Tags: Iran | Backs | Coalition | Claims | Hidden | Iraqi | WMD

Iran Backs Coalition Claims of Hidden Iraqi WMD

Friday, 06 June 2003 12:00 AM

"Yes, we agree with the Americans. Our intelligence indicated that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction and was hiding them from the UN."

The source, who requested confidentiality, went on to say that the big question is: "What did the Iraqis do with these weapons?"

While Teheran does not know where these weapons may be today, there is a strong suspicion that some may have filtered onto local black markets.

"We know other items once under military control (such as broadcast transmission equipment) have found their way onto the black market," says the official.

"We have people coming to Teheran from Baghdad with catalogs of items (stolen from the Iraqi government) offering them for sale." So far, the source claims no WMD offerings have shown up in Iran ... yet.

The Iranian revelation comes as the Bush administration and the government of UK prime minister Tony Blair have come under increased fire on the issue of whether Iraq was still in possession of prohibited weapons prior to the March invasion.

The issue of WMD and its possible possession by Baghdad was repeatedly cited by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Blair as a central reason for launching Operation Iraqi Freedom.

More than two months later, neither US nor UK military forces have been able to find any evidence of hidden Iraqi WMD.

Calls for Congressional and Parliamentary investigations into the secret weapons issue are increasing on Capitol Hill and in London.

Blair, in a Wednesday speech before the British House of Commons and Bush in a Thursday speech before US troops at Central Command Headquarters in Doha, Qatar, insisted that given enough time, Coalition forces will uncover the secret(and well hidden)Iraqi weapons.

Those claims clashed with comments by UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix who told a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday that his personnel "saw no evidence of hidden WMD during their latest rounds of inspections."

Those inspections began in December 2002 and lasted till March 18, 2003, one day before the US and UK attacked Iraq.

Blix did qualify his findings by admitting prohibited Iraqi weapons may still exist, but there was no way he could be sure, since UN arms inspectors have not been allowed into Iraq since the Coalition invasion.

For the first time since the invasion, Washington and London are permitting a limited inspection of a major Iraqi nuclear installation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA (the UN's atomic watchdog) is sending an emergency seven member inspection team to the Tuwaitha nuclear center, 15 mi south of Baghdad by week's end.

More than 500 tons of toxic nuclear waste had been stored and sealed at the center by the IAEA prior to the overthrow of the Iraqi government.

Local reports from the area claim much of the waste was looted during the war.

IAEA officials familiar with the nuclear materials explain that some of them could be used by terrorists to fashion a so-called "dirty bomb".

The agency says that Washington has decided to impose a news blackout on the activities of the IAEA team in Iraq. The inspections are tentatively scheduled to last two weeks.

"Nobody in Baghdad will be available to brief the press," says one IAEA official. The official added, "we don't know what to expect, this is new territory."

Coincidentally, IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei decided not to attend the UN Security Council briefing on the Iraqi arms issue in New York City on Thursday.

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"Yes, we agree with the Americans. Our intelligence indicated that Iraq did possess weapons of mass destruction and was hiding them from the UN." The source, who requested confidentiality, went on to say that the big question is: "What did the Iraqis do with these...
Iran,Backs,Coalition,Claims,Hidden,Iraqi,WMD
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2003-00-06
Friday, 06 June 2003 12:00 AM
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