Biotechnology experts who recently visited various facilities in Cuba said Thursday that while the communist nation has sophisticated technology there is no evidence to support claims it is working on bioweapons.
‘‘We can’t give Cuba a clean bill of health, but we have no evidence to support these allegations,’’ said Jonathan Tucker, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies, an independent group working to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
‘‘They have the capability, but so do we,’’ he told a conference focused on whether Cuba should be kept on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Cuba’s capability to produce bioweapons has long been a source of speculation.
But serious concerns were raised in 2002 when top Bush administration officials warned that Havana possessed “at least a limited, developmental, biological weapons research and development effort.’‘
That assessment stemmed from a classified 1999 report compiled by the CIA and its analytical arm, the National Intelligence Council. Cuba has denied the allegation.
And a recent U.S. intelligence revision of Cuba’s capability reportedly states that the U.S. intelligence community has ‘‘lost some confidence’’ in the 1999 assessment.
The revision was part of a so-called world-wide ‘‘scrub’’ of intelligence on biological weapons capabilities in the wake of the failure to find any of the weapons of mass destruction that were supposed to be a key justification for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Tucker said the Oct. 3-7 visit to four facilities in Cuba showed the military installations were producing items such as cartilage capsules for vitamin supplements and vaccines to combat life-threatening diseases such as Hepatitis B.