News

USIS Washington 
File

14 April 1998

EXPERT PANEL SAYS IRAQI DATA ON BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS IS "INADEQUATE"

(Technical evaluation session does not clear up doubts) (900)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent



United Nations -- A group of international experts has concluded that
the biological weapons information Iraq has supplied to the U.N.
weapons inspectors is "incomplete and inadequate" and that it cannot
say for certain that Iraq is not continuing the deception.


The written report to the Security Council submitted by U.N. Special
Commission (UNSCOM) Chairman Richard Butler April 8 said the special
panel determined that the information supplied by Iraq "provides no
confidence that resources such as weapons, bulk agents, bulk media and
seed stocks (to produce biological weapons) have been eliminated."


The special technical evaluation team on Iraq's biological weapons
program met with Iraqi experts in Vienna from March 20 to 27. The team
included 18 biological weapons experts from around the world.


Last year another UNSCOM panel of experts also determined that the
report Iraq submitted as the "full, final, and complete" disclosure of
its biological weapons program was inadequate and technically flawed.
Under those circumstances, UNSCOM was unable to notify the Security
Council of Baghdad's compliance with the weapons requirements of the
Gulf war cease-fire agreement. That full compliance is necessary
before sanctions can be lifted.


Butler and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz agreed late last
year to hold a "technical evaluation meeting" to deal specifically
with the differences on the biological weapons program.


However, after the week's review, the new panel of international
experts also concluded that Iraq's full, final and complete disclosure
was "incomplete and inadequate."


Using information independently collected by UNSCOM as well as Iraq's
explanations and clarifications, the panel said Iraq's report "does
not provide the basis for the formulation of a material balance or a
determination of the structure and organization of the (biological
weapons) program."


"The organizational aspects of the biological weapons program are not
clear and there is little confidence that the full scope of the
biological weapons program is revealed," the experts said. "Additional
aspects, such as the existence of dormant or additional biological
weapons programs, remain unresolved."


The experts also felt that the Iraqi officials were "not prepared to
tackle the issues in the technical detail" that the evaluation session
demanded.


"They did not grasp the opportunity offered," the panel of experts
said.


Nevertheless the experts said Iraq promised to improve its
declaration.


Iraq has admitted to trying to hide its biological weapons program
from the U.N. until 1995. But Baghdad has blamed the late General
Hussain Kamal for the activities and said that it was not a government
planned and co-ordinated activity.


The experts called that excuse "absurd."



"Iraq, however, has presented falsified or altered papers, accounts
and material to conceal its offensive biological weapons program.
Since February 1996 Iraq has not provided further documentation or
plausible explanations for many aspects of its biological weapons
program," the report noted.


"It is not certain whether deception with regard to some elements of
the biological weapons program continues," it said.


While Iraq claims that its biological weapons program was destroyed in
1991, Baghdad "retained the facilities, growth media, equipment and
groupings of core technical personnel at Al Hakam, and continued to
deny the biological weapons program's existence," the experts said.


They said the fact that Iraq has yet to offer documentation of its
formal renunciation of the biological weapons program also raises
"serious doubts" that the program was truly obliterated in 1991.


"A most disturbing unresolved issue concerns the Al-Hussain biological
weapons warheads," the report said. Iraq's account of the destruction
of the warheads cannot be reconciled with the physical evidence.


Recent discoveries of warheads in a pit at Al-Nibai, an "aircraft
drop-tank project," production figures for both chemical and
biological bombs, and Iraq's acknowledgement that it has provided
incorrect information in the past, the report said, "casts doubts on
many aspects of the Al-Hussain biological weapons warhead program."


The experts also said that: Iraq underreported the amount of supplies
and material it imported; did not report substantial quantities of
microbial growth media; misrepresented the abilities of the various
scientists working on the program; understated bulk biological weapons
agent production; and provided questionable descriptions of Iraq's
military organization involved in the biological weapons program.


Another weapons report, this one from the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), cast Iraq's compliance on its nuclear weapons program
in a more favorable light.


In a separate report to the Security Council April 9, IAEA said that
the initial inspection of the eight so-called presidential sites -- to
which U.N. weapons inspectors had been previously barred -- March 26
to April 3 "revealed no immediate indications of the presence of
prohibited materials or equipment or of the conduct of prohibited
activities with respect to" nuclear weapons.


IAEA's ongoing monitoring since October 1997 "have not revealed
indications of the existence in Iraq of prohibited equipment or
material or of the conduct of prohibited activities," the IAEA said.


The agency inspects sites which it feels have the capabilities to work
on some aspect of nuclear weapons programs. UNSCOM oversees the
biological and chemical weapons areas as well as long-range ballistic
missiles.


(For more information on this subject, contact our special Iraq
website at: http://www.usia.gov/iraq )