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[casi] Allies Have Hushed Up Information on Iraq Destroying WMDs
Mon 24 Feb 2003
Allies hushed up weapons' destruction

THE highest-ranking defector ever to turn informant on Saddam Hussein’s
government told United Nations weapons inspectors in 1995 that Iraq had
destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks after the Gulf war.

But UN inspectors hushed up that part of Hussein Kamel’s story - which he
also told to debriefers from British and United States intelligence - because
they wanted to keep the pressure on Iraq to tell more.

The revelation, reported in the US magazine Newsweek, raises new questions ove
r claims by the US and Britain that Iraq has failed to account for vast
stores of chemical and biological weapons.

Of the thousands of chemical bombs and thousands of litres of deadly anthrax
said to have gone mysteriously missing inside Iraq, most date back to before

Iraq has long claimed to have destroyed the weapons "unilaterally", but a
regime hardly famous for its honesty and openness is accused of failing to
provide hard evidence.

However "the defector’s tale raises questions about whether the WMD [weapons
of mass destruction] stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist" Newsweek

Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law, defected to Jordan with his wife and family in
1995. His sensational departure, in a convoy of black Mercedes, was received
as evidence that Saddam’s regime was soon to fall.

He was shot to death after he returned to Iraq six months later in the hope
of leniency from Saddam, along with his brother, also married to one of
Saddam’s daughters. If nothing else, the report sheds new light on one of the
most bizarre episodes in the history of the regime and its leader.

Kamel’s value as an informant, however, was huge; for ten years he had run
Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile weapons programmes, as well
as Iraqi efforts to keep the weapons secret.

Kamel talked to both the then UN chief inspector, Rolf Ekeus, and agents from
the CIA and MI6 in Jordan. Among other revelations, he provided the first
report that Iraq was developing mobile biological weapons factories - a
subject on which Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, dwelt long and hard
in his recent damning presentation to the UN Security Council.

But Kamel’s story that Iraq had indeed - as it has long claimed - destroyed
chemical and biological stocks back in 1991 was never reported.

While UN inspection teams have been trying to investigate what weapons Iraq
may have built since the Gulf war, the mystery of what happened to older
munitions remains vital.

Iraq’s chief liaison officer to the UN inspection teams, General Hossam Amin,
said yesterday that Iraq had begun to dig trenches in the areas it claims the
weapons were destroyed.

A UN team was due in Baghdad on 2 March to examine the sites and carry out
soil tests, he said. Gen Amin also said Iraq had made no decision on a UN
order that it destroy its Al Samoud 2 missile programme. But "we are serious
about solving this", he said.

In his 27 January report to the UN Security Council, Hans Blix, the chief UN
arms inspector, bolstered the case for war when he accused Iraq of
co-operating on process, but not substance.

Early in his report, Mr Blix noted that "one of three important questions
before us today is how much might remain undeclared and intact from before
1991; and, possibly, thereafter".

The second question, he said, was what if anything was illegally produced or
procured after 1998, when inspectors left the country, and the third was how
the production of weapons of mass destruction could be prevented in the
future. Mr Blix singled out the issue of 6,500 chemical bombs that were
unaccounted for, containing in total up to 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents.

The missing bombs date back to before 1991, with Iraq claiming they were used
in the Iran-Iraq war, which ended in 1988.

Mr Blix also raised questions over about 8,500 litres of anthrax, which Iraq
"states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991. Iraq has provided
little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its
destruction," he said.

Iraq also has claimed that a small quantity of the deadly poison VX, which it
produced, was unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991.

When Mr Blix returned to the UN with his much more favourable report on 14
February, he noted that Iraq had provided a list of 83 people involved in the
unilateral destruction of chemicals, which "appears useful". Newsweek said it
had obtained the notes of Kamel’s debriefing by the UN team, and that he told
the same story to MI6 and the CIA.

But his revelations were hushed up for two reasons, the magazine said. Saddam
did not know how much Kamel had revealed, and inspectors hoped to call his
bluff; in addition, there was no corroborating evidence that the weapons were

Kamel did not give Iraq a clean bill of health. He said the stocks were
destroyed to hide the programmes, rather than end them, with Iraq secretly
holding on to blueprints, computer disks, and other engineering details, in
order to resume productions after inspections ended.

Kamel’s defection in August 1995 was an international sensation. He drove out
of Iraq in a convoy of black Mercedes with his wife, Raghad, his brother, Sad
dam, sister-in-law, Rina, and several of Saddam Hussein’s grandchildren. A
family feud with Uday Hussein, Saddam’s son, was blamed.

The Iraqi government, badly rattled, immediately admitted for the first time
to having a biological weapons programme - though it stuck to the story that
the weapons were destroyed.

Kamel told the inspectors about Iraq’s attempt to develop a home-grown
missile, Project 1728, and of the secret committee, set up by Saddam himself,
expressly to keep secrets from the inspectors.

Spurned by the Iraqi opposition, and complaining that the Western officials
sent to talk to him were too junior, he made the bizarre decision to return
to Iraq. The two brothers were forced to divorce their wives and were killed
in a gun battle with the presidential guard soon after.

The UN ceasefire resolution that ended the Gulf war on 3 April, 1991, laid
down the ground rules for the work now continuing today.

It called for the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of all chemical
and biological weapons, and all stocks of agents and components. The same
rules applied for ballistic missiles with a range greater than 93 miles.

The UN inspection teams’ strategy in Iraq, said one expert, is "all about
accounting. It has always been to try and force the Iraqis to account, and
documentarily prove, all their claims and positions".

Gen Amin yesterday told journalists that Iraq was studying a letter from Mr
Blix ordering destruction of all Al Samoud 2 missiles, warheads, fuel,
engines and other components. Iraq has declared 76 Al Samouds, but the UN
estimates it has up to 120.

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