Interpol forum in France tackles bio-terrorism

1st March 2005, Comments 0 comments

LYON, France, March 1 (AFP) - Police chiefs gathered at an Interpol conference were urged here Tuesday to battle harder against the menace of an attack with biological agents, feared to be the weapon of the future for terrorists.

LYON, France, March 1 (AFP) - Police chiefs gathered at an Interpol conference were urged here Tuesday to battle harder against the menace of an attack with biological agents, feared to be the weapon of the future for terrorists.

The international community must "redouble its efforts" against the bio-terrorist threat, French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin told more than 400 delegates from at least 120 countries at the Interpol headquarters in Lyon.

Stronger measures were required "not only because it brings to bear especially odious risks on our societies, but because it could be the step in the evolution of terrorism," he said.

"We know today that certain terrorist groups have tried to obtain chemical or biological agents. The threat should therefore be taken seriously."

Villepin suggested improving international cooperation in the struggle, notably by creating a common database.

He called for efforts to improve the security of category "P3" and "P4" laboratories working with potentially dangerous germs or biological agents, as well as the creation of an international monitoring and coordination centre.

For Europe, Villepin proposed a "European reaction plan against a biological attack" and a European Union update on reserves of vaccines so that each country can know the nearest country to turn to in case of emergency.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble, who opened the two-day conference, said the risks were unparalleled.

"There is no criminal threat with greater potential danger to all countries, regions and people in the world than the threat of bio-terrorism," he said.

"And there is no crime area where the police generally have as little training than in preventing or responding to bio-terrorist attacks."

Topics to be covered in the conference include the threat of bio-agents and toxins; forensic challenges and the US anthrax attacks.

Interpol is hoping the gathering will generate funding for a special anti-bioterror unit, recently set up. The conference itself was financed by a near USD 1 million (EUR 756,000) subsidy from the New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The debates, roundtables and addresses - all closed to the media after the opening speeches - were to discuss case studies such as Malaysia's approach to bio-terrorism, the release of biological agents in three British mail centres, and the 1995 Tokyo subway Sarin nerve-gas attack, which killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000.

The conference will be followed by training workshops, the first in South Africa at the end of 2005, the second in Chile in 2006 and the third in China the same year.

Interpol called the conference one of the largest in its history.

"Bio-terrorism knows no geographic, national, economic or political boundaries. An incident in any one country is likely to cause immediate and profound worldwide impact," it said in a statement.

Participants include police chiefs, experts and scientists from many countries and regions including Britain, Canada, Singapore, the United States and the European Commission.

Interpol is the world's largest international police organisation. It was established in 1923 to help law enforcement officers from around the world - with different languages, cultures and national laws - to work together to combat crime.

It has an annual operating budget of EUR 37 million (USD 49 million), mostly from its 182 member states.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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