The United Nations' chief arms inspector was headed back to New York Thursday to report on new information he received on Iraq's program to produce biological weapons.
Iraq apparently told Rolf Ekeus, head of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, that it had biological weapons agents - botulism and anthrax - while the Persian Gulf War was being waged, Tim Trevan, a spokesman for the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, said Wednesday at the United Nations.Iraq had maintained that the agents were destroyed in October 1990, about two months before the start of the war. But Trevan said Iraq now says they were not destroyed until July 1991 - five months after the war ended.
U.N. investigators suspect Iraq had even tested some weapon delivery systems, he added.
Ekeus said he received information on Iraqi weapons programs from a defector, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid, in a two-hour meeting. He declined to give details.
Al-Majid, a son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and the architect of Iraq's clandestine network to acquire weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s, defected to Jordan on Aug. 8, threatening to divulge all he knew to U.N. experts.
Ekeus visited Baghdad and Amman over the past week, after al-Majid's threat prompted the Iraqi regime to hand over more information. He was expected back in New York on Friday.
Speaking Wednesday at a news conference in Amman, Ekeus said Iraq has promised him "100 percent implementation" of the terms of the cease-fire resolution that halted the 1991 gulf war.
If Iraq makes good on that promise, the U.N. Security Council would have to consider lifting the oil and trade embargo imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
Before leaving Jordan Wednesday, Ekeus said Iraq could no longer strike its neighbors with chemical weapons or long-range missiles. But, he cautioned, the United Nations must verify the biological weapons data.
"We cannot take (the statements) at face value," he said. Every time we've done that before, we've been misled."
In Washington, State Department spokesman David Johnson concurred.
"Iraq must demonstrate its peaceful intentions by complying with all its obligations," he said, including accounting for those missing or killed in the invasion of Kuwait, returning property seized there, and ending its involvement in terrorism.
"Iraq has yet to fulfill any of these obligations," Johnson said.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Iraq has broadcast a speech by Jordan's King Hussein which Kuwait hailed as a turning point that could help bring down Saddam.
State television and Shebab (Youth) TV, a channel run by Saddam's eldest son, Uday, broadcast the full speech without comment Wednesday night. In it the King criticized Saddam and accused his government of planning to invade Kuwait.
An announcer on state-run television told viewers before broadcasting the recording that they were "enlightened enough" to hear the speech in full and draw their own conclusions.
It was followed by a patriotic song which said the Iraqi people would support Saddam no matter what happened: "To the death we are with you, wherever you want you can take us."