2 Trailers Deemed Biological Arms Labs; CIA Cites Single 'Logical Purpose'

Article excerpt

Byline: Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The CIA yesterday concluded that two truck trailers seized by coalition forces in northern Iraq were designed by Saddam Hussein's regime to produce biological weapons agents.

A six-page agency white paper said an examination of the trailers' equipment showed that "BW [biological weapons] agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for these vehicles."

The assessment is the clearest indication yet that Baghdad was in violation of U.N. arms resolutions that required it to disclose all aspects of its weapons of mass destruction programs. Officials said the moving factories would have been capable of producing enough agents to kill thousands of people.

However, U.S. inspector teams still had not found the biological weapons themselves or suspected large arsenals of chemical weapons, which the Central Intelligence Agency said existed in Iraq before the United States went to war to oust Saddam from power and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction.

The CIA report said the two truck trailers matched the description supplied to the United States by spies, including an Iraqi chemical engineer who managed one of the plants where the equipment was made.

It was this description that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the U.N. Security Council in February. Mr. Powell's presentation was part of a Bush administration campaign to show that Saddam was not disarming, as demanded by the international community, and that a U.S.-led invasion was justified."Our analysis of the mobile production plant found in April indicates the layout and equipment are consistent with information provided by the chemical engineer, who has direct knowledge of Iraq's mobile BW program," the CIA concluded yesterday.

Richard Boucher, chief State Department spokesman, told reporters the report was "substantiation" of Mr. Powell's U.N. testimony.

"It's very important to recognize that programs that we had said existed do exist; that the kind of equipment that we had said existed does exist," Mr. Boucher said. "And I guess I have to point out that this was not information that the Iraqis had ever divulged to inspectors. It was information designed to be hidden from the inspectors. It was a program designed to be undetected."

A senior U.S. intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the trailers were assembled in Iraq. Of the components inside the trailers, some were made inside Iraq and others were imported. The official declined to say which countries supplied the equipment.

While the CIA conclusion might not be a "smoking gun" proving that Iraq was harboring large quantities of weapons of mass destruction, it did bolster the administration's argument that Baghdad continued to pursue such weapons in violation of the international community.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that it is too early to say that large weapons stocks will not be found in Iraq. New inspection teams are arriving in Iraq to search hundreds of sites. Mr. Rumsfeld said battlefield chemical weapons might have been destroyed before the coalition invasion began in late March and that other agents could have been buried somewhere in the vast country. …