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SADDAM SMUGGLING IN PARTS FOR WEAPONS, WESTERN SPIES SAY

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Saddam Hussein is smuggling spare parts for his military machine into Iraq, including at least two recent shipments from China, and is upgrading weapons at secret installations, Western intelligence sources say.

A source speaking on condition of anonymity identified one such installation as a military industrial complex near Tharthar Lake, 60 miles northwest of Baghdad. It was a command center during last year's gulf war.The source said the Iraqis had tested rockets at the site in a continuing effort to upgrade and improve their inventory of con-ventional weapons.

Last year's U.N. cease-fire resolution ruled that Saddam's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction must be destroyed but did not specifically order Iraq to dismantle its armed forces or production facilities for conventional weapons. Conventional weaponry, except for Scud missiles, is outside the purview of the United Nations.

After two years of sanctions, including an arms sales ban, Saddam is increasingly desperate for spare parts to maintain the combat capability of his armed forces which survived Operation Desert Storm, the sources said.

Saddam funds his acquisitions with assets he has known to have stashed away abroad before the Gulf crisis erupted in August 1990, according to the sources. The United Nations has frozen assets that investigators know of - but Saddam is believed to have several billion dollars in bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere.

There is no estimate of how much he is spending in his current buying spree.

While Saddam's offensive capability has been neutralized by the massive losses he suffered last year, he needs to keep his slimmed-down 380,000-man army in fighting condition to stay in power.

The intelligence officials said that at least two shipments of spares for T-72 tanks and long-range artillery, as well as other material, reached Iraq earlier this year from China, which uses similar weaponry.

They said the consignments included night-vision equipment similar to that used with such devastating effect by U.S. and British armor in last year's allied blitzkrieg against Saddam's army.

Both shipments were funnelled through Jordan, although the intelligence operatives are not yet clear exactly how it was done.

The United Nations does not have the ability to monitor compliance with sanctions or check smuggling along the Jordanian border.