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From ensubscribers-owner@monde-diplomatique.fr Wed Jul 10 12:00:08 2002
From: Le Monde diplomatique <english@monde-diplomatique.fr>
To: Le Monde diplomatique <english@monde-diplomatique.fr>
Subject: A chemical coup
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 15:10:21 +0200 (CEST)
Precedence: list

US forces resignations at agencies

By Any Bourrier, Le Monde diplomatique, July 2002

The United States forced the removal of José Maurício Bustani, director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) following a two-month power struggle this year (1). Bustani, from Brazil, is a career diplomat who served as a negotiator at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. He had headed the OPCW since 1997 and was re-elected unanimously last year by the organisation's 145 member-states. His departure came after US accusations of disastrous management and lack of transparency, responsibility and judgment. The US also blamed him for the organisation's financial crisis while condemning its capricious and arbitrary practices.

Bustani's fall is the result of Washington's desire to take control of the OPCW while it seeks a policy of confrontation with respect to Saddam Hussein. Bustani's mistake was to attempt to persuade Baghdad to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). As soon as he took office, Bustani began lobbying Iraq, Libya, Syria and North Korea to join the OPCW. Bustani believed that if Iraq became a member, it would then be subject to the organisation's regular inspections of chemical plants already happening in nearly 50 countries. Since the CWC also requires its signatories to destroy their stocks of chemical weapons, Iraq's arsenal could have been neutralised under the auspices of the OPCW.

But the Republican administration of President George W Bush refused to accept closer ties with Iraq since Iraqi membership in the OPCW would deprive Washington of a compelling reason to launch a military strike against Saddam Hussein. In this way Bustani sought to protect OPCW members from the dictates of the more powerful nations. This independence, together with his efforts to have OPCW teams inspect US chemical plants, infuriated the Bush administration.

Bustani also launched an international cooperation programme aimed at poor countries that have not signed the CWC because their chemical industries are non-existent. The programme provides 12 scholarships every year to allow third-world engineers to receive training at United Kingdom universities, thereby laying the foundations for chemical industries in their home countries.

Even though the US helped draft the CWC's preliminary version, Congress dragged its feet for over three years before ratifying the treaty. President Bill Clinton put his prestige on the line to win the support of his implacable foe, Jesse Helms, the powerful chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee. Failure to ratify the treaty would have seriously hampered the US's diplomatic efforts. The US finally signed the CWC on 24 April 1997, joining 74 member-states. Still, Washington remained firmly opposed to foreign inspections of US chemical facilities

I ran into difficulties right from the start, said Bustani in The Hague. The Americans would not permit OPCW inspections within the US. Time and again our inspectors were refused entry to the chemical plants. So it was impossible to determine if these sites were producing chemicals for peaceful purposes. The main obstacle was analysing samples of chemicals. Since it was virtually impossible to perform these tests outside the US labs, there was no way to guarantee tamper-free results. Nor would the US agree to give notice of challenge inspections. Every time another inspection came up they tried to change the rules of the game.

A lack of good will

Even though Washington viewed them as potential spies, the OPCW inspectors demanded that the US abide by the terms of treaty, adding to US annoyance. Bustani says: Although I sensed a certain lack of good will during the Clinton years, we were able to perform our duties. The real problems began in early 2001, just weeks after the Republicans moved into the White House.

Bush nominated John Bolton as Under-Secretary of State for arms control and international security. Bolton, a conservative and former adviser to President Ronald Reagan and the Heritage Foundation (the Washington-based right-wing think tank), has never concealed his hostility to US participation in multilateral organisations, particularly the UN. Ian Williams wrote that assigning Bolton responsibility for disarmament issues was like letting a pyromaniac run a fireworks stand. His hard-line positions during negotiations with Russia on nuclear weapons controls and his enthusiastic support for the Star Wars missile defence programme were further proof of his inflexibility (2).

Bolton immediately contacted Bustani and urged him to resign. Bolton called me up and tried to order me around, Bustani confirms. He wanted me to overlook the results of certain inspections in the US. He also demanded that I appoint certain UN representatives to various OPCW positions to give them more power. During the seven years I headed the OPCW I sometimes felt pressure from member-states such as Germany. But I held my ground. And I didn't make any concessions to Bolton.

According to Bustani, Bolton arrived in The Hague this past March bearing a message: Washington demands that you resign tomorrow before the meeting of the executive council. You are to leave the Netherlands immediately. When Bustani asked for an explanation, Bolton was scathing: We don't like your management style. As part of its crusade, the US enlisted the services of tiny Kiribati, a south Pacific country comprising thousands of islands scattered over almost 1,000 sq km. (Kiribati's annual per capita income of $850 comes from exports of bananas, coconuts and sweet potatoes.) The US asked Kiribati, which had ratified the CWC but never paid its membership dues, to lead the attack on Bustani. At the special session called by the US, Kiribati's representative began by settling his country's outstanding debt; he then voted against the director general and applauded when Bustani lost.

Bustani's is the first in a series of departures at other multilateral agencies. The rules of such organisations stipulate that the directors are not even allowed to resign. This gives them the independence and freedom they need to fulfil their duties. They should never feel under threat, nor should they have to kowtow to the member states, no matter how dominant such countries may be. Directors are only supposed to lose their jobs when new elections are held, says Bustani.

The US launched what The Guardian called a chemical coup (3). Until a new director is chosen, Australia's John Gee, the former deputy director-general, will take on Bustani's duties. According to Ian Williams, other leaders of international organisations are also on the White House's hit list: these figures include Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for human rights, who has already announced her departure; Hans Blix, executive chairman of the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission; Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN envoy who took part in the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations in Oslo; and Peter Hansen, director-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Williams even invokes the name of Kofi Annan, whose recent efforts to contain Ariel Sharon have created resentment in some circles. I wouldn't be surprised, says Williams, if the US administration launched a campaign to force out the UN secretary general.

(1) The US-led anti-Bustani motion passed on a vote of 48 to 7, with 43 countries abstaining (including France). This exceeded the two-thirds-majority requirement.

(2) The US Hit List at the United Nations, Foreign Policy in Focus, Silver City-Washington, 30 April 2002.

(3) 16 April 2002.