PoliticalNews.me - Nov 05,2010 - U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) leads a mission to Africa next week with a team of Pentagon arms control experts to help secure deadly biological diseases, in addition to destroying other lethal armaments.
“Deadly diseases like Ebola, Marburg, and Anthrax are prevalent in Africa,” said Lugar, the Ranking Member and former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “These pathogens can be made into horrible weapons aimed at our troops, our friends and allies, and even the American public. This is a threat we cannot ignore.”
Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) developed the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program in late 1991 to secure and destroy nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the republics of the former Soviet Union. “We’ve discovered through Nunn-Lugar that Soviet scientists used pathogens from Africa to make biological weapons during the Cold War,” Lugar said. “Those weapons are being destroyed. Now we have to secure their sources.”
“Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are active in Africa, and it is imperative that deadly pathogens stored in labs there are secure,” Lugar said. “Building cooperative programs with African countries are in our mutual security interests, and will also have the humanitarian effect of identifying and controlling new diseases that could quickly spread around the world.”
Lugar and the Pentagon team will inspect laboratories in Kenya and Uganda. These labs are used to diagnose infectious diseases, study the nature of the diseases, and facilitate treatment to help prevent outbreaks. Pentagon officials, however, have found insufficient security at the labs given the terrorist threat.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Lugar his high-level participation will help ensure the governments of Kenya and Uganda agree to work closely with US government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, to secure these laboratories, and work cooperatively to help prevent future disease outbreaks.
While in Africa, Lugar and Pentagon officials will also visit Burundi where experts from the State and Defense Departments are working with the government to destroy large numbers of small arms and light weapons (SALW), such as shoulder fired surface to air missiles, rocket propelled grenades, and AK-47 assault rifles.
The weapons are being destroyed under the Lugar-Obama program, which was established as part of Nunn-Lugar through legislation passed by Congress after Lugar and then Senator Barack Obama traveled to the former Soviet Union in 2005.
Burundi borders volatile areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other African countries, and holds stores of weapons left from decades of conflict in the region. Securing and destroying these weapons are critical to eliminating regional conflicts and potential terrorist attacks in the world.
Lugar’s visit to Burundi is intended to help demonstrate the importance of Lugar-Obama SALW destruction program, and encourage other countries to participate.
The Pentagon non-proliferation team accompanying Lugar is led by Andrew C. Weber, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs; Ken Handelman, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs; and Kenneth A. Myers III, Director, Defense Threat Reduction Agency.