Britain Traded Warfare Secrets with `Dr Death'

Article excerpt

The mastermind behind South Africa's apartheid era secret chemical and biological warfare programme yesterday said Western countries, including Britain, swapped sensitive military information with him.

Dr Wouter Basson, whose scientists were said to have made poisons for government assassins and researched a bacteria to only kill black people, told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Western governments gave him helpful information as he sought to set up the programme in the early 1980s.

Dr Basson - dubbed "Dr Death" by the South African media - gave no details of what secrets were passed, but he did describe attending a 1981 conference in Texas with army officers from Britain, the US, West Germany, Japan and Canada.

Truth commission lawyer Mr Hanif Vally asked Dr Basson if during the conference US officials had told him about their own chemical and biological warfare programmes in an "incredible amount of detail".

"That is correct," replied Dr Basson.

The commission produced notes Dr Basson made at the conference which described meetings with senior US army officers where issues surrounding chemical and biological warfare were discussed.

One US officer told Dr Basson Africa's hot climate made it an ideal arena for chemical weapons, because they would be absorbed more effectively by sweating soldiers whose heart rates would be higher.

During the Cold War with the East Bloc, Western government officials and army officers were so open because they wanted details on the chemical warfare capability of Soviet-backed countries neighbouring South Africa, Dr Basson said.

With its mandate running out at midnight last night, Dr Basson's testimony came at the last possible moment and followed two days of legal argument as his lawyers aimed to delay proceedings beyond the deadline. …