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08 Mar 2003

Source: New York Times, March 8, 2003

Blix Says Iraq May Still Have Anthrax


UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- In a 173-page dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix says Baghdad may possess about 10,000 liters of anthrax, Scud missile warheads filled with deadly biological and chemical agents, and drones capable of flying far beyond a 93-mile limit.

The report, obtained late Friday by The Associated Press, traces the history of Iraq's weapons programs and outlines the many areas where questions remain, many old but some new. Blix told the Security Council earlier in the day that he planned to cull items from the document and compile a list of key remaining disarmament tasks by the end of March that Iraq must complete.

The table of contents reflects the scope of the unanswered questions: missile technology, aerial bombs, spray devices and drone aircraft, mustard gas, sarin, chemical processing equipment, Botulinum toxin, ricin, genetic engineering and viral research -- and the list goes on.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the document as "a shocking indictment of the record of Saddam Hussein's deception and deceit, but above all, of the danger which he poses to the region and to the world.''

Britain and the United States, which are seeking Security Council approval for a war against Iraq, can find plenty of ammunition in the dossier to support their argument that Baghdad has failed to cooperate and fully disarm. But opponents of a rush to war counter that Iraq is starting to provide evidence -- and therefore U.N. weapons inspections should continue.

Blix has previously questioned Iraq's reporting of its destruction of anthrax supplies from 1988 to 1991. He said Iraq declared that it produced 8,445 liters but cited evidence in the new report that it produced more.

"The strong presumption is that about 10,000 liters of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist,'' he said. In addition, "Iraq currently possesses the technology and materials, including fermenters, bacterial growth media and seed stock, to enable it to produce anthrax.''

"Many of the skilled personnel familiar with anthrax production have been transferred to civilian industries. There does not appear to be any choke points, which would prevent Iraq from producing anthrax on at least the scale of its pre-1991 level,'' Blix said.

The chief inspector also expressed concern about Iraq's program to build pilotless aircraft known as drones, citing intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein is developing vehicles with a range of 312 miles -- far exceeding the 93-mile limit.

While small, Blix said, drones can be used to spray biological warfare agents such as anthrax.

Iraq hasn't revealed the development of any drones that fly automatically, though it has declared that it developed two vehicles controlled from the ground or other aircraft with a range of 62 miles, he said, adding that this must be investigated.

"Recent inspections have also revealed the existence of a drone with a wingspan of 7.45 meters (24 1/2 feet) that has not been declared by Iraq. Officials at the inspection site stated that the drone had been test flown,'' Blix said.

The chief inspector also expressed concern that Baghdad may be developing or planning missiles other than the Al Samoud 2 that may also have ranges exceeding 93 miles. Iraq has begun destroying its Al Samoud 2s.

"Indications of this come from solid propellant casting chambers Iraq has acquired through indigenous production, or from the repair of old chambers,'' he said. "The size of these chambers would enable the manufacture of a missile system with a range much greater than 93 miles.''

Blix said Iraq must also produce evidence to prove that it has fully abandoned its program to develop a medium-range ballistic missile with a range of between 625 and 1,875 miles.

On Scud-B missiles, he said, "the lack of documentation to support the destruction of Scud-B liquid propellant, and the fact that approximately 50 warheads were not accounted for among the remnants of unilateral destruction, suggest that these items may have been retained for a proscribed missile force.''

Iraq must also account for up to 30 chemical and biological Scud-type warheads which it claims it destroyed, he said. One way would be to provide minutes from a committee formed in 1991 to address the issue of retaining banned material and weapons, he said.