"Timetable for bioweapons treaty"

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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Wednesday, November 20, 2002 at 6:41PM :

Nature 420, 260 (21 November 2002)
Timetable for talks keeps hopes alive for bioweapons treaty

[GENEVA] Hopes of strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention were renewed last week, after signatories agreed on plans to tackle the convention's biggest stumbling blocks.

The future of the 1972 accord which outlaws the manufacture, stockpiling or use of biological or toxin-based weapons had been in doubt since November 2001, when the United States refused to discuss plans for laboratory inspections to assess compliance with the treaty (see Nature 414, 675; 2001).

But at talks in Geneva last week, delegates put their differences behind them and agreed a timetable for discussing compliance issues and four other problems facing the treaty. These include the need to agree international rules for detecting and responding to alleged abuses of the convention, and the adoption of a code of conduct for scientists working with potential biowarfare agents. Delegates will meet annually to address each hurdle in turn. Another failure would have dealt a near-fatal blow to the treaty, postponing future discussion until the treaty's next review meeting in 2006.

John Walker, an arms-control expert at Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, describes the plan as a "decent work programme", given that US negotiators refused to commit to firmer measures.

-- Lilly
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