Press Release

US still suspected of Biological Weapons Use

After three days of intense deliberations at the UN in Geneva the US is still under allegations to have used biological weapons against Cuba in October 1996. Cuba and US had moved to bilateral consultations on Tuesday and Wednesday, which were facilitated by Ambassador Ian Soutar of the United Kingdom and six vice chairmen. Late Wednesday afternoon a "Report of the Formal Consultative Meeting of States Parties" to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) was presented. The report states that "a number of States Parties (...) considered that in the time available the meeting had not fully been able to resolve all matters considered ambiguous or unresolved".

The participants agreed to charge Soutar and his office with a thorough investigation of the incident. All states were asked to provide the commission "a submission containing their observation, including from national technical experts" by 27 September. The Chairman will then provide a report on the incident by the end of the year.

The investigation may have substantial implications for the BTWC. It is the first time that a state is officially accused of having used biological weapons against another country. The allegations attracted wide attention: 84 states participated in the meeting, as many as never before at a BTWC meeting. A verification protocol for the BTWC is currently under negotiation in Geneva. "The agreement on an independent investigation is somewhat of a surprise but also a big opportunity: The participants can prove that they are really interested in a strengthened Convention", says Oliver Meier, Senior Analyst at the Berlin Information-center for Transatlantic Security (BITS).

Even though the US government had argued that it had provided sufficient proof that the Cuban allegations are unfounded, they finally agreed to the investigation. Ambassador Soutar and his office is now faced with a difficult task. Within the coming four months they have to come up with a judgment whether the Cuban allegations true or not. Cuba will then decide whether it wants to keep up its allegations.

For further information, a copy of the documents provided by the government of Cuba, or the final report please call
Otfried Nassauer or Oliver Meier (BITS, Berlin) +49 (0)30 4426042
BITS is an independent research institute monitoring security issues.