Keeping the US honest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 12:00am

The United States may think it is the world's policeman, but recent decisions taken at an international level reveal it is flying in the face of popular opinion. Globally important issues like climate control have for too long been at its mercy and its latest misdemeanour highlights the dilemma the international community faces.

At the last minute on Friday night, the American delegation pulled out of a 144-nation gathering in Geneva to rework the 29-year-old Biological Weapons Convention. The meeting had been aiming to strengthen the treaty's wording on a global ban on germ warfare, but the US said recent anthrax attacks on its soil had meant more assessment time was needed. Proceedings were suspended for a year.

Negotiations had been effectively suspended since last summer when the US pulled out of talks on a 210-page draft protocol, saying the inspection system would not work. It said the deal would force the US to expose its secrets to enemies and rivals.

The US Government accuses Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and Sudan of violating the treaty and proposes wording saying they should 'terminate their offensive biological weapons programmes and comply fully with their obligations'.

The result is that the US is again dictating terms to the rest of the world, which cannot go ahead without American participation on such an important matter.

That a three-week meeting of such a nature can be affected in such a manner is regrettable. That the US can be so disruptive for its own ends is of a graver nature.

Washington used the same tactics with the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions. The US, the world's biggest single offender in this matter, said it could not comply with the demands set by other nations and pulled out of negotiations, leaving the other participating countries in a bind.

A disturbing trend is developing. Such treaties need US participation and Washington must not hold other nations to ransom for its own selfish reasons. Global interests must come first.