Chemical Warfare Agents Destroyed, Special Commission Reports

Article excerpt

The UN Special Commission on Iraqi disarmament (UNSCOM), set up under Security Council resolution 687 (1991), has virtually completed the destruction of Iraq's declared and recovered stockpiles of chemical warfare agents, it was reported on 2 5 March.

In all, the Chemical Destruction Group of the special commission destroyed some 400,000 litres of sulphur mustard at the Muthanna site, nearly 28,000 chemical munitions (rockets, missile warheads, artillery shells and bombs), nearly 83,000 litres of nerve agents, more than 1,220,000 litres of key precursor chemicals for the production of mustard or nerve agents, and some 421,000 litres, 1,035,500 kilogrammes and 197 barrels of other chemical precursors.

A small amount of other precursor chemicals remained to be destroyed at Muthanna, in addition to quantities of equipment for the production of chemical warfare agents. Thereafter, a comprehensive survey of the site was to be conducted to ensure that no chemical warfare hazard remained in the area. Any additional items for destruction discovered during this survey would be dealt with at that stage.

It was suspected that there might be 155-millimetre mustard-filled artillery shells buried at the site. Iraq agreed to assist the Commission in identifying and recovering those munitions, after which they would be destroyed.

The Commission also reported the removal on 12 February of a second and final consignment of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) in the form of irradiated nuclear fuel, thus completing the removal of declared stocks of nuclear-weapons grade material from Iraq. In the course of inspections, it was revealed that Iraq had separated gram quantities of plutonium. The separated plutonium was removed from Iraq by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1991.

The irradiated fuel was removed under a contract with the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy and a United States subcontractor which supplied specially-designed casks capable of withstanding an airplane crash. The Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission provided all necessary assistance, and the fuel was removed in two shipments under close supervision of IAEA inspectors.

After dilution to lower enrichment at the Chelyabinsk facility in the Russian Federation, the residual materials will be available for sale under IAEA supervision for use in peaceful nuclear activities. Reprocessing of the fuel is expected to take six months.

No chemicals in southern iraq

The Special Commission announced on 28 February that it had not found any traces of chemical weapons in samples taken and analysed from the marsh region of southern Iraq, following allegations that the Iraqi military had used such weapons against opposition forces in early September 1993. The Commission launched an investigation in November, which included a fact-finding mission to Iran and an on-site inspection in Iraq, during which time portable sensors were unable to detect traces of chemical warfare agents. The team concluded that it was unlikely that a chemical-weapons attack had occurred.

A large number of flora, fauna, water, air and soil samples, divided into three sets, were taken for laboratory analysis. Each set was sent to three laboratories in the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Analysis done in the United Kingdom and the United States laboratories confirmed that the samples contained no traces of chemical warfare agents.

The Commission's twenty-first ballistic missile inspection team has assessed the capabilities and the potential use in missile production activities of some 14 sites located in and around Baghdad. The inspection, conducted from 17 to 25 February, focused on identifying effective monitoring procedures for those sites.

High-level talks

Sanctions against Iraq were maintained after the Security Council President on 18 january announced, following consultations, that there was no agreement that the necessary conditions existed for their modification. …