Iraq rejects British report on efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction
Iraq has military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, and has tried to acquire "significant quantities" of uranium from Africa, Britain said Tuesday in a dossier of evidence about Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction.
"Iraq's current military planning specifically envisages the use of chemical and biological weapons," said the dossier, which said President Saddam Hussein directly controls those weapons. It argues that Iraq continues to develop chemical and biological weapons, is trying to obtain nuclear weapons and has extended the range of its ballistic missiles.
The report outlined extensive Iraqi attempts to rebuild chemical plants and other facilities that could be used to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. "I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current, that he has made progress on (weapons of mass destruction), and that he has to be stopped," Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an introduction to the dossier.
"Unless we face up to the threat, not only do we risk undermining the authority of the U.N., whose resolutions he defies, but more importantly and in the longer term, we place at risk the lives and prosperity of our own people."
Iraq rejected the British analysis. "The British prime minister is serving the campaign of lies led by Zionists against Iraq. Blair is part of this misleading campaign," Iraqi Culture Minister Hammed Youssef Hammadi told reporters in Baghdad, according to AP.
The report added Saddam attaches great importance to weapons of mass destruction as the basis of Iraq's regional power. "It shows that he does not regard them only as weapons of last resort. He is ready to use them, including against his own population, and is determined to retain them, in breach of United Nations Security Council resolutions," the report said.
If Saddam refuses to allow the United Nations to return to Iraq and complete the task of dismantling weapons, Blair said, the international community will have to act. "We must insure that he does not get to use the weapons he has, or get hold of the weapons he wants," Blair aired.
The dossier provided a highly detailed history of Iraq's efforts to build weapons of mass destruction, and an assessment of its current capabilities based on British and allied intelligence.
Earlier, Blair warned that Iraq was still building weapons of mass destruction. Blair showed the report to the Cabinet on Monday ahead of Tuesday's emergency recall of Parliament. He told the Cabinet that the policy of "containing" Saddam had failed and that the Iraqi leader now had to be stopped as the threat from the country is growing.
At the emergency recall of Parliament, Blair is to make a statement attempting to persuade MPs of the need for urgent action against Iraq. Many MPs, however, have expressed concern about military action, with some having already forced a vote on a technicality to register their hostility.
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)