WASHINGTON – Cuba has developed a biological weapons program and may be sharing it with rogue nations, a State Department official said Monday.
Undersecretary of State John Bolton said that Cuba's exceptional and sophisticated biomedical industry, supported by the Soviet Union until 1990, has led the way for pharmaceuticals and vaccinations sold worldwide and may also be using the industry for other purposes.
"Analysts and Cuban defectors have long cast suspicion on the activities conducted in these biomedical facilities," Bolton, the United States' chief non-proliferation official, told audience members Monday at Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.
Cuban President Fidel Castro visited Iraq, Syria and Libya last year, all nations that, like Cuba, are on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. Bolton did not say whether Cuba has transferred biological weapons to those states but said they are all trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and are allied with Cuba.
"We are concerned that such technology could support biological warfare programs in those states," Bolton said.
Bolton called on Cuba to cease transfers of biological weapons technology to "rogue states and to fully comply with all of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention."
He made the demand as another State Department official said the United States will not soften its policy toward the island nation.
Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich told the Council of Americas that no future deals are in the works to "throw a lifeline to a regime that is sinking under the weight of its own historic failures."
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who also spoke to the Council, said the United States is prepared to push Cuba toward rapid democratization and free markets.
Bolton said the country's potential terrorist threat may have been overlooked because it was not labeled a military threat during the Clinton administration though it was known to conduct widespread and aggressive intelligence operations in the United States. The most notable activity was its recruitment of the Defense Intelligence Agency's senior Cuba analyst, Ana Belen Montes, to spy for Cuba. Montes drafted a 1998 report that said Cuba is not a threat.
"Montes not only had a hand in drafting the 1998 Cuba report but also passed some of our most sensitive information about Cuba back to Havana," he said.
Montes was arrested last fall and pleaded guilty to espionage on March 19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.