Spain OKs antidote sale to Israel

MADRID, Feb. 3 (JTA) — As the countdown continues to an anticipated war against Iraq, Spain has agreed to provide Israel with extra supplies of a poison gas antidote. Israel is heightening its civil defense preparations against a possible Iraqi chemical attack in case of a U.S.-led strike on Baghdad. The antidote, known as atropine, is contained in the gas mask kits being distributed throughout Israel. It is used to fight the effects of deadly agents such as sarin nerve gas. Two injections are included in each kit. Israel produces considerable quantities, but the government asked Spain, which also manufactures the serum, if it has enough stock to sell additional supplies to Israel if necessary, according to Israeli Embassy spokesperson Jackie Eldan. “In a time of need, a friend like Spain was able to come through,” Eldan said. The anti-Israel attitudes expressed in the Spanish media have not affected the “strong relations between the governments and the peoples,” he added. The government of Spain’s conservative prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, has been a staunch backer of the Bush administration’s efforts to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by force if necessary. Last week, Aznar had an Op-Ed piece in The Wall Street Journal — cosigned by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and six other European leaders — urging Europe to stand shoulder to shoulder with America. The Spanish newspaper El Pais said Spain had agreed to provide Israel with a 1-ton shipment that would include “thousands of doses” of atropine. Eldan, however, declined to specify the quantity Spain is willing to make available. In addition, the sale ultimately will depend on whether Israel can count on its own reserves, he added. During the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel. The missiles were equipped with conventional warheads, but such missiles can easily be refitted with chemical weapons. “In Israel, we are taking that experience very seriously,” Eldan said.

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