GENEVA — The Soviet Union on Thursday offered new concessions on a proposed treaty banning chemical weapons, and Western diplomats said it was the closest Moscow has ever come to admitting it possesses them.
The United States has long called on the Soviet Union to own up to possessing the world's largest stock of chemical weapons, but Moscow has never explicitly done so.
A treaty banning production and stockpiling of such weapons is being negotiated at a 40-nation disarmament conference in Geneva.
On Thursday, chief Soviet representative Yuri K. Nazarkin told the conference that if a convention were concluded, "chemical weapons and the production base for their manufacture are to be destroyed by all states possessing such weapons, including both the Soviet Union and the United States."
Nazarkin said that to meet U.S. objections, the Soviet Union has now agreed that destruction of chemical weapons should begin one year after a treaty enters into force, instead of six months as it had proposed previously.
U.S. negotiator Thomas Barthelemy hailed the speech as "the beginning of a process of candor. We welcome that."