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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Chemical Weapons Convention > Remarks > 2002

Executive Council Statement

Ambassador Donald A. Mahley
Remarks to the 28th Regular Session of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
The Hague, The Netherlands
March 19, 2002

As Delivered

Mr. Chairman, Colleagues:

We open this 28th session of the Executive Council under, in our view, unusually severe circumstances. The United States is seriously troubled that the very survival of the organization charged with overseeing implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention is at stake. We do not speak of these concerns, nor have we arrived at them, lightly. Our concerns for the functioning of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are shared by others -- by many other State Parties here today and by elements of the United States Government responsible for providing United States financial support for this organization.

There is always a tendency in international organizations to look at the long-range future as something that can remedy the ills that exist today. Such an attitude permits avoiding difficult decisions and deferring conflict. Unfortunately, it can also permit situations to deteriorate nearly to the point of unrecoverable difficulty. That is, unfortunately, the situation we face today. The United States, and, we believe, a number of the other states in the room today, have concluded that the health -- the viability -- of the OPCW faces a crisis that demands immediate correction. The current leadership of the Technical Secretariat is driving the Organization, and thereby the Convention, into collapse. It must be removed immediately. Despite the extraordinary nature of the remedy, there is no other option for the health of the Convention.

Let me at the outset be very clear about our motivations.

The United States has, both as a matter of national policy and international effort, foresworn chemical weapons as a matter of warfare. We signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. We are committed to its implementation and to a strong and viable Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Even before joining the OPCW, the United States began destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile. Destruction activities continue apace, and are, in the aftermath of the threat exemplified by the cowardly attacks on the United States and the civilized world of last September 11, accelerating. Let there be absolutely no misunderstanding of our intention with regard to chemical disarmament.

The United States has spent, to date, over $10 billion -- that is billion with a "b" -- on chemical disarmament. We are continuing to spend over $1 billion a year on chemical disarmament -- more than the rest of the world has ever spent on chemical weapons destruction. We have indeed contributed already over $250 million to the destruction of chemical weapons in the Russian Federation.

The United States has enacted domestic legislation requiring the elimination of our chemical weapons stockpiles, and making it illegal for any entity -- government or private -- to engage in production, development, or stockpiling of chemical weapons. In addition, knowingly supporting anyone else or any other country in the acquisition or development of chemical weapons is, in my country, a criminal offense.

The United States has supported the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons vigorously from its onset. The Director-General noted in his speech just minutes ago, that a few of us were here in 1997 when the OPCW came into existence -- I was. The initial draft of what became the Chemical Weapons Convention was presented to the Conference on Disarmament in 1984 by then Vice President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. The United States has provided expertise and leadership to the negotiations of the Convention, to the resolution of issues in the PrepCom, and to the Organization since the day it came into active existence.

So let there be no question or doubt that the United States is serious about the subject of chemical disarmament and nonproliferation of chemical weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction.

The United States also has contributed more to the operation of the OPCW than any other country -- both in our regular budget assessments, and in agreeing to the provisions of the Convention requiring possessor states alone to bear the cost of verifying the destruction of their chemical stocks and chemical weapons facilities. The United States has been a stalwart supporter of this international effort to abolish chemical weapons.

Global chemical weapons disarmament must succeed. That is why we are gathered here today. As last September demonstrated, nations are an easy target for terrorists who seek, both on their own and through the cooperation of some states, that very chemical-biological mass destruction capability that we have foresworn. We encourage and applaud the efforts of State Parties to the CWC to coordinate and multiply their actions to thwart terrorist access to and use of chemical weapons. The CWC is one of the key elements in the disarmament component of the struggle.

To implement all of this, an effective Technical Secretariat is essential. That requires leadership that is focused on the goal of chemical disarmament and chemical weapons nonproliferation. The Technical Secretariat must command the respect of all the member states to engender the cooperation essential to the Organization's success. Under the present Director-General, the Technical Secretariat lacks that requisite support and cooperation.

Other countries have repeatedly said they look to the United States for leadership in the area of chemical disarmament. The United States has provided that leadership by example. Now we find ourselves required to provide a different kind of leadership -- one that is crucially necessary for pursuing the goals of this Convention successfully. The task before us is daunting. It requires new leadership at the top of the Technical Secretariat.

The United States, and, according to our consultations, other State Parties, have been troubled by the direction which Director-General Bustani has taken the OPCW through ongoing financial mismanagement, demoralization of the Technical Secretariat staff, and ill-considered initiatives. The Technical Secretariat faces a ballooning range of responsibilities as more and more parties increase their level of CWC-related activity. It is precisely the fundamental priorities of the Convention, the destruction of existing chemical weapons stocks and ensuring among States Parties that the capability to build new ones does not proliferate, that the current Director-General is denigrating as he seeks to divert the Convention into new channels even during a time of financial crisis. Allowing this kind of misdirection to continue, in the view of many of us, will quickly put the Organization in an unrecoverable deficit, both in finances and in capability.

It is clear that our current Director-General has lost his mandate by losing the confidence of a critical mass of States Parties. This is a pivotal time for the treaty and its implementation. This Executive Council can play an important role to help assure no further damage is done to the Organization or to the Technical Secretariat staff. It is the appropriate place to express, by means of our responsibility for overseeing the activities of the Secretariat, and our clear vision of a need for change.

To advance the possibility of realizing chemical disarmament on a global scale under the auspices of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States therefore asks the current Director-General of the Technical Secretariat to resign immediately for the good of the Organization. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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