Prospects for a 150-nation conference on chemical arms achieving consensus that would help curb proliferation of the weapons appeared dim as delegates bickered over who should be allowed to possess the poisons.
"How can any member of the international community proclaim a right it denies others?" Foreign Minister Jadallah Azouz Ettalhi of Libya asked Monday, reiterating the Arab stance that the U.S. is being discriminatory.The United States has alleged that Libya has built a chemical weapons plant, a charge Libya denies.
Both Washington and Moscow acknowledge having huge stocks of chemical weapons - the only nations to do so - and both support efforts to ban the arms. But a bloc of Arab delegates to the conference has advocated linking elimination of chemical arms with destruction of nuclear weapons.
Romania added its voice on Monday to the Arab position, while Britain joined the United States in opposing any linkage.
The dispute risks weakening a final statement, to be delivered Wednesday, and reducing the impact of the five-day conference.
The Libyan minister accused Israel of maintaining stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, with the assistance of the United States. Charges that Israel has nuclear weapons are at the heart of the Arab effort.
Both types of arms are viewed as machinery for mass destruction, but, unlike nuclear arms, chemical weaponry has not in the past been considered a weapon to deter attack.
"Obviously, we want the strongest possible (final) communique that meets our objectives and is compatible with our security interests," U.S. arms control official Lynn Hansen said Monday.
The final declaration must be reached by consensus, meaning there can be no disagreements.