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Annan urges agreement on protocol to strengthen treaty banning bio-weapons

Annan urges agreement on protocol to strengthen treaty banning bio-weapons

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today encouraged negotiators to reach agreement on a protocol that would bolster the international treaty banning biological weapons.

"After 25 years without a system of formal verification, it is now widely believed that the [Biological Weapons] Convention should be strengthened through an international instrument establishing measures to monitor its implementation and verify compliance," Mr. Annan said in a message to negotiators currently holding talks in Geneva on the proposed protocol.

Mr. Annan pointed out that since talks began in 1994, "remarkable progress" has been made. "The wealth of material now on the table provides the foundation for a consensus that reflects everyone's interests and concerns."

The Secretary-General further noted that progress on the protocol will carry advantages beyond the control of biological weapons - by substantially improving the prospects for expanded international cooperation involving the peaceful uses of biological materials and technology. "It offers the prospect of opening a major new global market, while lessening the risk that the pursuit of profits for some will destroy the hopes of peace for all."

Mr. Annan's message to the twenty-fourth session of the Ad Hoc Group of States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention, which began its four-week session on Monday, was delivered on his behalf by the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala.

The Group is mandated to complete negotiations on the protocol "as soon as possible" before the Convention's next Review Conference, which is scheduled to take place from 19 November to 7 December.

The Biological Weapons Convention was the first treaty in history to ban an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. It opened for signature on 10 April 1972 and came into force on 26 March 1975, after 22 governments had ratified it. Currently, under the treaty, 143 States have committed themselves not to develop, produce or possess biological and toxic weapons.