- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

Despite French denials, U.S. intelligence and defense officials have confirmed that Iraq purchased from China a chemical used in making fuel for long-range missiles, with help from brokers in France and Syria.
Bush administration officials said the sale took place in August and was described in classified intelligence reports as a "dual-use" chemical used in making missile fuel.
Officials discussed details of the chemical sale after it was first reported by columnist William Safire in Thursday's editions of the New York Times.
France's government, however, denied that the sale took place and disputed Mr. Safire's assertion that French intelligence agencies knew about it.
In Paris, Foreign Ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau said reports of the sale are not true. "These accusations are devoid of all foundation," he said.
"They are a part of a polemic that we do not want to get involved in. In line with the rules currently in force, France has neither delivered, nor authorized the delivery of such materials, either directly or indirectly," the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz met yesterday with France's ambassador to the United States for what were termed "candid" discussions on Iraq.
The meeting at the Pentagon with French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte came at a time of strained U.S.-French relations. Mr. Levitte sought to lobby Mr. Wolfowitz against U.S. military action in Iraq, and Mr. Wolfowitz told the ambassador that 12 years of waiting had been too costly in terms of the growing threat from Baghdad, according to a U.S. official present at the meeting. The issue of chemical and spare-parts sales to Iraq were not discussed.
The chemical transferred to Iraq was a transparent liquid rubber called hydroxy terminated polybutadiene, or HTPB, that is used in making solid fuel for long-range missiles, said U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The sale of the chemical was known since last summer, when it was traced from China's Qilu Chemicals company in Shandong province, the officials said.
"Qilu Chemicals is the largest manufacturer of HTPB in China," one official said.
Although used mainly for making solid fuel for missiles, HTPB also is used for commerical purposes, such as for space launches.
Disclosure of the Chinese chemical sale comes amid other recent intelligence reports revealing that an unidentified French company sold military-aircraft spare parts to Iraq in January.
The spare parts for Iraq's French-made Mirage jets and Gazelle helicopters were sold to a company in the United Arab Emirates and sent to Iraq over land from a third country, intelligence officials said.
The chemical sale to Iraq, according to the officials, involved a French company known as CIS Paris, that helped broker the chemical sale in August of 20 tons of HTPB, which was shipped from China to the Syrian port of Tartus.
The chemicals were then sent by truck from Syria into Iraq to a missile-manufacturing plant.
A CIA spokesman declined to comment on the sale.
U.S. officials said the Chinese chemical shipment was purchased by the company in charge of making solid missile fuel for long-range missiles.
A CIA report to Congress made public in January stated that Iraq has constructed two new "mixing" buildings for solid-propellant fuels at a plant known as al-Mamoun. The facility was originally built to produce the Badr-2000 also known as the Condor solid-propellant missile.
The new buildings "appear especially suited to house large, U.N.-prohibited mixers of the type acquired for the Badr-2000 program," the CIA report stated.
"In fact, we can find no logical explanation for the size and configuration of these mixing buildings other than an Iraqi intention to develop longer-range, prohibited missiles (that is, to mix solid propellant exclusively geared for such missiles)," the report said.
A second plant at al-Mamoun has casting pits that "were specifically designed to produce now-proscribed missile motors," the report said.
Information about the chemical and parts transfers to Iraq, which are banned under U.N. sanctions, comes amid growing anti-French sentiment in the United States.
France's government has been actively opposing U.S. efforts to win U.N. Security Council support for taking military action to disarm Iraq.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said France's actions in opposing its longtime ally should be punished.
"Those who do not take part in the liberation of Iraq should not be allowed to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq," he said.
China has been identified as a major supplier of chemical-, biological- and nuclear-weapons goods and missile systems to rogue states.
The chemical HTPB is listed as a controlled export on a list of missile-related goods made public by the Chinese government in August about the same time that the HTPB transfer to Iraq was made.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman had no immediate comment on reports of the HTPB sale. But the spokesman, Xie Feng, said "irresponsible accusations" about China's exports have been made in the past.

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