September 23, 1998

THE HONORABLE JOHN D. HOLUM, UNDER SECRETARY
OF STATE FOR ARMS CONTROL AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS
AND DIRECTOR, U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY

Statement in the Informal Ministerial Meeting on the
Negotiation Towards Conclusion of the Protocol to Strengthen
the Biological Weapons Convention, United Nations, New York

We would like to express our gratitude to Australia for convening this meeting and to New Zealand for chairing it.

I would like to express the regret of Secretary Albright who was unable to attend this meeting. This endeavor is a leading priority of hers, and indeed of President Clinton, who has focused on the issue repeatedly in his public remarks, his international discussions, and his instructions to his subordinates.

The Secretary of State intended to be present, but has had meetings added to her schedule at the last minute related to the Middle East peace process.

We have a critical task before us: working to end the possibility that any nation can prepare or use agents of disease as instruments of terror and war. We are here to review our commitment to complete a protocol on compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention and having it ready for signature in time for our next five-year review in 2001.

Since the negotiations began in 1995, too little progress has been made. After four years, 1999 must be the year we complete the negotiation of a compliance protocol. Our delegation must pursue their work in Geneva with seriousness and intensity. In particular, they must have enough working time next year to develop a protocol that is substantive and effective. And they must bring to the table enough flexibility to narrow differences and achieve results.

A successful protocol will make declarations on holdings of biological agents mandatory. It must require challenge inspections, non-challenge visits and voluntary visits. The procedures will have to be practical and cost-efficient, and take into account legitimate national security concerns, the need to protect proprietary information, and relevant laws and regulations.

In Moscow earlier this month, President Clinton said of the Protocol, "I don't believe it's possible to overstate the importance of this initiative for the next twenty years." The threat we face is simply too serious for us to fail in our task. I pledge the United States' best efforts to see that we succeed - and solicit all of yours.