BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 16:35 GMT
Iraq's 'unaccounted for' weapons
Scientists are seen through a window in one of the laboratories of the International Atomic Energy Agency near Vienna
Scientists are analysing air, water and soil samples

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has said Iraq's new declaration contains little information that had not been declared by Baghdad before 1998 when UN arms experts were last in Iraq.

The US and UK have long had concerns about what is described as unaccounted for chemical, biological and nuclear material. Their assessments were partly based on a report by the weapons inspections organisation Unscom, predecessor to Unmovic.

In early 1999, Unscom gave the Security Council its own assessment of what Iraq had destroyed and what remained unaccounted for.

The US and UK want a full explanation of what happened to the following:

  • 360 tonnes of chemical warfare agents, including 1.5 tonnes of VX nerve agent;

  • 3,000 tonnes of chemical precursors (which are developed into chemical weapons) including 300 tonnes uniquely used for VX.

The 1999 Unscom report said:

"According to Iraq, 1.5 tonnes of VX were discarded unilaterally by dumping on the ground. Traces of one VX-degradation product and a chemical known as a VX-stabilizer were found in the samples taken from the VX dump sites. A quantified assessment is not possible."


Britain and America want to know about:

  • Growth media for 20,000 litres of biological warfare agents. Any Iraqi claims that this will have degenerated will not be accepted as mustard gas found in shells in 1997 was active;

  • Shells for use in biological warfare - 20,000 are missing say the British, 15,000 say the Americans;

    Unscom said in 1999:

    "The commission has little or no confidence in Iraq's accounting for proscribed items for which physical evidence is lacking or inconclusive, documentation is sparse or nonexistent, and coherence and consistency is lacking.

    These include, for example: quantities and types of munitions available for biological weapons (BW) filling; quantities and types of munitions filled with BW agents; quantities and type of bulk agents produced; quantities of bulk agents used in filling; quantities of bulk agents destroyed; quantities of growth media acquired for the programme; and quantities of growth media used/consumed.

    In addition, the commission has no confidence that all bulk agents have been destroyed; that no BW munitions or weapons remain in Iraq; and that a BW capability does not still exist in Iraq."

    Chemical warfare munitions

    Washington and London demand disclosure on:

  • 6,000 chemical warfare bombs.

    Unscom said:

    The commission has accepted the destruction of about 34,000 munitions on the basis of multiple sources, including physical evidence, documents provided by Iraq etc. However, it has not been possible to achieve a numerical accounting of destroyed munitions due to heavy bomb damage of the CW storage facilities, where these munitions had been stored during the Gulf war. The destruction of about 2,000 unfilled munitions remain uncertain, 550 filled munitions remain unaccounted for.

    Other key concerns for the US and UK include the following:

    • Why did Iraq try to import 60,000 aluminium tubes? Rapidly spinning rotor tubes in centrifuges are used to separate weapons grade uranium, though both the British and American reports acknowledge that the tubes could be used for conventional weapons as well.

    • Why did it try to import other equipment, including vacuum pumps, a winding machine and special chemicals needed in gas centrifuge cascades?

  • Key stories





    See also:

    04 Dec 02 | Middle East
    Internet links:

    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

    Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

     E-mail this story to a friend

    Links to more Middle East stories

    © BBC ^^ Back to top

    News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
    South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
    Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |