WAR ON IRAQ: THE DOSSIER: Is Castor Oil for Biological Attacks. or Sick Children?; BIOLOGICAL & CHEMICAL WEAPONS

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Byline: PAUL GILFEATHER, Whitehall Editor

THE EXPERTS: Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter: "It's not black and white, as some in the Bush administration make it appear. There's no doubt Iraq hasn't fully complied with its disarmament obligations as set by the UN.

"On the other hand, since 1998, Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed - 90 to 95 per cent of its weapons of mass destruction has been verifiably eliminated.

"This includes all the factories used to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and long- range ballistic missiles, the associated equipment of these factories and the majority of products coming out of these factories.

"Iraq was supposed to turn everything over to the UN, which would supervise its destruction and removal.

"Iraq instead chose to destroy - unilaterally, without UN supervision - a great deal of this equipment.

"We were later able to verify this. But the problem is this destruction took place without documentation, which means the question of verification gets messy very quickly."SADDAM Hussein would be able to launch a chemical and biological attack within 45 minutes, the Government dossier claims.

New facilities have been built and are probably fully operational or close to being so.

But anti-war campaigners point out castor oil production is said to be evidence of biological weaponry.

They claim Ricin, which is produced from the oil, is used to produce medication for cancer and has to be made in Iraq because of UN sanctions.

THE DOSSIER: We have gathered evidence from secret intelligence of continuing work on Iraqi offensive chemical and biological warfare capabilities.

In the first half of 2000 the Cabinet Office's Joint Intelligence Committee noted Iraqi attempts to procure dual-use chemicals and the reconstruction of sites formerly associated with the chemical warfare programme.

Chemical warfare agents retained before the Gulf War would enable Iraq to produce significant quantities of mustard gas within weeks and nerve agent within months.

These capabilities represented the most immediate threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Since 1998 Iraqi development of mass destruction weaponry had been helped by the absence of inspectors and the increase in illegal border trade, providing hard currency.

THE DOSSIER: Iraq has also been trying to procure dual-use materials and equipment which could be used for biological warfare. Personnel known to have been connected to the biological warfare programmes up to the Gulf War had been conducting research into pathogens.

Iraq might be producing highly toxic ricin from castor oil pulp. There was also intelligence it was starting to produce biological warfare agents in mobile facilities.

The JIC concluded that Iraq had sufficient expertise, equipment and material to produce biological warfare agents within weeks.

THE DOSSIER: Intelligence shows Saddam attaches great importance to the possession of chemical and biological weapons which he regards as the basis for regional power.

He believes respect for Iraq rests on its possession of these weapons and the missiles that are capable of delivering them.

Iraq is already taking steps to prevent UN weapons inspectors finding evidence of its chemical and biological weapons programme.

Intelligence indicates Saddam has learned lessons from previous weapons inspections and has identified possible weak points in their inspections and knows how to exploit them. Intelligence indicates the Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

New facilities have been built, some with illegal foreign assistance, and are probably fully operational or ready for production.

Iraq has retained the expertise for chemical warfare research, agent production and weaponisation. …