Inspectors Find Only Ruins at an Old Iraqi Weapons Site (NY TIMES) By JOHN F. BURNS BAGHDAD, Iraq 11/29/02)
NEW YORK TIMES
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BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 28 — When United Nations weapons inspectors raced
up to the gates of a scruffy industrial plant on the southern
outskirts of Baghdad today they were met, amid the listless palm
trees and acres of bare earth, by a large, green-painted sign at the
gate with a deceptively innocuous legend.
"General Establishment for Animal Development," the sign read, in
English and Arabic, and underneath: "Animal Health Development. Foot
and Mouth Disease Vaccine Production Laboratory."
But the plant at Al Dawrah has as sinister a history as any on the
weapons inspectors´ list of about 1,000 sites across Iraq — sites the
inspectors plan to search painstakingly.
Al Dawrah´s story took a sharp turn in 1995, when Mr. Hussein´s son-
in-law, Gen. Hussein Kamel, then in charge of all of Iraq´s nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons programs, defected to neighboring
Jordan with millions of dollars of government money. Among the
secrets he took with him was confirmation of a huge biological
weapons program that Iraq had insistently denied, with Al Dawrah as
one of the principal production plants.
General Kamel was later lured back to Baghdad, where within days, he
and several members of his family, taking refuge in his sister´s
luxurious villa, were killed in a furious shootout. But Al Dawrah
became a focal point of the earlier round of United Nations weapons
inspections. Those inspections were terminated in December 1998, over
Iraq´s persistent noncompliance. By that time, however, the United
Nations specialized teams had determined that Al Dawrah had produced,
among other things, at least 1,425 gallons of botulinum toxin.
When the new round of inspections began on Wednesday, Al Dawrah was
high on the list for an early-morning, unannounced, arrive-at-high-
speed search. One reason was that the Iraqis never accounted for all
the botulinum, which kills by paralysis and suffocation. Another was
that a British government document issued this summer named Al Dawrah
as a site where there was a suspicion of renewed activity.
By the time the inspectors left the plant today, after four hours,
they had concluded that the plant was no longer operational — not for
the production of toxins, and not for animal vaccines either.
Reporters who were allowed to wander through the plant after the
inspectors left found the place largely in ruins. Apparently, it had
been abandoned by the Iraqis after 1996, when the weapons inspectors
took heavy cutting equipment to the fermenters, containers and
pressurized tubing and valves used in the toxin production.
The darkened rooms of the compound´s main building were little more
than a garbage site, with mangled lengths of steel, document files
strewn about to collect dust and piles of pressure valves and severed
pipes. The inspectors, bearing clipboards, tape recorders, cameras
and flashlights, spent much of their time scouring outbuildings,
taking swab samples from air-filtration systems and, in the case of
one inspector, clambering to the top of a 20-foot tank, then nodding
to his colleagues as if to confirm that he had found what he
expected. Equipment judged not to have been used in the toxin
production, they found, had been left untouched.
Al Dawrah´s director, Montasser Omar Abdel Aziz, had been summoned to
the plant by aides after the inspectors began their search shortly
before 9 a.m. Later, he told reporters, somewhat testily, that the
inspectors had found exactly what Iraq had predicted when it said,
repeatedly in recent months, that it had abandoned all its banned
weapons programs. "You can enter inside, all there are destroyed," he
said, speaking in English. "Nobody can do nothing inside. Now,
nothing. Just a store."
The weapons inspectors agreed with the Iraqi official, but only up to
a point. As they had on Wednesday, when they began their inspections
by visiting a missile-engine factory, an adjacent graphite plant and
a motor production complex, the leaders of the inspection teams
acknowledged that the Iraqis had placed no impediments in the way of
It is a point much emphasized by Iraqi officials, who have encouraged
foreign reporters to follow the inspection teams and roam freely
about the plants afterward.
"We had no problem with access," said Demetrius Perricos, the 67-year-
old Greek chemical engineer who is leading the field inspection teams
deployed by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and
Inspection Commission. That agency is responsible for inspections of
sites with potential involvement in banned biological, chemical and
missile programs. "We conducted all the activities we had to do, so
as far as we are concerned this is a good start." Mr. Perricos
dispatched 14 inspectors to Al Dawrah today and met with reporters
later at a United Nations briefing.
A similar view was offered by Jacques Baute, the French nuclear
physicist who leads the field inspection teams for the International
Atomic Energy Agency. Nine of the nuclear agency´s teams today
inspected the industrial complex at Al Nasr, 30 miles north of
Baghdad, where sophisticated machine-tool equipment was identified
during United Nations inspections from 1991 to 1998 as having been
involved in producing rotors for centrifuges designed for enriching
uranium, and engine parts for missiles. "We had no difficulty with
access," Mr. Baute said. "We went into every technically significant
Al Nasr was heavily bombed by American and British aircraft after
inspections were terminated in 1998, but has since been partly
rebuilt. It was identified by American officials in October as one of
the weapons sites the Iraqis were putting back into commission, but
Mr. Baute said the new building shown in American intelligence
photographs appeared to be inactive, at least during today´s
inspections. "As far as we observed today, it seemed to be very
empty," he said.
Both men gave the Iraqis credit for keeping an accurate inventory of
equipment "tagged" by the previous inspectors. When one fermenter at
Al Dawrah was missing, plant officials said it had been moved to a
veterinary plant north of Baghdad. When the inspectors went on to the
other plant in search of the missing equipment, they found it. Mr.
Baute said his men had a similar experience at Al Nasr, identifying
every tagged piece of equipment at the plant, other than some the
Iraqis had acknowledged moving in earlier declarations to the United
But neither Mr. Perricos nor Mr. Baute was ready to comment, based on
the initial inspections, on the issue behind the months of American
threats that led to the United Nations Security Council´s action
earlier this month in approving the tough new weapons-inspection
mandate: whether Iraq still has banned weapons programs, or has
abandoned them, as senior Iraqi officials have insisted. A key test
of Iraq´s intentions will come on Dec. 8, when the Baghdad government
must make a full, formal declaration of all its banned weapons
programs, if any, and of civilian work in related fields.
The inspectors said their work was not a matter of reaching
conclusions from visits to individual sites, but of building
a "mosaic" by visiting groups of related sites, then re-visiting some
of them. Mr. Perricos described this process as "trying to make an
assessment of what happened in the dark years" after 1998, when the
Mr. Baute said the work could take "weeks or months" — longer,
possibly, though he did not say so, than the Bush administration
might be prepared to wait as it weighs its options for war.
(Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company 11/29/02)
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