- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

The United States yesterday announced sanctions on an Indian company for contributing to Iraq's biological and chemical weapons program, based on evidence of attempts by Baghdad to acquire banned arms.
Administration officials say the evidence shows transfers of biological and chemical materials to Iraq "over a period of time," including but not limited to the past year, by the Indian company NEC Engineers Private, which is based in India but also is operating in the Middle East and Eurasia.
The company and its president, Hans Raj Shiv, received sanctions on Feb. 4 by the U.S. government under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters. He said Mr. Shiv "was previously residing in India but was last believed to be in the Middle East."
"Penalties were imposed on these entities for knowingly and materially contributing to Iraq's chemical and biological weapons program," he said. "The penalties will remain in effect for at least 12 months."
Mr. Boucher declined to discuss specific activities but cited Indian press reports that NEC had sent Iraq 10 shipments, including titanium vessels, filters, titanium centrifugal pumps, atomized and spherical aluminum powder and titanium anodes.
Mr. Boucher also noted that "penalties were previously imposed" on Mr. Shiv on July 9 under the Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act of 1992.
The new sanctions rules state that "the U.S. government shall not procure or enter into any contract for the procurement of any goods or services from the sanctioned entities and their successors," the State Department said in a statement.
In addition, "the importation into the United States of products produced by the sanctioned entities and their successors shall be prohibited," it said.
Mr. Boucher pointed out that the sanctions did not extend to the Indian government, which he said was helpful with its "efforts to halt Indian entities from engaging in illicit activities with [weapons of mass destruction] and missile programs in the Middle East and elsewhere."
In fact, Indian authorities have been investigating the activities of NEC and affiliated companies, have taken steps "to try to prevent further proliferant exports and have arrested two principals of the company," he said.
"Unfortunately, NEC and Shiv have shifted operations to other locations," Mr. Boucher said. "We hope our actions will support the steps India is taking, and will encourage other governments to take similar steps."
Iraq insists that it does not have weapons of mass destruction. U.N. inspectors, who have been in the country since November, have not been able to find incontrovertible evidence of major weapons violations, but the Bush administration says Iraq relocates mobile laboratories in trucks.
The official Kuwaiti News Agency, meanwhile, reported from Tehran that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had asked the Iranian government for permission to use Iran as a route for his possible political asylum in Russia, or in Syria or another Arab country.
Fox News said the story was reported in the reliable Arab language newspaper Al-Qabas based on a report on an Iranian Web site. Iranian government officials declined to confirm or deny the report, Fox said.
Wire agencies quoted Saddam as saying his people did not want war but would fight against the United States if it attacked Iraq.
"Our people respect the freedom, sovereignty and dignity of others, including America, if it respects the freedom, sovereignty and dignity of Iraq and the Arabs," he told visiting Russian politicians.
"But if America is driven by the devil into imagining it can achieve the objectives which it is talking about, it will then see the determination of the Iraqi people and we shall defeat it," he said.

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