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write to The Times



The following two articles appear in todays (26th August) Times.
Letters should be e-mailed to letters@the-times.co.uk



August 26 1999  MIDDLE EAST

Iraq asks to reopen 'vaccine' laboratory

IRAQ is urging the United Nations to combat rampant foot-and-mouth disease
in the country by authorising the reopening of a "vaccine production" plant
that was being covertly used to develop biological weapons.
The laboratories at the Daura foot-and-mouth vaccine plant, south of
Baghdad, were destroyed by the UN Special Commission on Iraq (Unscom) in
1996 after it was discovered that the Iraqis had converted the facility as
part of their clandestine biological weapons programme.

Now, under the guise of a humanitarian emergency, Iraq is trying to persuade
UN officials in charge of the oil-for-food programme to allow the plant to
be rebuilt.

Iraq also insists that the facility was never used for biological weapons
production, even though in July 1995 it admitted that Daura was not a purely
civilian facility and had been taken over in 1990 by the country's Technical
Research Centre for the biological weapons programme.

As part of its formal declarations to Unscom in 1995, Iraq conceded that
large-scale production of botulinum toxin took place at Daura, using
equipment procured for a foot-and-mouth vaccine programme. Production of the
vaccine was halted across Iraq in September 1992. According to intelligence
reports, President Saddam Hussein is continuing with his secret biological
weapons programme. He is reported to have given priority to the development
of virulent bacteria resistant to antibiotics. One intelligence source said
the Daura facility was viewed by Baghdad as vital for advancing this
project.

Iraq's campaign to get UN approval to repair the Daura facility began this
year when it attributed the outbreak of foot- and-mouth disease to the
international sanctions and Unscom's destruction of the vaccine plant.

However, intelligence sources said there was no evidence that Iraq had taken
steps to stamp out the epidemic by destroying infected cattle. Foot and
mouth is an acute contagious disease affecting cloven-footed animals and is
caused by a virus. The only way to control it is by slaughtering the
diseased animals or by a vaccine programme.

"There have been no moves to put the contaminated provinces in quarantiner,"
one source said. "Iraq's refusal to take steps to wipe out the
foot-and-mouth epidemic is a deliberate move to try to persuade the UN to
help in re-equipping the Daura facility."

UN officials said that the request would have to be approved by the Security
Council sanctions committee.



August 26 1999  MIDDLE EAST

Ammunition dump hit

AMERICAN aircraft bombed an Iraqi ammunition and fuel depot yesterday in
response to attacks from the ground (Michael Evans writes).
It was the first time since Operation Desert Fox last December that the US
has attacked targets other than air defence and radar sites. The Pentagon
denied there was a new airstrike policy. No RAF aircraft were involved and a
British military official said there was no change in policy. Under the
rules of engagement, US and British aircraft are authorised to attack Iraqi
military targets that pose a direct threat to pilots mounting combat air
patrols over northern and southern Iraq.

British military sources said that ammunition dumps and fuel depots were
directly linked to Iraq's attacks on coalition aircraft.




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