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[casi] Iraq's 'unaccounted for' weapons

Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 16:35 GMT
Iraq's 'unaccounted for' weapons

By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has said Iraq's
new declaration contains little information that had
not been declared by Baghdad before 1998 when UN arms
experts were last in Iraq.

The US and UK have long had concerns about what is
described as unaccounted for chemical, biological and
nuclear material. Their assessments were partly based
on a report by the weapons inspections organisation
Unscom, predecessor to Unmovic.

In early 1999, Unscom gave the Security Council its
own assessment of what Iraq had destroyed and what
remained unaccounted for.

The US and UK want a full explanation of what happened
to the following:

* 360 tonnes of chemical warfare agents, including 1.5
tonnes of VX nerve agent;

* 3,000 tonnes of chemical precursors (which are
developed into chemical weapons) including 300 tonnes
uniquely used for VX.
The 1999 Unscom report said:

"According to Iraq, 1.5 tonnes of VX were discarded
unilaterally by dumping on the ground. Traces of one
VX-degradation product and a chemical known as a
VX-stabilizer were found in the samples taken from the
VX dump sites. A quantified assessment is not


Britain and America want to know about:

* Growth media for 20,000 litres of biological warfare
agents. Any Iraqi claims that this will have
degenerated will not be accepted as mustard gas found
in shells in 1997 was active;

* Shells for use in biological warfare - 20,000 are
missing say the British, 15,000 say the Americans;

Unscom said in 1999:

"The commission has little or no confidence in Iraq's
accounting for proscribed items for which physical
evidence is lacking or inconclusive, documentation is
sparse or nonexistent, and coherence and consistency
is lacking.

These include, for example: quantities and types of
munitions available for biological weapons (BW)
filling; quantities and types of munitions filled with
BW agents; quantities and type of bulk agents
produced; quantities of bulk agents used in filling;
quantities of bulk agents destroyed; quantities of
growth media acquired for the programme; and
quantities of growth media used/consumed.

In addition, the commission has no confidence that all
bulk agents have been destroyed; that no BW munitions
or weapons remain in Iraq; and that a BW capability
does not still exist in Iraq."

Chemical warfare munitions

Washington and London demand disclosure on:

* 6,000 chemical warfare bombs.

Unscom said:

The commission has accepted the destruction of about
34,000 munitions on the basis of multiple sources,
including physical evidence, documents provided by
Iraq etc. However, it has not been possible to achieve
a numerical accounting of destroyed munitions due to
heavy bomb damage of the CW storage facilities, where
these munitions had been stored during the Gulf war.
The destruction of about 2,000 unfilled munitions
remain uncertain, 550 filled munitions remain
unaccounted for.

Other key concerns for the US and UK include the

Why did Iraq try to import 60,000 aluminium tubes?
Rapidly spinning rotor tubes in centrifuges are used
to separate weapons grade uranium, though both the
British and American reports acknowledge that the
tubes could be used for conventional weapons as well.

Why did it try to import other equipment, including
vacuum pumps, a winding machine and special chemicals
needed in gas centrifuge cascades?

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