An international conference in Geneva to enforce a ban on biological weapons has collapsed under pressure from the United States.
The three-week conference ended in disarray on Friday night after Washington demanded the winding up of a committee charged with negotiating an end to the use of such weapons.
The conference, convened to find ways of implementing the 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, agreed to suspend work until November 2002 in response to the US move.
The Indian ambassador, Rakesh Sood, said delegates from the other 143 nations attending the meeting in Geneva were shocked by Washington's attitude. "It left everybody shocked and stunned... they described it as unacceptable."
Correspondents said hopes had been high that an accord might be reached in the wake of the anthrax attacks in the US.
Washington's principle objection concerned a proposal, which would have compelled countries to submit to inspections.
All the other member states have given the proposal their backing, as it would have given the convention the verification mechanism it lacked.
The US claims the system would have been ineffective and could have exposed American secrets to potential enemies or rivals.
Instead the US proposed using the technique of naming and shaming to bring violators into line with the treaty.
But a Swiss diplomat told swissinfo that more binding measures were needed. "The Swiss position has always been that legally-binding multilateral instruments are still the best way to enforce a convention like this," the diplomat said.
"Unilateral measures, political commitments and promises are not enough. Countries have to be tied down by legal obligations."
swissinfo with agencies
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