Head of chemical weapons regulatory body ousted

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The United States successfully rallied nations of the world's chemical weapons regulatory body on Monday to oust the Brazilian head of the agency over allegations of mismanagement

In a poll that needed a two-thirds majority, the U.S. proposal to oust Director General Jose Mauricio Bustani got 48 votes in favor and only seven against.

Washington opened a public campaign against Bustani two months ago with charges of mismanagement.

te Colin Powell praised Bustani's leadership in a personal letter.

Australian Deputy Director General John Gee will serve as acting head until a replacement has been named. The organization has 145 member countries, but not all attended the special conference or were eligible to vote.

U.S. officials had said they were confident of gaining enough support to have Bustani ousted, accusing him of mismanagement that undermined the body's credibility.

"The organization, frankly, has a lot of work in front of it now and we have an opportunity to get a fresh start on that ... for that we are grateful. We are sorry it had to end this way," said U.S. Ambassador Donald Mahley.

Mahley declined to give details about Bustani's alleged wrongdoing, saying: "Trying to get into specific details of that will only get us into a business of trivia and the past."

The United States had threatened to cut off financial support to the organization if Bustani were to remain in power. Without U.S. funding, representing 22 percent of an annual budget of $60 million, the organization could face closure.

"It is a major blow to multilateralism," said Hadi Farajvand of Iran, one of the seven countries that backed Bustani. "What we lost during this process was the confidence in the independence of the director-general."

The State Department has accused Bustani of threatening inspections in five unspecified countries "for political ends" but declined to give details.

In a statement, it also said Bustani had a "habit of refusing to consult" with member states, such as when he proposed anti-terrorism measures after the Sept. 11 attacks without first approaching the United States.

OPCW officials have countered that Bustani doesn't have the power to order inspections and that his anti-terrorism proposals were a responsible action.

Brazil's delegation, headed by Ambassador Luiz Augusto De Araujo, called the U.S. move illegal and said it would harm efforts to rid the world of chemical weapons.

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