A significant step in restarting the troubled efforts to strengthen the international treaty banning biological weapons took place in Geneva last week when the States Parties that are signatories to the convention met, 2 years after the acrimonious collapse of the last meeting.

The breakdown in the process in 2001 was largely due to the Bush administration's decision that what was proposed did not satisfy US national interests. The United States believed that changes to the convention planned at that time would threaten its own national security and commercial interests, without effectively deterring states wishing to develop bioweapons.

A preparatory meeting of experts in August 2003 tentatively restarted the stalled process. The full meeting of the States Parties last week was intended to review the results of that experts' meeting and to agree on a statement about the way forward.

“They reached agreement,” Richard Lennane, political affairs officer at the...

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