003, to discuss scientific and technical methods of strengthening the convention.

U.S., UK Devising Plans for Libya Inspections

Paul Kerr

Washington and London are developing specific arrangements for inspectors fully to evaluate Libya’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and to verify its recent agreement to eliminate them. President George W. Bush stated Dec. 19 that such efforts will include inspectors from “international organizations,” but it is unclear what this means because there are no international inspection regimes to verify compliance with agreements involving missiles or biological weapons.

Teams of U.S. and British intelligence experts have completed two initial visits to Libya to assess its weapons programs, but the tasks of assessing the rest of Tripoli’s weapons programs and dismantling its related facilities remain. U.S. officials have said that two existing international organizations—the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—will be involved in future chemical and nuclear disarmament efforts. It is uncertain, however, exactly how the U.S. and British governments will divide the remaining work with these agencies.

A National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson told Arms Control Today that U.S. and British intelligence experts are working with Libya to inventory its weapons programs. In the longer term, the spokesperson said, the OPCW’s role is likely to be limited to its traditional mandate under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC): conducting inspections of relevant chemical facilities and monitoring the destruction of chemical weapons. Libya has said it will accede to the CWC but has not yet done so.

The IAEA monitors states-parties’ compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but its role also remains uncertain. A Dec. 22 IAEA press release stated that Libya has agreed to follow “a policy of full transparency and active cooperation” with the agency, as well as conclude an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. Libya already has full-scope IAEA safeguards, but the additional protocol will allow the agency to conduct more intrusive inspections.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has already visited several Libyan nuclear sites since Tripoli’s announcement and told the Associated Press Dec. 30 that the agency has “the mandate” to verify Libya’s nuclear activities and “intend[s] to do it alone.” Department of State spokesman Adam Ereli stated Dec. 31, however, that “[t]here will be other [U.S. and British-led] teams going back to Libya” to assess its nuclear activities.

Although Libya has agreed to adhere to its existing commitments under the Biological Weapons Convention and destroy missiles with ranges and payloads exceeding the Missile Technology Control Regime’s guidelines, no international inspections regimes exist to ensure Libyan compliance. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Dec. 22 that Washington and London can “devise…appropriate mechanisms” in the absence of an “international capability.” These could include U.S. and British personnel, as well as other permanent members of the UN Security Council, a senior administration official told reporters. A British official told Arms Control Today Dec. 23 that London is still deciding on what it views as the appropriate mechanism to conduct inspections for missiles and biological weapons.

The NSC spokesperson said that Washington has not considered a role for the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)—the organization formed in 1999 to verify Iraq’s compliance with its UN disarmament obligations, including dismantling its prohibited missile and biological weapons programs. Former Executive Chairman Hans Blix wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial last May that UNMOVIC’s experience could make it a valuable organization for conducting such inspections.

As of the end of December, the Libyan sites under investigation had not been disclosed, but a senior administration official said that Libya has recently revealed mustard agent it produced at a facility near Rabta. In addition, a 2001 Department of Defense report noted an attempt to build an “underground chemical production facility at Tarhunah” during the 1990s. Libya also has its Tajura Nuclear Research Center, which contains a research reactor under IAEA safeguards.






Washington and London are developing specific arrangements for inspectors fully to evaluate Libya’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and to verify its recent agreement to eliminate them...

UK Withdraws Tactical Nukes From Service

Following through on its April 1995 commitment, Britain's Royal Air Force withdrew from service the last of its estimated 100 WE-177 tactical nuclear bombs on March 31. The WE-177s, some of which were located in Germany, are likely to be dismantled. The withdrawal of the WE-177s leaves the United States as the only country to have tactical nuclear weapons deployed outside of its territory (with several hundred weapons still in Europe).

Britain now intends to rely on its fleet of Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines for nuclear deterrence. The first three submarines in the class—HMS Vanguard, HMS Victorious and HMS Vigilant—have already entered into service. The fourth and final boat, HMS Vengeance, is scheduled to be deployed in the early 2000s, allowing Britain to keep two boats on patrol at any given time. Each submarine is equipped with 16 Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles capable of carrying up to eight warheads each. Britain, however, is not expected to keep its submarines fully loaded and, according to estimates by the Natural Resources Defense Council, its future nuclear stockpile may consist of a total of about 275 warheads.


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