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"Deadly Unknowns about Iraq's Biological Weapons Program"

On Tuesday 8 February the New York Times ran "Iraq Suspected of Secret
Germ War Effort" (Barbara Crossette), an article largely based on a
preliminary paper by Milton Leitenberg, "an expert on biological weapons".

The three page paper, entitled, "Deadly Unknowns about Iraq's Biological
Weapons Program" is available at I outline it
briefly here.  I do this not because I believe that any evidence for
continued non-conventional weapons production by the Iraqi regime
justifies continued punishment of Iraq's population but merely because
readers may wish to follow the weapons debate and may wish to know what it
takes to warrant a reasonably lengthy article in the New York Times.

The paper's first half outlines some of the findings on biological weapons
in Unscom's 25 January 1999 report to the Security Council (available at  Unscom believes that Iraq
consistently lied about its biological weapons and that "Iraq's offensive
BW programme was among the most secretive of its programmes of weapons of
mass destruction".  This much is old news. 

The paper then goes on to mention two new possibilities.  As little
evidence is presented to substantiate these possibilities, they are

First, Iraq's imported "culture media" (used to grow bacteria) has yet to
be entirely acounted for.  This can be used to produce new biological
agents.  While the "expiration dates" for these media are being approached
or have passed, culture media can be used with decreased effectiveness
beyond those dates.  Furthermore, Iraq may be able now to produce its own
culture media.

In 1994 - 95 Unscom "found multiple pieces of evidence suggesting that
Iraq was in fact covertly producing at least one BW agent".  The
suggestion that "Iraq may have produced another as yet unreported BW
agent", possibly related to the bubonic plague, has been made by British
intelligence but "The evidence for this belief by UK officials has not
been publicly described".

Second, the "unknown BW agent" above may be viral, in which case it does
not require the culture media mentioned above.  Viruses can be grown "in
tissue culture or on fertilized eggs", and apparently require more
sophistication than bacteria to grow.


Colin Rowat

Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
     fax 0870 063 5022

393 King's College  
Cambridge CB2 1ST             tel: +44 (0)468 056 984
England                       fax: +44 (0)870 063 4984

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