Russian official concerned Georgian lab could make biological weapons

Oct. 15, 2013 at 10:40 AM
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TB, Georgia, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- A Russian official says he is concerned a U.S.-funded lab in the former Soviet republic of Georgia could make biological weapons to strike against his country.

The center was set up in 2004 to conduct research on pathogens and biosecurity, RIA Novosti reported Monday.

Gennady Onishchenko, head of the state consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, charged the laboratory was "an important offensive link" in developing biological weapons that could potentially be used against Russia.

His comments were the latest in a series of criticisms about the lab, located in the capital Tbilisi, by major Russian officials.

In July, the Russian foreign ministry said it had "serious concerns" about the U.S. Defense Department's biological activity near Russia's borders."

The United States has spent about $150 million on the lab, where members of the U.S. Army Medical Department's Medical Research and Materiel Command are training Georgia scientists how to conduct the research.

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied any research into biological weapons is conducted there.

Jamie Blow, director of Overseas Operations for Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, said last year the goal of the lab "is to address the threat of infectious diseases at the source."

Richard Norland, the U.S. ambassador to Georgia, said in July "there still seems to be misperception" the lab is a military facility.

"It's an open, transparent facility," he added. "We believe there is interest, including from Russian scientists, in taking advantage of the resources of this state-of-the-art facility and we hope they'll do that."

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