LONDON (Mar. 12)
Iraq has built a secret underground chemical plant in the desert to supply its army with deadly nerve gas, according to an exclusive report in The Observer newspaper.
The report follows confirmation that Iraq has been waging chemical warfare against Iran, in defiance of the Geneva Convention of 1925.
However, the report makes it clear that the Iraqi plans for the plant were designed long before its hostilities with its fellow Moslem neighbor and when Israel was its sole military adversary.
According to the Observer, Iraq first turned unsuccessfully to the United States and Britain for help in building a plant to make highly toxic pesticides which were almost identical with nerve gas. The paper suggests that Iraq was finally helped by the Italian chemical industry.
The plant, which has been operating since 1978, is 10 miles east of Rutbah, in a remote desert area near a phosphate mine from which important ingredients are extracted.
U.S. intelligence sources, who are said to have confirmed the plant’s existence, have also confirmed Iraq’s use of mustard gas, a less toxic substance, several times since last autumn.
The Observer report shows that Iraq was seeking to manufacture chemical weapons at the same time that it was building up its nuclear potential, until interrupted by Israel’s aerial destruction of a reactor outside Baghdad in 1981.
In the mid-1960’s there were frequent reports that the Egyptian airforce was using poison gas bombs against royalist tribesmen in the Yemen. The reports were never fully investigated.