Iran opposes U.S. holding smallpox stockpile

Iran recently led opposition to a U.S. and Russian plan to postpone the fixing of a date to destroy the world’s remaining smallpox stockpiles.

The controversy has lingered on for over 25 years and resurfaced late last week. Lengthy debates between countries like Iran that want the stocks destroyed and the United States and others that say the decision should be postponed for another five years have not produced results, according to Reuters.

"You could say Iran is using this issue," a source close to the debate said on the condition of anonymity, Reuters reports. "But it isn't just Iran. It's more or less a division between the developed and the developing world."

The anonymous source said that a decision had to be made on May 24, the final day of the World Health Organization’s annual meeting in Geneva.

"They could decide not to decide,” the source said, Reuters reports.

The United States has argued that more research is needed on smallpox vaccines. Before destroying its stocks, Washington wants confirmation that all other stocks have been destroyed or transferred to the two remaining repositories in the United States and Russia.

Countries like Iran have argued technology exists that allows scientists to develop vaccines and anti-virals without a live virus and that the risk of stockpiles falling into the wrong hands is reason enough to destroy them.