U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq believe that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is failing to disclose a significant biological weapons program.

The mounting fears could delay the lifting of trade sanctions against Iraq.Western officials are convinced that in the late 1980s Iraq had been working on ways of using a range of bacteria and viruses as weapons, including anthrax, botulism, gas gangrene and rabbit fever.

Until this year, the Iraqis vehemently denied having any biological weapons program. Then they conceded that they had undertaken some limited research into defenses against biological warfare.

Such research is permitted by the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty banning the production or stockpiling of these armaments.

Only 10 scientists had been engaged on this research, said Iraqi authorities. These individuals have now been interviewed by inspectors of the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM), which was established after the gulf war to oversee the destruction of Baghdad's nonconventional weapons programs.

View Comments

The 10 say that they worked together at a German-built facility at Salman Pak, just south of Baghdad and were later moved to a location identified as Al Hakim, west of the city. They claim that there was no overall project director and that funding was extremely limited.

In certain key areas, moreover, their stories do not coincide. UNSCOM is not convinced, and an intensive series of biological inspections is now being planned for early 1995.

UNSCOM's suspicions have been openly voiced by Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who heads the commission. Earlier this month, he told a U.S. television reporter: "They (the Iraqis) have a capability which we have not as yet put our hands on fully; a capability to mass-produce micro-biologic (sic) items: viruses and bacteria - for warfare prposes."

The suspicions came at a sensitive time. U.N. Security Council resolutions ban Iraqi oil exports until Baghdad has disclosed and destroyed all its nonconventional weaponary.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.