UN Chemical Arms Chief Ousted in U.S. - Led Vote

New York Times, April 22, 2002

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The head of a global chemical weapons control body was ousted on Monday by a United States-sponsored vote provoked by a rift over his diplomatic overtures to secure Iraq's compliance on arms inspection.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which has 145 member states, voted to remove Brazilian Director General Jose Bustani at a crisis meeting after the U.S. forced a vote challenging his leadership, the second such ballot in as many months.

Bustani had urged Iraq to join the OPCW but Washington accused him of ``ill-considered initiatives'' and criticized his management. The resulting showdown ended with a U.S. victory over the leadership of a key international body.

Washington has signaled it wants to get rid of President Saddam Hussein's government in Baghdad, but could find it difficult to win backing for military action if Iraq agreed to join the OPCW and admit arms inspectors, analysts say.

The U.S. drive to oust Bustani is its second such campaign -- last week it secured the removal of Robert Watson as chairman of a United Nations climate control body. Watson had advocated a shift away from fossil fuels.

Domestic and foreign critics say the campaigns are evidence of mounting U.S. unilateralism under Republican President Bush on key international issues ranging from human rights to the environment.

``The conference of the states parties has supported the proposal calling for immediate dismissal of the director general,'' OPCW spokesman Peter Kaiser said after a late night vote at the organization's headquarters in The Hague.


Britain, Germany, Japan and Italy -- which along with the U.S. contribute the lion's share of the OPCW's $55 million annual budget -- had indicated support for the U.S. move earlier this month.

State Department spokeswoman Eliza Koch said Washington welcomed the Bustani's ousting and said it will work with other concerned member states to return OPCW to a sound footing.

``This decision is an essential first step in restoring stability and sound management to this very important organization,'' Koch said.

The U.S. proposal to oust Bustani, who served as Brazil's ambassador to Moscow, Vienna and the United Nations, secured 48 votes, while 43 countries abstained and six of the 115 members at the meeting opposed it. Not all countries voted.

Delegates were set to discuss plans to select Bustani's successor on Tuesday. Observers said it could take weeks to choose a replacement. Mexico and Argentina have been floated as potential candidate countries to take over the post.

Bustani, who was unanimously re-elected for a second four-year term last May, had accused Washington of riding roughshod over the independence of a global organization to secure its national interests.

``The choices that you make during this session...will determine whether genuine multilateralism will survive or whether it will be replaced by unilateralism in a multilateral disguise,'' Bustani told delegates in a speech on Sunday.

Brazil said it regretted the removal of Bustani who would be reincorporated to the country's diplomatic service, from which he was on leave of absence, if he so desired.

Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso ``regrets the decision that was taken and reiterates that Brazil always expressed confidence in Ambassador Bustani,'' Cardoso's spokesman told a news conference.


The United States has voiced doubts that United Nations inspections in Iraq for chemical, biological and nuclear arms would reassure people that Saddam Hussein was not stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. The OPCW works closely with the United Nations.

``It would have to be an enormously intrusive inspection regime that could give the rest of the world reasonable confidence that in fact Saddam Hussein was not doing that which everyone knows he has been trying to do,'' Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier this month.

U.S. officials said that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz earlier this year asked the Central Intelligence Agency to report on two international watchdogs involved in arms control inspections.

One of the bodies, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in charge of verifying that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction, is headed by Swedish diplomat Hans Blix. A U.S. official denied a press report last week that Wolfowitz had asked the CIA to investigate Blix's performance.

Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed earlier this month to tackle Saddam Hussein over the threat they say he poses with weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq was subjected to U.N. arms inspections after the 1991 Gulf War ended its occupation of Kuwait, but the inspectors left in 1998. The United States and its allies say Baghdad has since pursued chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.

The OPCW special session was the first in the body's five-year history. The OPCW is a product of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. Member states must provide data on their chemical weapons programs and are subject to challenges and inspections from other members.

Bustani, 59, told a Brazilian newspaper on April 9 it was ''very probable'' he would not survive the meeting because of U.S. influence but he was determined not to resign.