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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

Chinese Concession Fails to End UN Disarmament Conference's Stalemate

Proving the adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” the 66-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) Sept. 10...

Wade Boese

Proving the adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” the 66-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) Sept. 10 concluded its fifth straight year without holding any negotiations. The stalemate persisted even though China compromised on an issue perceived to be a key obstacle blocking progress in the UN arms control negotiating forum.

No clear explanation has emerged as to why the conference failed to revive after China dropped its long-standing insistence that any work program must include the drafting of a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. That demand has long been a stumbling block to negotiations: the disarmament conference operates by consensus, and the United States has refused for several years to support any negotiations for limiting weapons in outer space. Washington, which is exploring space-based interceptors for its proposed layered missile defense system, claims such a treaty is unnecessary. The CD has not completed any arms control agreement since it wrapped up the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.

Several factors appear to have continued to block progress in the wake of China’s Aug. 7 announcement, which occurred in the last weeks of the conference’s negotiating period for the year. By conference rules, negotiations started one year do not carry over to the next. Some delegations probably wanted to avoid a repeat of 1998 when negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty were started in August, shelved in September, and not resumed the following year.

Disputes about the proposed outer space accord was also not the only controversial issue holding up the proposed CD work program, just the most prominent. Misgivings remain about nuclear disarmament talks, a negative security assurances treaty, and a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would forbid the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons purposes.

Despite their recent tensions on Iraq and other issues, France and the United States are of the same mind on not wanting to discuss nuclear disarmament in a multilateral setting. Russia reportedly shares this reluctance.

Joined by the United Kingdom, these three nuclear-weapon states also have little enthusiasm for negotiating an accord on negative security assurances, which are commitments by nuclear-weapon states not to use nuclear weapons against countries without them. All four countries have consented to such negotiations before because the implicit understanding was that nothing would happen. Speculation exists that the United States might not support a repeat of such a charade, given February 2002 remarks by U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton questioning the value of negative security assurances (See ACT, March 2002) and general Bush administration distaste for international negotiations.

Further dampening prospects for negotiations on negative security assurances is China’s insistence that an agreement include commitments by all nuclear-weapon states to forswear the first-use of nuclear weapons. London, Moscow, Paris, and Washington all reserve the right to use nuclear weapons first and oppose the Chinese proposal.

The United States has essentially declared that it will not compromise on issues it does not want addressed. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker told the conference in February that Washington would only consent to a “clean resolution” to start fissile material cutoff treaty negotiations. He warned that tying issues together to “win approval for dubious, unpopular, or outdated proposals must end if this body is to have a future.”

Although rhetorically enjoying consensus CD support, a fissile material cutoff treaty negotiation is not without detractors and potential pitfalls. Israel, for example, opposes the treaty, and relented to the start of treaty negotiations in 1998 only after intense U.S. arm-twisting. Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned that Israel had “fundamental problems with the treaty.”

Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria have argued that a completed treaty should not be limited to barring future production but also take into account existing stockpiles. They contend a treaty failing to do so would unacceptably codify unequal holdings of weapons-making material.

Aside from conflicting views about the conference’s work program, there is also an undercurrent of skepticism about whether all members, notably the United States, want the CD to succeed. A former senior U.S. government official familiar with the conference said in a Sept. 16 interview that Bolton and others in the Bush administration “detest the CD.”

The United States did not have a dedicated CD ambassador during this year’s round of negotiations, though in June the Bush administration nominated Jackie Wolcott Sanders, currently a deputy assistant secretary of state, for the position. The Senate has not yet voted on her nomination.

Regardless of the reasons, the conference found itself in a familiar position nearing the end of this year’s negotiating session. On Aug. 21, Japanese Ambassador Kuniko Inoguchi, who was serving as the rotating conference president, described the CD as being at a “serious impasse.” Expectations for the conference’s Jan. 19 start next year are not optimistic.




Decision on Iraqi Disarmament Divides Security Council

As weapons inspections continued in Iraq, permanent members of the UN Security Council submitted competing proposals February 24 intended to address Baghdad’s failure to disarm. 

Paul Kerr

As weapons inspections continued in Iraq, permanent members of the UN Security Council submitted competing proposals February 24 intended to address Baghdad’s failure to disarm. A U.S.-British draft resolution states that Iraq has failed to comply with its disarmament obligations and would likely pave the way for military action. A memorandum submitted to the council by France and Russia is intended to slow the rush to war, calling for strengthened inspections as a means of achieving disarmament without using force. (See ACT, March 2003.)

Formally introduced by the United Kingdom and co-sponsored by the United States and Spain, the draft resolution states that Iraq “has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by Resolution 1441.” That resolution, adopted November 8, gave Iraq a “final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations” as set out by Security Council resolutions stretching back to the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The United States has previously said that Iraq is in material breach of the resolution but has not formally submitted the matter to the Security Council before.

The draft resolution focuses on Iraq’s failure to fully explain its weapons programs. Resolution 1441 required Iraq to submit a “currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes.” Iraq turned over a 12,000-page declaration to UN officials in Baghdad December 7, but it contained little useful information and left many questions unanswered. The draft resolution says this declaration contains “false statements and omissions”—a breach of Resolution 1441.

The draft resolution references Resolution 1441’s warning that Baghdad would “face serious consequences” if it continues to ignore its disarmament obligations—a phrase widely viewed as including the use of force—but does not include stronger language. The Bush administration has repeatedly said that it will go to war without UN authorization if necessary, and a State Department official interviewed February 27 said the United States does not believe that a new resolution is required to use force.

A UN official interviewed February 27 said that the new resolution was intended to provide political cover for leaders whose citizens oppose military action.

The Russian-French proposal, submitted as a memorandum and not as a formal resolution, states that military force should be a “last resort” and that force should not yet be used because there is “no evidence” that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It also notes that inspections have only recent begun operating at full capacity but “have already produced results.” The memorandum also says, however, that “inspections…cannot continue indefinitely. Iraq must disarm,” adding that Baghdad’s cooperation, although improving, is not “yet fully satisfactory.”

The memorandum also argues that preserving Security Council unity and increasing pressure on Iraq “are of paramount importance.” It proposes that the inspectors submit a program of work that lists and clearly defines specific disarmament tasks. Such a report is already required under Resolution 1284, which created the current weapons inspection team—the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)—in 1999. UNMOVIC is currently assembling the list, the UN official said in a February 27 interview.

The memorandum suggests “further measures to strengthen inspections,” including increasing staff and bolstering technical capabilities. Additionally, it proposes a new timeline mandating regular reporting to the Security Council about inspectors’ progress, as well as a progress report to be submitted 120 days after the program of work is adopted.

China supports the French and Russian position, according to a February 27 Chinese Foreign Ministry statement. The stark division between the Security Council’s permanent members is reflected in a split among the council’s 10 rotating members. Even if Russia, France, and China refrained from exercising their vetoes, it is unclear whether the U.S.-British resolution would garner the nine votes needed to pass.

The State Department official said that Washington expects a decision on the resolution shortly after Hans Blix, the executive chairman of UNMOVIC, briefs the council in early March. Blix is scheduled to submit an UNMOVIC quarterly report March 1 and to give an oral presentation to the council in the first week of March. The Security Council began consultations about the resolution February 27.

In a February 24 press statement, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte would not set a specific timetable for a vote but said the “diplomatic window is now closing” and that Washington expects action within a few weeks.

The Bush administration has still not publicly committed itself to the use of military force but has been dismissive of the inspections’ incremental progress. During a February 24 press conference, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, stopped short of saying that the United States had decided go to war but added that “there are no deals to be struck” with Baghdad.

The Security Council split is characterized by differing views over whether Iraq can be expected to comply with its disarmament obligations and whether inspectors can effectively perform their task. Secretary of State Colin Powell briefed the Security Council on February 5 in an effort to persuade members that the inspections process is failing, publicly presenting intelligence for the first time to support Washington’s claim that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction and interfering with the inspections process. (See excerpts below.)

Powell presented satellite images, recordings of intercepted communications, and accounts from human intelligence sources to make his case. He cited examples of Iraqi personnel concealing weapons, altering documents, intimidating potential witnesses, and monitoring inspection teams as proof of Iraqi interference. He also stated that Iraq continues to develop prohibited weapons systems, such as long-range missiles and aircraft modified to deliver weapons of mass destruction. The briefing, however, failed to generate sufficient support to persuade France, China, and Russia to support the U.S. position.

What Inspectors Have Found

The weapons inspectors have reported no major WMD discoveries, and Iraq has continued to be cooperative in granting access to facilities. The Security Council seems to agree, however, that Baghdad has continued to show insufficient cooperation to clarify its December declaration and demonstrate that it no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), updated the Security Council on January 27 and February 14 about their progress since they last briefed the council January 9. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) They reported that the IAEA has conducted 177 inspections at 125 locations and that UNMOVIC has conducted more than 400 inspections at approximately 300 sites. There are 86 UNMOVIC and 18 IAEA inspectors in Iraq, according to a February 26 IAEA press report.

The UNMOVIC inspectors have not found any weapons of mass destruction, Blix said February 14, but they have found a “small number of [prohibited] empty chemical munitions.” However, “many [other] proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for,” he added, calling the matter “one of great significance.”

Perhaps more importantly, UNMOVIC ordered Baghdad to destroy its al Samoud 2 missiles. Inspectors say the missiles are prohibited under Iraq’s disarmament obligations because their range exceeds 150 kilometers, the limit established by Resolution 687 in 1991. Iraq must destroy the missiles, along with their rocket motors and any casting chambers capable of manufacturing motors for prohibited missiles. Blix communicated the order to Iraq in a February 21 letter, and Iraq has agreed “in principle” to destroy them, according to a February 27 UN press release.

Blix also indicated in his February 14 briefing that the inspectors were expanding their infrastructure and technical capabilities, including the use of manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft.

ElBaradei said February 14 that the IAEA has “found no evidence” of an ongoing nuclear weapons program, but he added that the agency could not yet confirm that such a program does not exist. The IAEA is attempting to determine Iraq’s nuclear activities since inspectors left the country in 1998.

ElBaradei also pointed out that inspections can find prohibited nuclear weapons programs “even without the full cooperation of the inspected state” but added that Iraqi cooperation would “speed up” the process and produce a greater degree of confidence that Iraq has disarmed.

Marginal Cooperation

International pressure on Baghdad to comply with Resolution 1441 has increased in response to Iraqi intransigence. Blix and ElBaradei held meetings with Iraqi officials January 19-20 and February 8-9 in an effort to secure greater cooperation, with some marginal success. The chief inspectors maintain, however, that Iraq must make much more progress to fulfill its disarmament requirements.

In a sign of modest progress, Iraq has provided inspectors with some documentation of its weapons programs. Iraq gave UNMOVIC documents concerning its biological weapons program shortly after the inspectors’ February 14 presentation, according to a February 25 UN press release. A few days later, Iraq began excavating a site where biological weapons had been disposed of and invited UNMOVIC to inspect the site.

However, Blix said February 14 that documents that Baghdad had presented during the February 8-9 meeting addressed “important…disarmament issues” but contained “no new evidence.” Questions also still remain about Iraq’s destruction of its anthrax stocks and precursor chemicals for VX nerve gas. Iraq claims to have unilaterally destroyed these agents in 1991 but says the documentation was destroyed.

The IAEA removed documents from an Iraqi scientist’s home January 16, but ElBaradei reported February 14 that they revealed little new information about Iraq’s nuclear program. ElBaradei also said that documents provided during the inspectors’ February 8-9 visit contained no new information.

Securing private interviews with Iraqi scientists has been another matter of concern. Resolution 1441 gives inspectors the right to interview anyone they choose, without Iraqi officials present, in any location they wish, including outside Iraq. ElBaradei said in his January 27 briefing that Iraqi scientists had declined private interviews, but he said in his February 14 briefing that the IAEA had since been able to conduct four interviews without the presence of Iraqi observers, although the subjects tape recorded their interviews—a practice the IAEA wants to end.

The IAEA has indicated that the interview process is continuing, and ElBaradei said on February 14 that Iraq provided the agency with additional names of relevant personnel to be interviewed. Previous lists provided by Iraq were inadequate. ElBaradei added that the agency would continue to ask for additional lower-ranking personnel.

Blix said in his February 14 briefing that three people consented to private interviews just before the February talks in Baghdad, after many had refused. However, no Iraqis have agreed to private interviews since then, the UN official said in the February 27 interview. UNMOVIC has made no interview requests since February 14, the official added.

Blix added that Iraq gave UNMOVIC a list of people who had been involved with Iraq’s chemical weapons program. UNMOVIC has since received names of people involved in biological and missile programs, Blix said in a February 23 Time interview.

There have been other improvements in the inspections process. During the January 27 meeting, Blix identified some restrictions that Baghdad placed on weapons inspectors that have since been resolved. For example, Iraq was restricting flights of U2 surveillance aircraft, but Blix reported February 14 that the matter had been settled. The first U2 flight took place February 17.

ElBaradei stated during his February 14 briefing that Iraq adopted “national legislation” that same day prohibiting illegal weapons activities, complying with a longstanding inspectors’ request. Blix said in the Time interview, however, that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein only signed a “limited” decree and that actual legislation has not been adopted.

'Iraq: Failing to Disarm'

Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 5 presentation to the UN Security Council contended that Baghdad is not fulfilling its requirements under Resolution 1441 and is involved in “an active and systematic effort…to keep key materials and people from the inspectors.” In his presentation, Powell stated that Iraq has a committee devoted to monitoring and deceiving inspectors. His briefing cited previously unrevealed intelligence information from human sources, satellite imagery, and intercepted communications.

Iraqi concealment efforts before inspections resumed

Satellite photographs show evidence of Iraq cleaning up approximately 30 weapons sites by removing prohibited material prior to the inspectors’ arrival.

  • A cargo truck moved ballistic missile components from a weapons site on November 10 and 22.
  • Rocket launchers and warheads containing biological agents were dispersed throughout the countryside during September and October to avoid detection.

A conversation intercepted November 26 reveals Iraqi officials apparently arranging to remove a “modified vehicle” in anticipation of UN inspectors’ arrival in Iraq.

Iraqi concealment efforts after inspections resumed

An intercepted conversation from January 30 indicates that, although Baghdad formed a commission to track down any remaining prohibited weapons in Iraq, Iraqi officials are actually conspiring to hide such munitions.

Iraq removed all materials from a chemical weapons site on December 22 as inspectors were arriving.

Iraq utilizes mobile biological-agent production facilities to thwart inspectors, according to four independent human sources.

Iraq is employing numerous tactics to hide relevant documents, including hiding them in Iraqi government officials’ homes, transporting them in cars around the country, and removing computer hard drives.

Iraq is also attempting to keep weapons scientists from divulging relevant information. Saddam Hussein threatened potential interviewees with death if they cooperate with inspectors, replaced weapons experts at one facility with intelligence agents, and placed several experts under arrest.

The full text of Powell’s presentation can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030205-1.html#6


Annan Urges CD to Be Productive in Upcoming Year

The 66-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) began its 2003 negotiating session January 21 with a wish from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a “most productive” year...

Wade Boese

The 66-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) began its 2003 negotiating session January 21 with a wish from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a “most productive” year, but its initial five weeks of meetings suggest this year may well be a repeat of the previous four years of gridlock with no negotiations.

One potential impasse, however, was resolved February 14 when Iraq informed Annan of its intention to forgo its turn as conference president, a position that rotates on an alphabetical basis for four-week working periods to all CD members. Two days earlier, Secretary of State Colin Powell had told the House International Relations Committee that the United States felt outraged over the prospect of an Iraqi presidency, adding that Washington would work to prevent Iraq from assuming the position. If the United States failed, Powell pledged, “We would, you know, simply find ways not to participate.”

Notwithstanding the averted showdown over an Iraqi presidency, the conference, which operates by consensus, remains deadlocked over what issues to negotiate. The key dispute is still whether negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), which would prohibit the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes, should proceed without negotiations on other subjects, namely the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Speaking February 13, Stephen Rademaker, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, said the United States wants a “clean” agreement simply to begin negotiations on an FMCT. He condemned efforts to link the start of one negotiation with another, asserting that “the practice in the CD of holding vital international security initiatives hostage to win approval for dubious, unpopular, or outdated proposals must end if this body is to have a future.”

Yet, other countries, most notably China, desire parallel negotiations on weapons in outer space and are unlikely to accept the U.S. proposal to work solely on an FMCT. U.S. plans to begin researching space-based missile defense interceptors for possible deployment beginning in 2008 (See ACT, March 2003.) might further reinforce insistence by China and other countries for outer space negotiations.

The United States argues that the outer space issue is not ripe for negotiations because there is no current arms race in outer space. The United States and Israel, however, were the only two CD members to abstain from a UN General Assembly vote last November for a resolution calling on the conference to work on outer space in 2003. No country voted against the resolution.

As CD president over the first few weeks of this year’s session, India explored whether members would set aside the FMCT and outer space disputes and explore new issues, such as enforcing compliance of existing treaties or preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. But several members rejected this approach.

The conference last completed negotiations on an agreement, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, in 1996. Since then, CD members have held only a few weeks of negotiations, in 1998.

The United States is still without a permanent representative to the conference after shifting Ambassador Eric Javits from the CD to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last year in a move meant to convey both U.S. displeasure with the former and support for the latter. Rademaker assured the conference that the United States would name a new permanent representative.

This year’s first negotiating recess is set to begin March 28. The negotiating session will then resume for two additional periods: May 12 to June 27 and July 28 to September 10.

CD Ends Year Without Negotiations

CD Ends Year Without Negotiations

October 2002

By Wade Boese

The UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) extended its record of futility for a fourth consecutive year September 12 when the conference closed the final round of its annual three-part session without having held any negotiations. Signaling its displeasure with the CD’s lack of activity, the United States is reassigning its conference ambassador to another diplomatic post.

As in the past few years, the central issue blocking formal talks stemmed from member differences, primarily between the United States and China, over whether the CD should draft a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. China supports the effort and has tied the beginning of any arms control negotiations at the 66-member conference, which operates by consensus, to the start or promise of work on an outer space treaty. Claiming that such an accord is unnecessary, the United States staunchly opposes the Chinese position and linkage. Along with most CD members, Washington favors the immediate negotiation of a treaty to ban production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons purposes.

Frustrated by the stalemate, the CD ambassadors of Algeria, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, and Sweden formally submitted a proposal August 29 to bridge the gap between the Chinese and U.S. positions on outer space. Not explicitly calling for negotiations, the five ambassadors proposed setting up formal talks between all CD members to look at all options on the issue, including a treaty, without prejudicing the outcome. Several countries endorsed the proposal, but neither the United States nor China publicly accepted or rejected it, although Beijing is reportedly not satisfied.

Conference members also could not find common ground on any proposals to expand the CD, improve its functioning, or change its annual agenda, according to special coordinators appointed last March to look into these subjects.

Several ambassadors lamented the state of the conference in year-ending speeches, and the Hungarian Ambassador András Szabó, who held the rotating CD presidency at its close, warned that the conference risks becoming marginalized. Weeks earlier, Algerian Ambassador Mohamed Salah Dembri had compared the CD’s long-running effort to start negotiations to the search for the “Holy Grail.”

Indicating U.S. dissatisfaction with the CD, Bush administration officials confirmed in the last week of September that Ambassador Eric Javits will leave the negotiating body and represent the United States at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversees the implementation of the treaty banning chemical weapons. Officials said the move reflects both U.S. support for the new OPCW Director-General Rogelio Pfirter and the OPCW’s mission, as well as U.S. frustration with the CD. Javits was sworn in as the U.S. permanent representative to the conference in December 2001.

U.S. officials said the United States is not pulling out of the CD and will continue to be represented there. One official said a replacement for Javits will be appointed before the start of next year’s first of three working periods, which will take place January 20 to March 28. The other two session parts are scheduled for May 12 to June 27 and July 28 to September 10.

CD Inches Closer to Starting Negotiations

CD Inches Closer to Starting Negotiations

July/August 2002

By Wade Boese

China backed away from a longstanding demand for immediate negotiation of an outer space treaty in June, creating the slim possibility that the Geneva-based UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) might break through an almost four-year impasse, during which it has failed to conduct any negotiations.

The 66-member CD works by consensus and has been deadlocked for the past few years primarily because of a dispute between the United States and China. Washington views a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would ban the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, as the sole issue ripe for negotiation, but Beijing asserts that the prevention of an arms race in outer space is of equal importance and urgency. China had insisted that negotiations on both issues start together or not at all, a linkage strongly opposed by the United States.

China privately informed CD members June 12 that it would no longer insist on immediate outer space negotiations and would settle for less formal discussions with the caveat that the talks be held “with a view to negotiating [a] relevant international legal instrument.”

The U.S. delegation, which previously said Washington would hold talks and exchange views on the subject, has indicated that the new proposal is unacceptable because it prejudices the talks toward concluding an agreement.

One European official in Geneva commented that the significance of the Chinese offer “in the terms of an absolute softening of the Chinese position remains open to debate.”

China still strongly desires an eventual treaty on the outer space issue, evidenced by the June unveiling of a draft working paper on such an accord co-authored with Russia. The draft’s principal element is a prohibition against any type of weapon being stationed in space.

The conference divides each year’s negotiating session into three parts and finished the second part on June 28. Its third and final part begins July 29 and ends September 13.

Any mandate for negotiations agreed on during the final session would expire on September 13. A new agreement needs to be reached again next year to restart the negotiations unless the conference members reached a decision this year that the negotiations would resume automatically.

The conference last agreed to start fissile material cutoff negotiations in August 1998, but the talks were not resumed the following year.


Chemical Weapons Convention Chief Removed at U.S. Initiative

Chemical Weapons Convention Chief Removed at U.S. Initiative

May 2002

By Seth Brugger

The head of the organization implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was voted out of office by convention member states on April 22, ending a nearly three-month-long diplomatic offensive led by the United States.

With 43 delegations abstaining, states voted 48 to 7 to remove José Bustani, a Brazilian who has headed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) since its inception almost five years ago. Two-thirds of states attending and voting had to vote in favor of removing Bustani for him to be unseated. Many European countries, U.S. allies, and India backed the U.S.-led motion of dismissal; Belarus, Brazil, China, Cuba, Iran, Mexico, and Russia voted against Bustani’s removal.

The United States, which pays 22 percent of the OPCW’s budget, had made implicit threats not to pay the rest of its dues to the organization if Bustani maintained his position, according to an OPCW official. This prompted speculation that other countries went along with the U.S. initiative to avoid depriving the organization of needed funds.

Speaking after the vote, Bustani said, “I clearly made some people in Washington very uncomfortable because I was too independent. They want somebody more obedient,” The New York Times reported. The former director-general was also reported to have complained that his removal was illegal. Although the conference used its normal rules for voting on substantive issues, the convention does not specify rules for removing its head.

The State Department hailed Bustani’s removal as “an essential first step in restoring stability and sound management” to the OPCW and said the United States “will work closely with other concerned member states to restore the organization to sound financial footing and to overcome the other financial difficulties that it has faced in recent years.” A U.S. official indicated that this would involve expediting payment of remaining U.S. arrears.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws chemical weapons and orders their destruction, has been in force since 1997. It charges the OPCW with conducting routine inspections of countries’ chemical weapons-related activities and monitors member states’ chemical industries. Countries can also request the OPCW to conduct short-notice inspections anywhere in another member state.

The OPCW recently suffered a major financial crisis, however, and was forced to scale back its verification activities. According to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, the organization has not been “able to carry out their mandate. For example, they’re only carrying out this year 55 percent of their planned inspections.”

Washington alleges that Bustani’s financial mismanagement of his organization is to blame. But Bustani has contended that in 2001 the United States imposed a budget that was inadequate to implement the organization’s work program fully and has asserted that verification cutbacks have resulted from “chronic underfunding.”

The United States supported Bustani’s re-election in May 2000. But Washington noticed a “steady decline in Bustani’s performance,” the U.S. official said, adding that an attempt by the director-general to remove his deputy, Australian John Gee, was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

So, starting in late January, Washington began to seek Bustani’s removal. Along with Germany, Japan, Poland, and South Korea, the United States first pursued a course of quiet diplomacy, contacting Brazil to try to secure the director-general’s removal, according to the U.S. official. When that tack did not work, the United States tabled a motion of no confidence in the OPCW’s executive decision-making body, the Executive Council. The vote, which did not have the power to remove Bustani but served as a political marker, failed to muster enough votes to pass.

Washington publicly made its case against Bustani in a March 1 paper. In addition to outlining financial criticisms, the paper attacks Bustani’s demeanor and is peppered with complaints about how he has run the OPCW, maintaining that Bustani’s conduct has “seriously undermined the functioning and authority of the Executive Council.” The paper adds that Bustani threatened to conduct punitive inspections at industrial sites in five states that had issued a demarche to him on financial and verification issues.

Washington also maintains that Bustani advocated inappropriate roles for the OPCW. As evidence, the paper says that the director-general volunteered his organization’s inspectors, despite member states’ objections, to aid the UN agencies that had been or are currently in charge of inspecting Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and missile capabilities. It added that Bustani “continues to attempt to impose the OPCW, and CWC limitations” on this UN Security Council matter. It also complained about Bustani’s post-September 11 initiative to enhance the OPCW’s chemical terrorism-response capabilities.

An OPCW paper circulated by Bustani to rebut these charges countered, “Attempts to oust the Director-General of the OPCW seek to establish a dangerous international precedent” where the job security of heads of international organizations would depend on the “attitude, whims, and perceptions of one, or a few, major contributors to the budget.”

It is expected that Bustani’s replacement will come from Latin America. Deputy Director-General John Gee will lead the OPCW until states-parties meet in June to elect a new chief, according to the OPCW official.

CD Ends First Part of Session in Deadlock

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) concluded the first third of its three-part annual session on March 29 without starting any treaty negotiations and with little prospect that negotiations will begin when the conference resumes May 13.

Speaking the day before the CD ended its first round of the year, Chinese Ambassador Hu Xiaodi left little doubt that the U.S.-Chinese standoff over negotiating priorities for the conference would continue. Hu told the conference that China believed the prevention of an arms race in outer space was “just as important…if not more” than a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would ban production of the key materials needed to make nuclear weapons. Hu made clear that China favors negotiations on both subjects.

Yet the United States staunchly opposes negotiations on the outer space issue. The United States, which is pressing for the immediate negotiation of a cutoff treaty, maintains that it would consent to outer space discussions, but nothing more.

Although neither Washington nor Beijing signaled any intent of yielding, other CD members expressed frustration with the continuing stalemate. Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham reminded the UN body on March 19 that it “does not exist merely for the sake of debate.” Speaking at the close of February, German CD Ambassador Volker Heinsberg succinctly summed up the state of the conference, claiming it does “not look very promising.”

The conference, which has only held negotiations for a couple of weeks in August 1998 since completing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, requires consensus among its 66 country delegations to begin any treaty negotiation. Although unable to start any negotiations during its first several weeks, the conference appointed three special coordinators to look at reviewing the CD’s agenda, expanding its membership, and improving its operation. These coordinators will submit reports on their findings before the CD concludes this year’s session on September 13. Special coordinators have been established in previous years on these same subjects.

Conference on Disarmament Begins 2002 Session

Wade Boese

The UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) started its annual session January 22 with a message from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urging the 66-member body to overcome its three years of “stagnation” and “prolonged inactivity,” during which it has failed to start any negotiations. Yet after its first five weeks of discussions, the conference remains hung up on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, the issue that deadlocked the conference last year.

Most members of the CD, which works by consensus, support or would accept holding talks on the two issues of outer space and nuclear disarmament, and negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would prohibit production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

China, however, insists that the CD must start negotiations on outer space for it to hold negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty—a proposal the United States opposes. Most, if not all, other members also support or would accept outer space negotiations, but few, perhaps only China, are willing to hold up fissile material cutoff treaty negotiations for formal outer space negotiations.

Russia and Pakistan backed the Chinese position last year, but it seems that may no longer be the case. Pakistan has not yet voiced support for China this year, and Russian CD Ambassador Leonid Skotnikov told the conference on January 22 that Russia supported negotiations on a fissile cutoff “without linkages to other issues.”

Yet, Skotnikov stressed that Russia still views outer space as a top priority, particularly in light of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Addressing the conference on January 24, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said that the United States believed the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in outer space, is sufficient and that there is no need to negotiate further agreements on outer space.

Like Russia, many countries used their first CD statements of the year to register criticism with the Bush administration’s ABM Treaty withdrawal announcement, its July 2001 rejection of a protocol negotiated for the Biological Weapons Convention, or its public opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. To counter this widely perceived U.S. unilateral approach to arms control, several speakers called for a renewal of multilateralism. But Bolton told the conference that U.S. policy was neither unilateralist nor multilateralist, just “pro-American.”

The CD divides its annual session into three parts. This first period will conclude March 29. The conference last negotiated a treaty in 1996 when it completed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

CD Negotiating Session Concludes Without Progress

Wade Boese

Concluding its third straight year without negotiations, the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) met July 30-September 14 in Geneva and closed the last third of this year’s negotiating session. The current CD president, Ambassador Roberto Betancourt-Ruales of Ecuador, warned September 13 that all 66 conference members were greatly concerned about an erosion of the CD’s credibility as the sole forum for disarmament negotiations.

Since its 1996 completion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the conference has been unable to agree on which issues to negotiate next. The United States, along with its European and Asian allies, has sought negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would ban the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons purposes. Other countries, led by India, have pressed for nuclear disarmament negotiations, and China has made preventing an arms race in outer space its top priority. All CD delegations must reach consensus before any negotiations can begin.

During the past year, all members publicly supported a fissile material cutoff treaty, but China and Russia tied beginning work on the cutoff treaty with starting negotiations on outer space. The United States opposed this linkage, claiming it would only conduct “exploratory discussions,” but not negotiations, on outer space issues. Neither side would compromise, cementing the deadlock.

Many CD delegations feel that the conference’s stalemate reflects the wider international security climate, in which many countries—particularly China and Russia—have objected to U.S. ballistic missile defense plans and have voiced concern about perceptions of growing U.S. unilateralism and hegemony. In the conference, these concerns are seen as leading countries to adopt more rigid negotiating stances.

In a September 13 farewell address, retiring U.S. Ambassador Robert Grey blasted the CD for doing “nothing that would justify its existence” during the past three years. He warned that the “business of disarmament will shift to other venues” if the CD continues to be “irrelevant.” A U.S. government official interviewed September 20 said Washington is “not actively considering” moving to new venues, explaining that Grey was underscoring the need for the conference to “get down to work” at some point.

Other CD ambassadors expressed similar, but not quite as dire, concerns during the last weeks of the negotiating session. Speaking the same day as Grey, German Ambassador Gunther Seibert, who was also concluding his CD service, offered a more optimistic view of the conference, saying that it “has not outlived its days” and that “its greatest tasks may still lie ahead.” The conference will meet again January 22, when it starts its 2002 negotiating session.

CD Session Ends in Deadlock; Coordinators Appointed

Wade Boese

The 66-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) closed its second of three negotiating periods this year on June 29 without agreeing on a plan of work. But, for the first time since 1998, on June 14 the CD appointed three special coordinators tasked with reviewing the conference’s agenda, expanding its membership, and improving its functioning.

The three special coordinators will be charged with consulting delegations and reporting to the conference at the end of September’s negotiating session on all proposals and views concerning their respective topics. Special coordinators on these same subjects have been appointed in the past with little result, though the conference did add five members in August 1999. However, the United States has said it will not support any additional members until the conference proves it can operate at its current size.

Although a few CD members expressed some hope that the special coordinators could help break the deadlock that has prevented the conference from conducting any negotiations for almost three years, the appointment of the coordinators is unlikely to ease the current stalemate because the key dispute over whether the CD should negotiate on the prevention of an arms race in outer space does not appear to be waning. In fact, China submitted a document June 7 outlining the key elements for a treaty to prevent the weaponization of outer space, a proposal the United States staunchly opposes.

Arguing that the possible weaponization of space is “imminent,” Chinese Ambassador Hu Xiaodi provided the conference with a model of a treaty prohibiting the testing, deployment, or use of any weapons, weapons systems, or their components in outer space. The working paper also proposed barring the testing, deployment, or use of any land-, air-, or sea-based weapons that could be used for war-fighting in space. Hu left no doubt that his proposal was targeted at Washington, referring in his introductory remarks to U.S. missile defense plans and the Pentagon’s recent initiatives to reorganize its management of U.S. space activities. (See ACT, June 2001.)

The United States has repeatedly dismissed efforts to negotiate on outer space, contending that there is no arms race in outer space and that existing treaties on the subject, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty banning the stationing of weapons of mass destruction in space, are sufficient. Instead, Washington wants immediate negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty, which China, Russia, and others are unwilling to support without negotiations on space.

The conference will only have from July 30 to September 14 to begin negotiations this year. However, any negotiations, which require conference consensus, initiated this year would not be guaranteed to be resumed next year because CD negotiations do not carry over from one year to the next. Instead, parties will have to agree upon a new work plan in 2002.


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