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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 19:45 GMT
Bio-weapons talks suspended
US Under-secretary of State John Bolton at the conference
The US says work on the ban will continue
By Emma Jane Kirby in Geneva

An international conference on biological weapons has broken down after the United States suggested the meeting should be terminated.

The news came on the final day of three weeks of high level talks to discuss the effectiveness of the 1972 ban on producing and storing chemical and biological weapons.

The have fired a missile at the conference, we are deeply disappointed

European diplomat
The conference, which is based in Geneva, has now been suspended until November 2002.

Unlike other international arms pacts, the Biological Weapons Convention has no enforcement mechanism for checking whether its signatories are abiding by the rules.

For the past seven years the 144-nation group has been working on a document to try to strengthen the treaty - a document the US refused to sign in the summer, claiming it put national security at risk.

Europeans annoyed

Delegates say they are shocked by the latest US move to try to close down the working party.

We made substantial progress at this meeting in putting the issue of compliance with the convention at the front of people's attention

John Bolton
US Under-secretary of State
Ambassador Jean Lint who heads the European Union Delegation said tensions in the meeting were running high.

"We had a kind of agreement with the United States... to be informed of their proposals and that one took us totally by surprise and that was totally different from what the EU wants. So for us this was totally unacceptable," he said.

But the United States Under-secretary for Arms Control, John Bolton, claimed the US had foreshadowed their move for several weeks and accused other delegates of simply not listening.

In a bid to save the working party on the biological weapons convention, meetings have now been suspended until 11 November next year.

The BBC's Richard Lister
"The delegates have been very disheartened and angered by the actions of the United States"
United States undersecretary of state John Bolton
says the adjournment of the conference may ultimately be beneficial
See also:

18 Nov 01 | Americas
US accused over bio-weapons deal
25 Jul 01 | Americas
Q&A: Germ warfare
25 Jul 01 | Americas
Dismay over US germ warfare stance
03 Aug 01 | Europe
Germ warfare talks suspended
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