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Media Release

FA44 - 18 April 2005

The Australia Group: Twenty Years Fighting Chemical and Biological Weapons Proliferation

I will today open the annual Plenary meeting of the Australia Group in Sydney.  The Australia Group is a forum of 38 countries, plus the European Commission, which works to prevent chemical and biological weapons proliferation.

Chemical and biological weapons (CBW) present a real and deadly threat.  They can incite terror and cause mass casualties - as demonstrated by the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo in 1995 and the anthrax attacks in the United States in late 2001.

Terrorists, including in our region, are intent on developing CBW capabilities, while proliferators are using increasingly sophisticated means to source the ingredients for weapons of mass destruction. 

Australia has been the permanent Chair of the Australia Group since it was first established in 1985.  This meeting will be the Group's first in Australia and will mark 20 years of achievement under Australian leadership in the fight against chemical and biological weapons proliferation.

Australia Group participants have raised the bar against proliferators by strengthening export controls, including through harmonising national export licensing measures on items that can be used in CBW programs.  They have also persuaded many countries to adopt Australia Group standards and continue to promote these as the international benchmark for controlling dangerous chemical and biological exports. 

Key issues at the 20th anniversary meeting will include discussion on measures to combat CBW terrorism and to advance export control enhancements.  Participants will also address a number of new challenges, including brokering controls and the transfer of CBW technology and know-how by non-traditional means, such as the internet.

As it has for 20 years, the Australia Group will keep evolving to meet new challenges and will maintain its efforts to ensure that proliferators do not obtain the inputs necessary for CBW programs banned under international law. 

Media inquiries : Ministerial 02 6277 7500 , DFAT Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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