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* UN says Iraqi vaccine plant produced biological weapons (Reuters) * King Fahd of Saudi Arabia offers to host Iraqi pilgrims (BBC) * Arab League session avoids "fishing in a troubled water" (Arabic News) * Saudi Arabia agrees to slash oil production by half a million barrels per day in effort to encourage oil price rise (BBC) ******************** U.N says Iraqi vaccine plant produced germ weapons March 18, 1999, Web posted at: 5:46 PM EST (2246 GMT) UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Iraqi laboratory equipment destroyed by U.N. inspectors was used to produce biological weapons and not vaccine to fight foot and mouth disease, as claimed by Iraq, chief U.N. inspector Richard Butler said on Thursday. In a letter to the president of the Security Council, he rejected Iraqi complaints that the disease had spread among Iraqi livestock because the equipment used to manufacture vaccine had been scrapped. Butler said Iraq in November 1991 told the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) in charge of scrapping its weapons of mass destruction that the plant, at Daura, was a civilian facility for the production of vaccines. But following U.N. inspections, analyses and investigations, Iraq admitted in July 1995 it was "not a purely civilian facility, but had been used for biological warfare agent production, research and development." Iraq then said the plant had been taken over in 1990 by the technical research centre for its biological warfare program and that "large-scale production of the biological warfare agent botulinum toxin took place at this facility, using some of the equipment procured for foot and mouth disease vaccine production," Butler said. Research was also undertaken on viral agents, "including camelpox, enterovirus 70 and rotavirus," he added. Butler said Iraq further declared that a genetic engineering research and development program was initiated for biological warfare purposes at the facility. Although production of foot and mouth disease vaccine was briefly resumed in 1992 "as part of Iraq's attempt to conceal its biological warfare program," it discontinued all production of the vaccine after September 1992, though staff and equipment remained at the site. After that, Iraq imported foot and mouth disease vaccine, as it had done previously, Butler said. In 1996, 28 pieces of equipment identified by Iraq as used for biological warfare production were removed from the facility and destroyed by Iraq under UNSCOM supervision. Special air-handling equipment was disabled while some 40 major pieces of equipment originally imported for the production of foot and mouth disease vaccine remained, since their use in the biological warfare program had not been established, Butler said. ******************** Friday, March 19, 1999 Published at 17:43 GMT BBC Online: Saudi King pays for pilgrims King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has agreed to pay the visa costs of up to 20,000 Iraqi pilgrims who entered the country illegally. The pilgrims, determined to perform the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca, had poured over the Saudi border without visas, and with little food and money. The pilgrims, who were lead by senior Iraqi officials, drove through two checkpoints and did not stop until they reached the border town of Arar. The Saudi Arabian monarch dissipated the tension by agreeing to host the pilgrims and to pay their costs. Correspondents say Iraq appears to be using the annual Hajj pilgrimage to highlight the harsh effects of United Nations sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Once visas are issued the pilgrims will be transported nearly 2,000 km to Mecca in buses provided by the Iraqi authorities. The development comes after Saudi Arabia released an Iraqi plane carrying Hajj pilgrims which landed in the country sparking a diplomatic row. Saudi authorities seized the aircraft fearing the flight had broken UN sanctions. They wrote to the UN sanctions committee asking for urgent advice. But the committee was unable to reach agreement as member states have different views on whether the flight constitutes a violation of UN sanctions. Saudi Arabia says it will follow a similar procedure with any more Iraqi planes carrying pilgrims. ******************** AL session avoids mention of prisoners, missing and no-fly zones Arabic News, Regional, Politics, 3/19/99 The meetings of the Arab foreign ministers that concluded in Cairo on Thursday did not witness any dramatic development after an Arab committee including Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasem, the chairman of the Moroccan delegation, Abdul Salam Zenand and Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abdul Meguid in convincing Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahaf from omitting the two issues of the Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Saudi missing and the two no-fly zones in the northern and southern parts of Iraq from the agenda, under the condition that the two issues will be referred to in a decision released by the council by a report for the AL chief. The decision assigned the AL chief to create a mechanism to settle humanitarian issues between Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It avoided mentioning the no-fly zones in the northern and southern parts of Iraq by asserting the territorial integrity of Iraq and the security of its neighboring countries, demanding the halt of acts conducted against Iraq in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. In a press conference held on Thursday afternoon, the AL chief stressed that the decision was approved unanimously, whereas it was viewed by the Iraqi foreign minister "as a step forward concerning Arab backing to Iraq, but it is not enough." The AL chief described the atmosphere of the meeting as "positive" rejecting doubts about the said decision because it did not take a certain stand for backing Iraq. "I reject the policy of fishing in a troubled water," Abdul Meguid said. On the other hand, the Arab committee in charge of the Iraqi file (including the foreign ministers of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain) did not meet as scheduled due to Iraq's continued reservations because it is not a member of the committee. Abdul Meguid said the committee did not meet because "conditions are not suitable." ******************** Saturday, March 20, 1999 Published at 11:21 GMT BBC Online: Saudis to lead Gulf oil cuts Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of oil, has confirmed it's prepared to slash oil production in an attempt to encourage a rise in international oil prices. The decision to cut production by five-hundred-thousand barrels a day was announced at a meeting of Gulf Arab oil ministers; Saudi Arabia said it had already informed its customers. Other Gulf states also agreed to reduce production, and the Qatari oil minister, Abdallah al-Attiya, said he believed prices would recover -- but only if producers stuck fully to their pledged cuts. Prices began to rise last year after cuts were agreed, but quickly tumbled after Venezuela and a number of other countries continued to produce way beyond their quotas. ******************** -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html