- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 16 (UPI) — U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq Thursday said they discovered 11 empty chemical warheads in the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area and a 12th warhead "that requires further evaluation."

Hiro Ueki, joint spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency, also announced in a Baghdad statement released at U.N. headquarters that an UNMOVIC team visited the homes of two Iraqi scientists in the capital and found some documents relating to "past proscribed activities dating from the early 1990s" which were taken for further evaluation.

A "multidisciplinary team visited" the Ukhaider storage area Thursday "to inspect a large group of bunkers constructed in the late 1990s," said the spokesman. "During the course of their inspection the team discovered 11 empty 122 mm chemical warheads and one warhead that requires further evaluation.

"The warheads were in excellent condition and were similar to one imported by Iraq during the late 1980s," Ueki said. "The team used portable X-ray equipment to conduct a preliminary analysis of one of the warheads and collected samples for chemical testing."

A U.S. defense expert told United Press International the warheads would be artillery shells and likely distinguished from conventional versions by markings and configuration.

"There would be a hollow space for the chemical weapon and the device to disperse it," said Donald Abenheim, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, a think tank associated with Stanford University in California.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, was told of the finding as he emerged from a Security Council meeting.

"I don't have any further reports than what you have," he replied when asked if he had further details. "It sounds like it is an interesting development. I am sure that it is being followed up actively by the inspectors and we will have to wait and see what further develops on this question."

Pressed further, he said, "I am sure the inspectors are giving this their most rapid attention possible and I am sure that we will be getting further information." Added Washington's envoy, "I am sure that we will be learning more as the day and the week progresses."

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said, "I want to hear the inspector's report before I make a judgment on that. I want to hear what the inspectors' judgment on that is before I make a specific comment."

"It's important to keep in mind that Iraqi artillery was among the best in the world in its day," said Abenheim of Hoover. "In a battlefield situation, a dozen chemical warheads of this size would have affected perhaps 5,000 troops.

"So from a tactical standpoint, that's not a crippling impact and we want to avoid hyperventilating about it. But on the strategic level, it shows the assertion made by (U.S. President George) Bush and others may have some credibility."

He offered the prediction that "all sides will claim victory with this. … Those who support inspections will say it's a reason to keep going with them and the hawks will say it means it's time to move in."

In addition to the Ukhaider storage area, added UNMOVIC spokesman Ueki, inspection teams on Thursday also traveled 11 miles southeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad to the Al Nidaa State Company. Al Nidaa is a manufacturing site specializing in equipment used in the production of solid propellant rocket motors.

"The inspection team held technical discussions with plant representatives in an attempt to verify information received during inspections of other sites within Iraq," he said, adding that a second missile team visited the Nissan 17 factory in the capital, which produces molds and cases "for both military and civil applications, including components for the Al Samoud ballistic missile."

Ueki said a team of chemical inspectors went to storage facilities in and around the Rasheed State Company for Production of Construction and Building Materials 37 miles outside Baghdad on Thursday and a Mosul-based multi-disciplinary team Wednesday visited the Mosul Technical Institute, which conducts agricultural research.

Inspectors also searched homes in Iraq for the first time Thursday, including one owned by a nuclear researcher, and questioned two scientists. One of them, Faleh Hassan Al Basri, heads a company founded by Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission and that employs several experts in nuclear research.

Industrialization Commission. Many nuclear scientists work for the body.

Ueki did not convey what, if anything, was spotted by inspectors at the various other sites.

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(With reporting by Elizabeth Manning in Washington.)


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