Britain Details Inventory of Iraqi Weapons Capability

Britain this week presented the most comprehensive and compelling case for military action aimed at forcing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to allow U.N. weapons inspectors unrestricted access to search for weapons of mass destruction.

In a nine-page document, the Foreign Office detailed the inventory of chemical and biological weapons that the U.N.inspectors have destroyed and the lethal quantity of non-conventional weapons that Saddam is suspected of continuing to conceal.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Robin Cook, described the document as “a tale of repeated deception,” adding: “Anyone who does not grasp the gravity of this issue should read it.”

According to the document, the U.N. weapons inspectors are concerned that “Iraq may still have operational Scud-type missiles with chemical and biological warheads.

“Critical missile components, warheads and propellants are not accounted for,” it says. “Nor are 17 tons of growth media for biological weapons — enough to produce more than three times the amount of anthrax Iraq admits it had.” Saddam initially admitted Iraq had produced 169 gallons of anthrax; the accepted figure is now nearly 2200 gallons.

“Key items of chemical weapons production equipment are also missing,” says the document, noting that the U.N. weapons inspectors “strongly suspect that admitted Iraqi figures for the production of biological weapons agents are still too low.”

Also unaccounted for are:

Some 4,000 tons of chemical weapons precursors, sufficient to produce several hundred tons of chemical weapons agents, which could fill several thousand munitions;

Over 31,000 chemical weapons munitions; and

Over 600 tons of VX precursors, which could produce 200 tons of VX nerve gas. One drop of VX can kill a person, 200 tons could wipe out the entire population of the word.

The document says the U.N. weapons inspectors must also continue monitoring Iraq’s facilities, which can be used for manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. “Given the chance, Iraq would undoubtedly resume WMD production,” it says, using the acronym for weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq has four plants that have been used to produce chemical weapons munitions and 30 which could be converted to produce chemical weapons materials. “These factories cannot be destroyed because they have legitimate alternative civilian uses,” notes the document, “but it is important that they are monitored closely.”

Without monitoring, it warns, Iraq could produce chemical and biological weapons in weeks, a long-range missile in a year and nuclear weapons in five years.

In addition, it could produce up to 91 gallons of weapons-grade anthrax each week — enough to fill two warheads — and it could also produce mustard chemical weapons agents within weeks.

The document also details episodes to support its charges of “Iraqi deceit, concealment, harassment, and obstruction:”

Iraq claimed that its VX nerve gas project had failed, but U.N. inspectors discovered Iraq had developed the capability to produce VX on an industrial scale and had, in fact, produced four tons of the nerve gas.

Iraq was working on a number of other agents, including sarin, tabun and mustard gas.

Iraq claimed that the huge al-Hakam factory was used to produce animal feed, but in fact it was found to be used for manufacturing biological weapons and had produced 13,000 gallons of anthrax and botulinum. If 220 kilograms of anthrax were released from the top of a tall building, it could kill up to 3 million people.

Iraq, despite denials, was found to have produced over 4,900 gallons of botulinum, nearly 2,200 gallons of anthrax, 572 tons of aflatoxin, which produces liver cancer, and clostridium, which produces gas gangrene. It had filled ballistic missile warheads and bombs with the first three of these agents. These have since been destroyed.

The document notes that the U.N. weapons inspectors have so far destroyed:

38,000 chemical weapons;

124,800 gallons of live chemical weapons agents;

48 operational missiles;

Six missile launchers;

30 missile warheads adapted for chemical and biological weapons; and

Hundreds of items of equipment used for the production of chemical weapons.

The document adds that Iraq appears determined to withhold any further information and to prevent the weapons inspectors from finding it themselves.

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