Missile engine find stirs concern over Iraq proliferation

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NEW YORK — Twenty engines from banned Iraqi missiles were found in a Jordanian scrap yard with other equipment that could be used for weapons of mass destruction, a U.N. official said, raising new security questions about Iraq’s scrap metal sales since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Acting chief United Nations inspector Demetrius Perricos revealed the discoveries to the U.N. Security Council in a closed-door briefing Wednesday.

The U.N. team that found the 20 engines was following up on a discovery of a similar al-Samoud 2 engine in a scrap yard in the Dutch port of Rotterdam. Mr. Perricos said inspectors also want to check in Turkey, which also has received scrap metal from Iraq.

Mr. Perricos suggested that the interim Iraqi government, which will assume sovereignty of the country on June 30, may want to reconsider policies for exporting scrap metal that apparently began in mid-2003. The sales are regulated by the U.S.-led coalition.

“The removal of these materials from Iraq raises concerns with regard to proliferation risks … thereby also rendering the task of the disarmament of Iraq and its eventual confirmation more difficult,” Mr. Perricos said.

The missile engines and some other equipment discovered in the scrap yards had been tagged by U.N. weapons monitors because of their potential dual use in legitimate civilian activities as well as banned-weapons production.

Mr. Perricos said in his briefing to the Security Council that U.N. inspectors do not know how much material has been removed from Iraq. But he later told reporters that up to a thousand tons of scrap metal was leaving Iraq every day.

“The only controls at the borders are for the weight of the scrap metal, and to check whether there are any explosive or radioactive materials within the scrap,” he said in the briefing.

U.N. inspectors were pulled out of Iraq just before the war began in March 2003, and the United States has refused to allow them to return. Instead, it deployed its own teams to search for weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Perricos told the council that the 20 SA-2 missile engines were discovered when U.N. experts visited “relevant scrap yards” in Jordan last week.

The U.N. team also discovered some processing equipment with U.N. tags — which show that it was being monitored — including heat exchangers, and a solid propellant mixer bowl to make missile fuel, he said. It also discovered “a large number of other processing equipment without tags, in very good condition.”

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