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Wednesday, June 2, 1999 Published at 03:02 GMT 04:02 UK


World: Middle East

Unscom lab safety probed

Unscom left a laboratory and equipment in Baghdad

United Nations weapons inspectors are to investigate the safety of a batch of chemicals they left behind in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.


[ image: Ambassador Lavrov: Concern over what was left behind]
Ambassador Lavrov: Concern over what was left behind
Alarmed at the potential threat posed by the chemical agents, Russia has demanded that the Unscom team advise the UN Security Council on how best to deal with the samples.

Russia's UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, wants assurances that what he calls an unbiased team will be despatched to Baghdad to remove and neutralise the chemical agents, which were left in the organisation's offices.

Western diplomats have accused Russia of exaggerating the threat posed by the chemicals as part of a long-term campaign against both Unscom and its outgoing chief, Richard Butler.

'Miniscule amounts'


[ image: Weapons of war - Iraqi 122mm rockets being destroyed]
Weapons of war - Iraqi 122mm rockets being destroyed
The team - which had been investigating Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capability - left behind a small quantity of Iraqi-made mustard gas, and chemicals used to test its laboratory equipment.

The inspectors pulled out of Iraq in December 1998, hours before the US and Britain launched air strikes. Inspections work has now ground to a halt.

The Security Council is still considering what kind of agency should take over the job of monitoring weapons in Iraq.

There are two rival schemes under discussion - one proposed by Russia and the other by Britain and the Netherlands.

Unscom says it was already assessing how to deal with the mustard gas and with the samples, which it describes as minuscule and not dangerous.



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