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Sunday, 25 February, 2001, 12:40 GMT
Iraq 'could build N-bomb'
Weapons inspectors leave Baghdad
UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998
Iraq could produce nuclear weapons within three years, according to a German intelligence assessment.

The report also says the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has evidence that Baghdad is working to develop its short-range rockets.

Saddam Hussein
Germany believes Saddam Hussein is restoring Iraq's weapons capabilities
The BND also believes Iraq still possesses the capacity to resume the production of biological weapons at short notice.

Details of the information contained in the report was published in various German newspapers following a briefing to journalists by BND officials.

"It is clear that we have suspicions about Iraq," a BND official told Reuters news agency.

Ceasefire agreement

The intellegence agency believes that Iraq has resumed efforts to build chemical and biological weapons since UN inspectors left the country in 1998.

But it says that Baghdad currently possesses only 10-20% of the conventional weapons it had during the Gulf War.

Under the ceasefire agreement which ended the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq was obliged to end its chemical and biological weapons capacity.

The United Nations team appointed to monitor Baghdad's compliance with the agreement left Iraq in 1998 after the government ceased co-operation with the weapons inspectors.

The BND says it has evidence to suggest the following:

  • Iraq has resumed its nuclear programme and may be capable of producing an atomic bomb in three years. Work has been observed at the Al Qaim site, believed to be the centre of Baghdad's nuclear programme.
  • Iraq is currently developing its Al Samoud and Ababil 100/Al Fatah short-range rockets, which can deliver a 300kg payload 150km (95 miles). Medium-range rockets capable of carrying a warhead 3,000km (1,900 miles) could be built by 2005 - far enough to reach Europe.
  • Iraq is also believed to be capable of manufacturing solid rocket fuel.
  • A Delhi-based company, blacklisted by the German Government because of its alleged role in weapons proliferation, has acted as a buyer on Iraq's behalf. Deliveries have been made via Malaysia and Dubai.
  • Since the UN inspectors left, the number of Iraqi sites involved in chemicals production has increased from 20 to 80. Of that total, the BND believes a quarter to be involved in making weapons.
  • Widespread procurement activity has been observed abroad and production of biological weapons could be resumed at short notice. It is possible that production may already have begun.

There has been no response to the report from Iraq.

But US Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to it during his tour of the Mid-east.

He told a news conference in Jerusalem that it underlined the need to contain Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"We have to make sure he is denied the opportunity to continue moving in this direction," Mr Powell said.

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