US weapons secrets exposed

Respected scientists on both sides of the Atlantic warned yesterday that the US is developing a new generation of weapons that undermine and possibly violate international treaties on biological and chemical warfare.

The scientists, specialists in bio-warfare and chemical weapons, say the Pentagon, with the help of the British military, is also working on “non-lethal” weapons similar to the narcotic gas used by Russian forces to end last week’s siege in Moscow. ..

They also point to the paradox of the US developing such weapons at a time when it is proposing military action against Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein is breaking international treaties.

Malcolm Dando, professor of international security at the University of Bradford, and Mark Wheelis, a lecturer in microbiology at the University of California, say that the US is encouraging a breakdown in arms control by its research into biological cluster bombs, anthrax and non-lethal weapons for use against hostile crowds, and by the secrecy under which these programmes are being conducted.

“There can be disagreement over whether what the United States is doing represents violations of treaties,” Mr Wheelis told the Guardian. “But what is happening is at least so close to the borderline as to be destabilising.”

In a paper to be published soon in the scientific journal Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the two academics focus on recent US actions that have served to undermine the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. In a move that stunned the international community last July, the US blocked an attempt to give the convention some teeth with inspections, so that member countries could check if others were keeping the agreement.

Mr Dando believes Washington’s motive for torpedoing the deal, which had the support of its allies, was to maintain secrecy over US research work on biological weapons.

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