Chemical arms inspection unit fails to keep up

Director blames nations for not paying their dues

October 05, 2001|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The director of the 143-nation group overseeing the elimination of chemical weapons has warned that it lacks the financial means it needs.

The group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has managed to make less than half the inspections scheduled for this year - of chemical weapons stocks and of chemical factories - because the United States and several other countries have been late in paying their dues, the group's director general, Jose M. Bustani, said in an interview.

Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, also said that in case of an attack by terrorists, he lacks the money to provide "a credible response team" of experts and equipment to cope with its aftermath.

The organization is charged with verifying a 1997 treaty that bans chemical weapons. Among its 500 employees are more than 200 inspectors, including experts in nerve gases and industrial chemicals that can be used for other-than-peaceful purposes.

Officials say the group has been chronically underfinanced from the start.

Last week, at the first meeting of the group's executive council since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Bustani described "a looming real threat" of chemical terrorism. "Yet the time for waiting is over," he told the council. "What might have seemed appropriate and sufficient only a few months ago is simply inadequate in this new reality."

In the interview, Bustani said the group is not in a position to produce any meaningful response on short notice in case of an attack using chemical weapons.

But even the organization's normal tasks are in jeopardy, Bustani said. Because of the shortage of money, he went on, only 42 of the 98 military inspections planned for this year have been performed.

"And military inspections are a priority," he said.

At issue are the chemical weapons owned by the United States, Russia, India and South Korea.

As for the chemical industry, Bustani said, "We had planned 132 industry inspections this year, but we've carried out only 61 and we have no money to proceed."

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