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[casi] WMD's? No, Hot Air (Balloons)

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 Published on Sunday, June 15, 2003 by the Observer/UK
Iraqi Mobile Labs Nothing To Do With Germ Warfare, Report Finds
by Peter Beaumont, Antony Barnett and Gaby Hinsliff
An official British investigation into two trailers found in northern Iraq
has concluded they are not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony
Blair and President George Bush, but were for the production of hydrogen to
fill artillery balloons, as the Iraqis have continued to insist.

Members of a weapons inspection team examine a trailer in northern Iraq in
late April.
Photo by Dept. Of Defense/Reuters
The conclusion by biological weapons experts working for the British
Government is an embarrassment for the Prime Minister, who has claimed that
the discovery of the labs proved that Iraq retained weapons of mass
destruction and justified the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein.
Instead, a British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined
the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer last week: 'They are not mobile germ
warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons.
They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they
were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.'
The conclusion of the investigation ordered by the British Government - and
revealed by The Observer last week - is hugely embarrassing for Blair, who
had used the discovery of the alleged mobile labs as part of his efforts to
silence criticism over the failure of Britain and the US to find any weapons
of mass destruction since the invasion of Iraq.
The row is expected to be re-ignited this week with Robin Cook and Clare
Short, the two Cabinet Ministers who resigned over the war, both due to give
evidence to a House of Commons inquiry into whether intelligence was
manipulated in the run-up to the war. It will be the first time that both
have been grilled by their peers on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee
over what the Cabinet was told in the run-up to the war.
MPs will be keen to explore Cook's explanation when he resigned that, while
he believed Iraq did have some WMD capability, he did not believe it was
The Prime Minister and his director of strategy and communications, Alastair
Campbell, are expected to decline invitations to appear. While MPs could
attempt to force them, this is now thought unlikely to happen.
The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, is expected to give evidence the week
The revelation that the mobile labs were to produce hydrogen for artillery
balloons will also cause discomfort for the British authorities because the
Iraqi army's original system was sold to it by the British company, Marconi
Command & Control.

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