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Last Updated

29 Mar 2003

Source: The Times (London) March 29, 2003

Iraq's 'Mrs Anthrax' sits with Saddam

From Elaine Monaghan in Washington

THE only woman at Saddam Hussein's leadership table looks self-possessed and almost demure, sitting with her head covered and hands folded neatly in front of her. US intelligence officers call her Mrs Anthrax.

The appearance of Baghdad's reputed germ warfare expert, Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, on Iraqi television on Thursday sent a chill down collective spines in Washington and London.

US officials studying Saddam's appearances wondered yesterday why she was shown sitting three seats away from him, complete with military epaulettes, the well-groomed face of Iraq's biological weapons programme. They are already trying to absorb the discovery of 3,000 Iraqi chemical and biological weapons suits and masks at a hospital in al-Nasiriyah that had been used by Iraqi paramilitaries.

US officials believe that Dr Ammash, who earned a PhD in microbiology at an American university and was appointed to Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council in May 2001, helped to rebuild Iraq's bioweapons programme in the mid-1990s, As the camera panned repeatedly past her face, it seemed as if Baghdad wanted to send a warning to the US and British forces.

"Mrs Anthrax" learnt some of her apparently deadly science at the University of Missouri, where her 1983 doctorate focused on the poisoning effects of radiation, paraquat and adrimycin, a chemotherapy drug, on bacteria and mammals, a university official said.

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Minister, says meanwhile that US-British forces now have categorical evidence that Saddam is ready to use weapons of mass destruction.