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Wednesday, 25 July 2001

24 July 2001


NEW YORK, 23 July (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan (delivered on his behalf by Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs) to the meeting in Geneva today of the Ad Hoc Group of the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention:

"The Biological Weapons Convention was a pioneering, multilateral treaty that, for the first time in history, banned an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. It is now more significant than ever. Under the Convention, 143 States have committed themselves not to develop, produce, or possess biological and toxic weapons. Many, recognizing the horrific dangers posed by such weapons, and the chilling possibility that they could be used in conflict, have reaffirmed their determination to oppose the proliferation of biological weapons and their technology. The world community remains convinced that the use of biological weapons would be, in the words of the preamble to the Convention, "repugnant to the conscience of mankind".

After 25 years without a system of formal verification, it is now widely believed that the Convention should be strengthened through an international instrument establishing measures to monitor its implementation and verify compliance. Strong commitment to the Convention led this ad hoc group to be established in 1994. Since then, you have made remarkable progress in negotiating a protocol aimed at bolstering the Convention’s effectiveness and improving its implementation. A verification regime would facilitate a State party’s compliance with the Convention and provide accountability among its parties.

Progress in reinforcing the international norm established by the Biological Weapons Convention has another tremendous advantage. It substantially improves the prospects for expanded international cooperation involving the peaceful uses of biological materials and technology and the exchange of scientific and technological information, which is a legal right of all parties to the Convention. 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.

Under the wise and skilful steering of your chairman, Ambassador Tibor Tóth, you have succeeded in overcoming divergent views to reach the current significant stage of negotiation. The wealth of material now on the table provides the foundation for a consensus that reflects everyone’s interests and concerns. All participants have displayed flexibility and a spirit of compromise. I am confident that the Ad Hoc Group will resolve its differences on outstanding issues as soon as possible before the Fifth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention meets in Geneva later this year.

This protocol, when endorsed by the world community, will significantly reduce the global threat of biological weapons. It will increase the value of the Biological Weapons Convention as an instrument of international peace and security –- a fundamental concern of the United Nations. The United Nations stands ready to provide all necessary assistance to facilitate these negotiations. I strongly encourage you to redouble your efforts to ensure that the negotiation process succeeds.

Please accept my best wishes for the success of the twenty-fourth session of the Ad Hoc Group.

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