PROLIFERATION: The US and ten other countries have agreed to improve cooperation to halt the spread of nuclear and biological weapons
Saturday, Sep 06, 2003, Page 6
Representatives of 11 countries including the US Thursday pledged tougher measures to try to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their trade, including a series of joint interdiction training exercises.
"The increasingly aggressive efforts by proliferators to stand outside or to circumvent existing non-proliferation norms and to profit from such trade requires new and stronger actions by the international community," a statement issued at the end of the meeting of weapons experts said.
The statement said the 11 members of the Proliferation Security Initiative were "deeply concerned about this threat and the danger that these items could fall into the hands of terrorists."
The aim is to halt the air and sea transfer of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, their components and the missiles to carry them by using existing laws and international treaties.
The final declaration of their two-day informal meeting -- which follows up on similar gatherings held in Madrid in June and in Brisbane, Australia in July -- set out a series of political, judicial, technical and operational measures that included greater cooperation between states.
Top US arms negotiator John Bolton also announced that a series of joint air, sea and land training exercises would begin in Australia next year.
"PSI participants have agreed on a series of 10 sea, air, and ground interdiction training exercises that will take place beginning next week and carry into 2004," the US undersecretary of state told a news conference.
"The first interdiction training exercise, for maritime interdiction, is being organized by Australia and will take place September 13 to 14 in the Coral Sea."
The final declaration said existing PSI members were committed to working together, and that greater sharing of information between the nations was one of the practical measures called for to improve operations to seize weapons of mass destruction.
On a practical level, experts would seek to make life more difficult for ships with suspicious cargo by getting permission from coastal states and countries that issue so-called "flags of convenience" to authorize at-sea interceptions.
The main targets are what Washington calls "rogue states", with Iran, Libya and North Korea leading the most-wanted list.
So far, the PSI group comprises Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the US.