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U.S.: Cuba sharing bioweapons technology

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A State Department official demanded Monday that Cuba stop sharing biological weapons technology with nations unfriendly to the United States and singled out Libya and Syria as being intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

"Cuba has provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states. We are concerned that such technology could support BW [biological warfare] programs in those states," said John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, in an advance copy of a speech that CNN obtained.

"We call on Cuba to cease all BW-applicable cooperation with rogue states and to fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention," Bolton told the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based, conservative think tank.

"Beyond the axis of evil, there are other rogue states intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction -- particularly biological weapons," he said.

In his January State of the Union address, President Bush referred to Iraq, Iran and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" -- countries he said were supporting terrorism.

Cuba, Libya and Syria are pursuing or have the potential to pursue weapons of mass destruction in violation of treaty obligations, Bolton warned.

Libya, he said, has been pursuing nuclear weapons since the United Nations suspended sanctions against it in 1999, allowing it to increase its access to dual-use nuclear technologies.

"Although Libya would need significant foreign assistance to acquire a nuclear weapon, Tripoli's nuclear infrastructure enhancement remains of concern," Bolton added.

In addition, Libya -- which is not a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, a global treaty that bans chemical weapons -- is trying to re-establish its chemical weapons capability, Bolton said. The nation has renewed contacts with illicit foreign sources of expertise, parts and chemicals in the Middle East, Asia and Western Europe, he said.

Libya has said it intends to join the treaty, which would require it to declare and destroy all chemical weapons production facilities and stockpiles, and prohibit it from exporting certain chemicals to countries that have not signed the pact.

Such a move could be positive, Bolton said, but he noted that although Libya joined the Biological Weapons Convention in 1982, the United States suspects the North African country has continued its biological warfare program.

Libya, which, along with Cuba, is among seven countries on the State Department's list of terror sponsors, also is continuing efforts to obtain ballistic missile-related equipment, materials, technology and expertise from foreign sources, Bolton said.

Syria has long had a chemical-warfare program, has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin and is engaged in research and development of the more toxic and persistent nerve agent VX, Bolton said.

"We are concerned about Syrian advances in its indigenous CW [chemical warfare] infrastructure, which would significantly increase the independence of its CW program," Bolton said.

"We think that Syria has a variety of aerial bombs and SCUD warheads, which are potential means of delivery of deadly agents capable of striking neighboring countries," he added.

North Korean and Russian entities have been involved in aiding Syria's ballistic missile development, Bolton said. All of Syria's missiles are mobile and can reach much of Israel, Jordan, and Turkey from launch sites within the country, he said.

Syria also is pursuing the development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents, he said.

Cuba not only has a role in spreading weapons technology but is a longtime human rights violator and has provided a safe haven for terrorists, Bolton said.

Cuba's role in threatening U.S. security has been underplayed, Bolton contended.

An official U.S. government report in 1998 concluded that Cuba did not represent a significant military threat to the United States or the region. However, in 1998, Defense Secretary William Cohen expressed serious concerns about Cuba's intelligence activities against the United States.

According to Bolton, Cuba has had a well-developed and sophisticated biomedical industry for 40 years, supported until 1990 by the Soviet Union.

He said the industry is one of the most advanced in Latin America and leads in the production of pharmaceuticals and vaccines that are sold worldwide. Analysts and Cuban defectors have long cast suspicion on the activities conducted in these biomedical facilities, Bolton said.




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