The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media Release

FA84 - 16 June 2004

Australia Group Expands to Combat Chemical and Biological Weapons Proliferation

I welcome the admission of five new members - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovenia - to the Australia Group in its important work to combat the threat of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) proliferation.

There are now 38 members supporting Australia in its pivotal role as Chair. Australia will continue to work through the Australia Group and other initiatives to send a clear message that WMD proliferation must stop.

At its meeting in Paris last week the Australia Group strengthened its controls on exports of sensitive chemical and biological materials, through the addition of five plant pathogens to the group's lists of materials which could be diverted to chemical or biological weapons programs. Participants also considered further additions to the lists including airborne spraying and fogging systems capable of dispersing biological agents in aerosol form.

Responding to increasingly sophisticated procurement activities, participants agreed to consider the issue of brokering controls in a bid to curtail the activities of intermediaries and front companies. They also decided on strategies to help non-member key supplier and transhipping countries, and other interested countries, enhance their export controls.

The Australia Group's consultations were held against the backdrop of Libya's decision to forgo its chemical weapons program, the revelations of the A. Q. Khan proliferation network and the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. Discussions on information sharing and enforcement provided members with clearer insights into global proliferation behaviour and ways to enforce export controls more effectively.

The next plenary meeting of the Australia Group - to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Group - will be held in Australia in 2005.

Australia has chaired the group - an informal network of countries from Europe, the Asia-Pacific and the Americas aiming to harmonise national export licensing measures on CBW items - since 1985.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500 - Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

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