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Carter says no proof of cuba bioweapons { May 14 2002 }

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   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11497-2002May13.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A11497-2002May13.html

Carter Says He Was Told U.S. Had No Proof Cuba Shared Bioweapons Data
State Dept. Official's Claim Contradicted

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 14, 2002; Page A14

HAVANA, May 13 -- Former president Jimmy Carter said today that Bush administration officials repeatedly assured him before his landmark trip here that they had no evidence that Cuba had provided other nations with technology suitable for developing weapons of mass destruction. Less than a week ago, a top State Department official accused the Cuban government of conducting research related to biological warfare and of sharing its efforts with "rogue states."

"I asked them specifically, on more than one occasion, 'Is there any evidence that Cuba has been involved in sharing any information to any other country on Earth that could be used for terrorist purposes?' " Carter said. "And the answer from our experts on intelligence was no."

Carter's comments, made to President Fidel Castro and top Cuban scientists during a tour of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Cuba's leading biotechnology center, contradicted recent allegations by Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton. Speaking last week to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington, Bolton said the Bush administration believed Cuba had at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort and had provided biotechnology to "other rogue states" that could be used in weapons production.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, asked about Carter's comments while traveling to Iceland to attend a NATO summit, said he stood by Bolton's comments and added that they were not the first such assertions made by the Bush administration.

In Washington, the State Department said in a statement that "Secretary Bolton's remarks reflect the consensus of what the administration's experts believe about Cuba and its biological weapons capability."

A Bush administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cuba has "a number of projects that are what could be dual-use things, but they're probably not. . . . It's a question more of them exciting suspicions by not being open. I don't know of any tangible stuff that shows yes, they are making anthrax [or anything else]. There is stuff we don't know about."

Carter raised the issue today when, following a presentation by scientists on Cuba's biotechnology programs, he praised Cuba for helping "tens of millions of people around the world who have benefited from this research in Cuba," then said: "With some degree of reluctance I would also like to comment on the allegation of bioterrorism. I do this because these allegations were made, maybe not coincidentally, just before our visit to Cuba."

Carter said he had asked for and received "intense briefings from the State Department, the intelligence agencies of my country and high officials in the White House" before his five-day visit to Cuba, which began Sunday.

"One purpose of this briefing was for them to share with us any concerns that my government had about possible terrorist activities that were supported by Cuba," Carter said. "There were absolutely no such allegations made or questions raised."

Carter asked the biotech center's director, Luis Herrera, whether the center had transferred technology that could be used in weapons production.

Herrera said no. He told Carter that Cuba has technology-transfer programs with many European nations, as well as such countries as Iran, China, Algeria and Egypt. He said the programs were for scientific and medical purposes. In response to a question from Carter, Herrera said Cuba monitors the transfers to ensure that they are not used to make weapons.

Carter asked Herrera whether Cuba had similar deals with Libya and Iraq. Herrera said Cuba did not and had no plans to begin such arrangements with those countries.

"I just wanted to assure myself," Carter said.

Staff writer Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.


2002 The Washington Post Company


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