News

ACCESSION NUMBER:00000

FILE ID:95071104.POL

DATE:07/11/95

TITLE:IRAQI BIOLOGICAL ARMS PROGRAM SETS BACK LIFTING OF SANCTIONS



TEXT:

(Albright asserts Iraq has "credibility problem") (870)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent



United Nations -- Iraq's recent admission that it had an advanced

biological weapons program exacerbated Baghdad's problems with the

U.N. Security Council and apparently has caused the council to

postpone any possible consideration of lifting the five-year-old oil

embargo against Iraq.



The focus of the Security Council's 26th periodic sanctions review

July 11 was the recent Iraqi admission to Ambassador Rolf Ekeus,

chairman of the U.N. Special Commission overseeing the destruction of

Iraqi weapons (UNSCOM), that it had an offensive biological weapons

program. The council meanwhile rejected Iraq's request for a delay in

destroying outlawed ballistic weapons equipment.



After the session Honduran Ambassador Gerardo Martinez Blanco,

president of the council, called in Iraqi Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon to

inform the envoy of the council's support for UNSCOM's position that

the equipment must be destroyed. The president also expressed the

council's hope that Iraq will cooperate fully with UNSCOM and make the

full, final, and complete disclosure on its biological weapons

program.



The Security Council also determined that Iraq has not fulfilled its

Gulf War cease-fire obligations sufficiently to justify any change in

the wide ranging economic sanctions the council imposed almost five

years ago, Martinez Blanco told journalists waiting outside the

council chambers.



During the closed council meeting, Albright, the chief U.S. delegate

to the U.N., told the council that "the Iraqi admission is the first

step in a long process of verification. Whether that process becomes

shorter depends entirely upon Iraq. It must change its traditional

approach to cooperation with UNSCOM."



According to the text of Albright's remarks to the council, which was

released to journalists, the U.S. ambassador rejected Iraq's assertion

that the biological weapons program was begun in 1985 and that it had

not begun to develop weapons to carry the agents.



"In short, Iraq has a credibility problem not just because of its

uninterrupted record of lying for four years," the ambassador said.

"Even with four years to think up a story, it has not yet told a story

that is internally consistent."



Before UNSCOM can verify that Iraq has provided a full disclosure of

its biological weapons program, Albright said, "Iraq must provide full

access to the sites, equipment, documents and personnel involved in

the program. Unless past Iraqi practice changes, this will be a long

and complex process with Iraq providing grudgingly only the

information it believes UNSCOM already knows."



"It is no wonder that Iraq fails to be credible," the ambassador said.



"The Iraqi delegation that is telling members of the council this week

that it is prepared to answer all questions on biological weapons is

the very same delegation that two months ago strenuously denied to

this council, to its own people, and in written and televised

interviews, that it ever had a biological weapons program," Albright

said.



In a letter to the council on July 2, Ekeus reported that in private

meetings that included Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and

other officials, Iraq "admitted for the first time the offensive

nature of its biological weapons program" including that the research

was begun in late 1985 at the Muthanna site, where it also produced

chemical weapons, and then transferred to Salman Pak in early 1986.

"Until this statement, Iraq had insisted that its military biological

program was limited in scope to defensive research and that no weapons

or agents had ever been produced," he said.



Iraq produced biological warfare agents at the al Hakam facility in

1989 and 1990 and stored them there in concentrated form until they

were destroyed in October 1990 "in view of the imminence of

hostilities," Ekeus said.



Iraq has promised to provide a complete disclosure of the program by

the end of 1995 with a first draft ready by mid-July; at that time,

Ekeus said, UNSCOM experts will visit Baghdad for talks.



Ekeus also reported that Iraq is refusing to destroy five items that

are related to ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150

kilometers, which must be destroyed according to the cease-fire

agreement.



"Iraq's refusal to destroy proscribed missile

capabilities...constitutes, in the commission's view, a failure by

Iraq to honor an obligation it has unconditionally accepted. That

failure means that an action required of Iraq under section of

resolution 687 (1991) remains unfulfilled," Ekeus said.



Albright said that the Iraqi refusal to destroy the ballistic missile

equipment "makes plain why UNSCOM must not close its files in other

areas."



"In the missile area, rather than evading their obligations, the

Iraqis have decided to flout them," she said.



British Ambassador David Hannay characterized Ekeus' report as a "very

important step" that has spotlighted a lot of unanswered questions the

special commission now must pursue.



For example, Hannay said, "What became of all the equipment that they

used for research, production, and so on? Why is there still a denial

of weaponization, which is a normal part of any program of this sort,

particularly since they produced very large amounts of the biological

weapons material?"

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