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Tuesday, March 24, 1998 Published at 10:14 GMT


UK alert over Iraqi anthrax threat
image: [ Alert issued to points of entry into Britain last week ]
Alert issued to points of entry into Britain last week

Britain's air and sea ports are on alert against the possible threat of deadly anthrax being smuggled into the country by Iraq.

BBC correspondent Christine Stewart: "no evidence the threat has been implemented" (2' 18")
The all-ports warning follows an alleged threat by Iraq to flood Baghdad's enemies with the toxin hidden in duty-free bottles of alcohol, cosmetics, cigarette lighters and perfume sprays.

The United States and other Nato countries have also apparently received warnings of possible biological and chemical weapons attacks.

The Home Office Minister, Mike O'Brien, talking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme (4' 05")
The Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien appealed for calm. The government has said it has no evidence that the plot has been implemented, just that a threat to smuggle large quantities of anthrax into "hostile countries" had been made.

"I don't think we want to get people particularly scared on this occasion," Mr O'Brien said.

"There are steps being taken, we are very good at dealing with these things and those steps will be taken in co-operation with other countries. I don't think it is a specific threat to Britain."

'Nonsense,' says Baghdad

A senior Iraqi official in Baghdad has firmly denied the story as ridiculous nonsense.

The official referred to the recent agreement reached between Iraq and the United Nations over weapons inspections.

Everyone in the world apart from America, Britain and Israel, he said, had welcomed the agreement and the full co-operation that was now being given to UN weapons inspectors, he said.

Now some people were creating a panic in order to spoil -- as he put it -- the willingness of Iraq to work with the UN.

Tim Trevan from the Institute of Strategic Studies: "how do you assess this intelligence?" (2' 34")
Anthrax is a deadly bacteria that normally sickens animals. But the organism can be used as a biological weapon by releasing its spores into the air.

A tiny bottle could contain sufficient anthrax to kill millions of people.

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