17 October 1997


(Director Bustani discusses future challenges ) (980)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Six months after entering into force the Chemical
Weapons Convention "has shown that a multilateral disarmament
agreement can, and in fact is, working," the new director-general of
the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has
told the General Assembly.

Jose Mauricio Bustani, OPCW director-general, said that in the six
months since the treaty went into force a clearer picture is already
emerging about the quantity and locations of chemical weapons
activities, past and present, with seven states declaring to either
possess or have the ability to produce chemical weapons.

In its initial projections, the Hague-based OPCW had assumed that only
three states -- Russia, the United States, and one other would declare
possession of chemical weapons, Bustani noted. Actually seven states
already have declared possession of or the capability to produce
chemical weapons, not including Russia which has not yet ratified the

Bustani was making his first appearance as OPCW head at U.N.
headquarters October 16 and 17, addressing the assembly's First
Committee (Disarmament and International Security), meeting with
Secretary General Kofi Annan, and talking with journalists.

Bustani and others have faced unprecedented challenges as OPCW was
being set up. No other agency of its kind had been given so wide a
mandate, he said.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, which went into effect on April 29,
1997, has broken new ground in the history of arms control. It is the
first multilateral treaty to be simultaneously comprehensive,
non-discriminatory and verifiable, Bustani pointed out.

It aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction
within specific pre-determined timeframes. All parties to the
convention, without exception, relinquish the right to engage in any
chemical weapons related activity.

The convention provides for on-site inspections, including
short-notice challenge inspections to clarify and resolve any
questions concerning possible non-compliance.

Currently 100 states have ratified the convention and another 67 have
signed. In terms of members the Chemical Weapons Convention is second
only to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Four of the five
permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are states parties and
the convention "captures the overwhelming majority of the world's
chemical industry," Bustani pointed out.

The new director-general said his foremost priority is to facilitate
Russia's ratification. Russia, the fifth permanent member of the
Security Council, is the largest declared possessor of chemical
weapons and has one of the largest chemical industries.

Russia's ratification would have a dramatic impact on the prospects
for the convention's ultimate success, Bustani said. It would pave the
way for ratifications by other countries in the region awaiting a
political signal from Moscow.

"The presence of the Russian Federation is essential if the convention
is to fulfill its aim of eliminating chemical weapons in a
comprehensive manner," Bustani said, given Russia's possession of
40,000 tons of chemical weapons.

The Duma's vote, he said, will be the "litmus test of whether Russia
intends to live up to its leadership role on international security
and disarmament issues or whether it will choose what is, in my view,
the dangerous path of isolationism."

To be able to take advantage of the training opportunities that OPCW
is providing, obtain OPCW secretariat posts, and vote on issues during
the December conference of states parties, Russia must deposit its
instrument of ratification no later than October 31, he added.

Bustani said that given the political will demonstrated by the Russian
authorities to join the convention and the willingness of other states
to assist Russia financially, he is optimistic that the Duma will vote
to ratify the convention.

The United States and several European countries have offered to help
Russia with the destruction of its chemical weapons.

The first OPCW inspection was launched on June 4, 1997 -- just over a
month after the convention entered into force -- at a U.S. facility
which had been in the process of destroying stockpiles at the time the
treaty entered into force.

So far OPCW has conducted 80 initial inspections and visits in 17
countries and is monitoring the destruction of chemical weapons at
three sites in the United States, Bustani said. OPCW has also been
receiving notification of transfers of toxic chemicals listed in the
convention for tracking.

He said his agency expects to complete 100 inspections by the end of
the year.

One of OPCW's main challenges, Bustani said, will be to "develop a
culture of transparency" that balances the need for confidentiality
for the chemical industry with the need to be as open and transparent
as possibility about military activities.

"Our mandate is to protect confidential information, not to perpetuate
secrecy," he said.

Bustani said that he has "urged all states parties to strive to
overcome their traditional reluctance to be open, not only to the OPCW
but also to the outside world about chemical weapons related matters."

"If we are to have any credibility as a body capable of overseeing the
elimination of chemical weapons, we must be able to provide
information on the organization's activities, and the progress being
made in identifying and destroying chemical weapons stockpiles and
programs," he said.

Highlighting what he called the "courageous decisions" of 45 states
parties who agreed to the release of general information about their
declarations, Bustani said that "only through personal example and
truly global action will the convention be able to achieve its
ultimate goal of complete universality.