LONDON, June 3 (JTA) — Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is exploiting NATO’s preoccupation with the Balkans by accelerating the search for components used in nonconventional weapons, according to the London-based newsletter Foreign Report. Quoting Middle East sources, the newsletter said Saddam’s representatives abroad have been ordered to purchase equipment for developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missile delivery systems. They have also been instructed to “collaborate with Palestinian extremists ready to ‘punish’ the West,” the weekly newsletter said in its Thursday edition. According to one source’s account, Iraqi scientists could resume their chemical and biological warfare programs within the next nine months and are just 18 months away from resuming their nuclear weapons program, which was halted in 1991. The nuclear weapons team is said to have been aided by “freelance” Russian nuclear scientists, while the Iraqis have been attempting to buy missile parts in Eastern Europe. With the Iraqis believing that both the CIA and Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service have been told to concentrate their efforts on Serbia, “Iraqi embassies in key capitals are said to have been ordered to get to work buying as much as they can while the going is good,” said the newsletter. It also noted reports of contacts between Iraqi officials and representatives of Osama Bin Laden, the renegade Saudi millionaire who is thought to have masterminded and bankrolled last August’s bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In another development, the newsletter notes that Saddam is building a resort village for his family and friends some 75 miles from Baghdad. It is said to be reminiscent of the high-security groupings of luxury dachas used by Russian Politburo members during the Soviet era. The resort is reportedly being built on the shores of Lake Tartar, and Saddam’s closest aides have been invited to build villas or small mansions within the compound.
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