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 Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 12:41 GMT
Washington's case against Saddam
Saddam Hussein
Saddam: Accused of sponsoring terror
Amid growing signs that the United States - possibly backed by the UK - is preparing to take action to topple Saddam Hussein, BBC News Online looks at Washington's accusations against the Iraqi leader.

In his State of the Union speech at the beginning of the year, President George Bush spoke of an "axis of evil" comprising Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

President Bush summarised Washington's case against Baghdad in one paragraph, broadly outlining four issues. He said:

  • Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror.
  • The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.
  • This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children.
  • This is a regime that agreed to international inspections, then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilised world.

Weaponry

"The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade."

Washington and London say this accumulation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) poses a threat not just to the region but to the wider world.

Scud missile launcher
Iraq is still believed to have Scud missiles

But exactly what kind and how many weapons Baghdad has is not known, as UN weapons inspectors have not been in the country since December 1998.

A report published by the US State Department earlier that year, said that Iraq had the potential to develop WMD.

"Enough production components and data remain hidden and enough expertise has been retained or developed to enable Iraq to resume development and production of WMD."

It is believed, the report adds, that Iraq maintains "a small force of Scud-type missiles, a small stockpile of chemical and biological munitions, and the capability to quickly resurrect biological and chemical weapons production".

In the same document the State Department says that "Baghdad's interest in acquiring or developing nuclear weapons has not diminished".

A UN report released in March last year suggested that Iraq still had chemical and biological weapons - as well as the rockets to deliver them to targets in other countries. Iraq denies this.

And, on Wednesday, US diplomats said photographs taken by spy satellites show that trucks imported by Baghdad for civilian purposes have been converted into mobile missile launchers.

Arms control

"This is a regime that agreed to international inspections, then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilised world."

Marsh Arab
Thousands of Marsh Arabs have been forced from their homes

Saddam Hussein agreed to allow UN inspectors into the country as part of the ceasefire accord that ended the Gulf War in 1991.

But the body in charge of the inspections, Unscom, complained it was not allowed to its job and was withdrawn in 1998 ahead of a bombing campaign by the US and the UK.

Iraq, meanwhile, accused the commission's monitors of spying for Washington.

After its withdrawal, Unscom was replaced by Unmovic (UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) which has not been allowed into the country.

Baghdad has allowed limited inspections to be carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). But the group says it is not enough to determine whether Iraq may be engaged in a secret nuclear weapons programme.

Sanctions against Iraq will be lifted if it complies fully with international inspections of its weapons industry, the UN says.

'Supporter of terror'

"Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror."

Since 11 September certain officials in Washington, led by US Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz, have argued that attacks of such magnitude would need state-backing, and pointed at Iraq.

So far no evidence appears to have been found to back a link between Saddam and 11 September.

Investigations into a suspected link between one of the alleged hijackers, Mohammad Atta, and Baghdad have reportedly proved inconclusive.

Baghdad has not been accused of planning direct attacks against the US since 1993 - when Iraqi intelligence agents tried to assassinate the then President Bush. But Washington accuses Saddam of sponsoring and training groups on its "terrorist list".

Domestic front

"This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children."

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein has repeatedly been accused of killing and torturing opposition and minority groups, particularly the Kurdish population.

He is said to be responsible for the deaths of between 70,000 and 150,000 Kurds in 1989, including 5,000 in nerve gas attacks.

The campaign against the Kurds of Iraq in the late 1980's, known as the Anfal (or spoils in Arabic), was pursued at time when Iraq was an ally of Washington and the UK.

The Iraqi regime is also accused of having forcibly relocated around 150,000 Marsh Arabs from southern Iraq by draining the marshes in which they lived.

The Iraqi leader also has a record of dealing brutally with dissent against his rule.


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25 Feb 02 | Middle East
24 Feb 02 | Middle East
23 Feb 02 | Middle East
30 Jan 02 | Americas
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