- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 25, 2002

LONDON An intelligence-based British government dossier released yesterday said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has "existing and active plans" to use biological and chemical weapons that could be activated in 45 minutes and that he is "actively" pursuing offensive nuclear capabilities.
But the report, which offered little new factual evidence against Baghdad, stopped short of stating that Saddam already has nuclear weapons, although it noted that he has tried to acquire "significant quantities of uranium" from Africa despite having no nuclear-power facilities.
Prime Minister Tony Blair presented the dossier's findings at a special session of the House of Commons yesterday morning and argued that "the threat is not imagined" and "the history of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is not American or British propaganda."
"His WMD program is active, detailed and growing," Mr. Blair told Parliament. "The policy of containment is not working. The WMD program is not shut down. It is up and running."
The White House called the 50-page report "frightening" and said it proved the Bush administration's deep concern about the danger Saddam's continued reign in Iraq poses for the Middle East and the entire world.
Iraq, which says that it has no weapons of mass destruction, wasted no time in rejecting Mr. Blair's assertions.
"He said that he would announce evidence, but this is just scare-mongering, exaggeration and lies," Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri told reporters in Cairo.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, snubbed by the United States for his anti-war stance on Iraq, met Mr. Blair yesterday shortly after the release of the dossier.
Mr. Schroeder, on his first trip abroad since his narrow victory in the German general election over the weekend, was expected to capitalize on the British show of support after the United States accused him of poisoning their relations because of his position on Iraq.
Downing Street described the two-hour meeting as "very warm and informal," saying the two men discussed Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
Britain is helping the United States in its effort to win U.N. Security Council support this week for a tough new resolution demanding Iraq's full disclosure and destruction of any weapons it possesses. But Mr. Blair said diplomatic pressure without the threat of force is a doomed endeavor.
"If we take this course, [Saddam] will carry on, his efforts will intensify, his confidence grow, and at some point, in a future not too distant, the threat will turn into reality," he said. "Diplomacy not backed by the threat of force, has never worked with dictators and will never work."
Some members of Parliament from Mr. Blair's Labor Party, however, were not convinced by the report's findings.
George Galloway, who has traveled to Iraq several times in recent months hoping to help avoid war, derided the document as "pulp fiction" and "out of date." While he was speaking, protesters circled the Parliament in an open-topped campaign bus, singing "Give Peace a Chance."
Mr. Blair also is facing opposition in his Cabinet to his unshakeable support for President Bush, but, after a Monday night meeting, a crisis appeared to have been averted.
According to London's dossier, Iraq has continued to produce biological and chemical agents since it expelled U.N. weapons inspectors in December 1998. The biological agents include anthrax, botulinum, toxin, aflatoxin and ricin, all of which result in "excruciatingly painful death," the document said.
In the four years since a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) dismantled most of Baghdad's nuclear capabilities, "Saddam has bought or attempted to buy" various components and materials needed for uranium enrichment by gas centrifuge, Mr. Blair said.
They include specialized vacuum pumps needed for the centrifuge, an entire magnet-production line for use in the centrifuges' motors and a filament-winding machine that can be used to manufacture carbon-fiber centrifuge rotors, he said.
Regarding ballistic-missile technology, "Iraq is supposed to have capability of up to 150 kilometers [93 miles] of conventional weaponry," Mr. Blair said. But "a significant number of longer-range missiles were effectively concealed" from the U.N. inspectors in the 1990s, and they remain. By early this year, Baghdad's "development of weapons with a range over 1,000 kilometers [620 miles] was well under way," he said.
"Read it all," the prime minister told the House of Commons, "and again I defy anyone to say that this cruel and sadistic dictator should be allowed any possibility of getting his hands on more chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons."
The dossier also pointed out that for three years Iraq has allowed the IAEA to carry out an annual inspection of a stockpile of nuclear material, which consists of depleted natural and low-enriched uranium.
"This has led some countries and Western commentators to conclude erroneously that Iraq is meeting its nuclear disarmament and monitoring obligations," the report said in its description of the situation since the inspectors left in 1998.
It then cited the IAEA's recent clarification that the inspection in question does "not serve as a substitute for the verification activities required by the relevant resolution of the U.N. Security Council."
The Washington Times reported yesterday that the IAEA Iraq Action Team, created after the 1991 Gulf war, was ready to resume its work under the old conditions and, barring a red light from the U.N. Security Council, planned to return to Baghdad as early as Oct. 15.
Officials at the Vienna, Austria-based IAEA said the numerous existing U.N. resolutions demanding Baghdad's cooperation provide it with sufficient mandate to send the inspectors back without a new resolution.
"We have an existing mandate to do inspections, which were interrupted in 1998, but Iraq's recent invitation has opened the door to go back in, and we are planning to do so," one senior IAEA official said. "We can resume under the existing resolutions or under the terms of a new one either way, we are ready to go."
The Oct. 15 date appeared last week in an internal U.N. "timeline" circulated by Hans Blix, the chief of the organization's arm in charge of Iraq's biological, chemical and missile capabilities. The "advance party" would arrive in Baghdad that day for "preparatory work," but "some early inspections" are also possible, the document said.


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