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Brazil Defends Chemical Arms Chief

March 20, 2002

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) _ The government on Wednesday rejected a U.S. call for the resignation of the Brazilian head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The statement came a day after State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the 145-nation organization, led by Jose Bustani, ``is beset by a number of problems that have resulted in a loss of confidence in the current director.″

The Brazilian foreign ministry disputed Boucher’s charge, saying the government ``considers that he has conducted himself with a sense of responsibility and correctness.″

Brazil’s permanent representative to the organization, Affonso Emilio de Alencastro Massot, also spoke in defense of Bustani, saying Brasilia ``does not share the view that Mr. Bustani’s tenure was flawed by a poor managerial performance.″

He said Bustani ``has done a remarkable job until now,″ citing the organization’s growth from 87 founding members in 1997 to 145 members today.

Boucher cited problems that include ``financial mismanagement, demoralization of the technical secretariat staff and what many believe are ill-considered initiatives.″

He declined to give an example of any of the initiatives.

``The United States and other nations don’t believe the organization can continue to fulfill its primary mission of eliminating chemical weapons under its current leadership,″ Boucher said. ``We and others have urged the director-general to resign.″

He said the U.S. demand was unrelated to the organization’s performance in Iraq.

The organization’s governing council is expected to take up the issue next week at a meeting in The Hague, Netherlands.

Boucher said the United States had no candidate in mind to replace Bustani.

The organization was created to verify a 1997 treaty that bans chemical weapons. The United States pays about 22 percent of the organization’s annual budget of about $60 million a year. It employs 500 people.

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