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Chem-weapons ban ends.

Chem-weapons ban ends

A 16-year moratorium on U.S. chemical weapons production ended last week when the House of Representatives voted to authorize $124.5 million to produce a new form of nerve gas two years from now. Last month, the Senate approved a similar measure. The new "binary' weapons are chemicals that become toxic only after being mixed on or near the battlefield, shortly before use.

The Reagan administration has been lobbying hard for more than four years to win funding for these new weapons. In arguments on the House floor June 19, Samuel Stratton (D-N.Y.) countered arguments that the weapons were unnecessary with quotes from a letter Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger had drafted earlier in the day: "The current [chemical weapons] stockpile does not represent a credible retaliatory capability,' he said. "While it is true that we plan on having a smaller, safer and effective binary stockpile, we do not mean to imply that the old munitions are adequate. . . . [W]e have less than one-third of the nonpersistent nerve agent artillery munitions required for deterrence, and even that inadequate quantity is seriously flawed in safety, logistical and employment characteristics.'

John Edward Porter (R-Ill.), who authored the amendment that would have continued the nerve-gas production ban, said his opposition centered largely on what it would cost to produce these weapons and destroy those they made obsolete-- a figure he said defense experts estimated would approach $20 billion.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 29, 1985
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