Financial Times: UN still Fears Iraqi Lethal Arsenal
The United Nations believes that Iraq stll possess mass destruction weapons including missiles, biological weapons and chemical weapons, according to the Financial Times, citing a classified report on Iraq by UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC).
UNMOVIC is a group of weapons experts and inspectors set up in late 1999 by the UN Security Council to succeed UNSCOM, the controversial former inspection body for Iraq which was disbanded after it withdrew from the country in December 1998.
The paper said on Thursday that the new group's report is a preliminary document presented last month to a meeting in Vienna of the "College of Commissioners for UNMOVIC", a group of 16 international advisers appointed by the Security Council to guide UNMOVIC’s work. No official from UNMOVIC has visited Iraq since UNSCOM was disbanded and the document is mainly based on analysis of information inherited from UNSCOM.
On the missile file, UNMOVIC thinks Iraq could still harbor two imported long-range Scud B missiles as well as possibly indigenous Scud B type missiles.
The document also states Iraq could have launchers as well as fuel for the missiles. Baghdad may have reassembled Scud launchers by stripping hydraulic, electric and electronic components from mobile Scud launchers it was forced to destroy, it states.
On chemical weapons, Iraq could still have mustard gas, as well as the shells capable of delivering it. As many as 500-700 155mm shells remain unaccounted for, the report states, citing UNSCOM documentation. Iraq says it melted 15,000 special 122mm rocket warheads, which are also used in chemical warfare, but UNMOVIC thinks remaining ingots do not verify that fact.
Iraq also researched other means of delivering chemical weapons, such as using aerial spray/drop tanks, the committee claims.
Regarding the biological file, UNMOVIC reportedly found that "the production of Agent B (anthrax spores) could be much greater than stated and, had such production taken place, the remaining quantities would still retain significant activity given the stability of this agent.”
Iraq's research into viruses - including polio, influenza, foot and mouth disease, the camelpox virus, infectious hemorrhagic conjunctivitis virus and rotavirus - was also worrying, said the report.
Meanwhile, the head of the UN's Iraqi arms monitoring commission said Thursday that he expected to have a roster of more than 120 trained inspectors by the end of the month, according to AFP.
UN officials said this was more than half the number of inspectors which the UNMOVIC would need if Iraq allowed it to start work.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Said al-Sahhaf reiterated in talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York this week that Baghdad would not allow the UN to resume inspections which were halted in December 1998.
At a press conference in Paris earlier, the minister insisted that his country has no lethal weapons. Iraq said that US Security Council Resolution 687, which stipulates that the Middle East should be clear of mass destruction weapons, should also apply to Israel which owns a nuclear arsenal – Albawaba.com
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