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6/1/03 - MOBILE BIO-WEAPONS LABS IN IRAQ - 2003-06-02

Forces of the U.S.-led coalition have found evidence that the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq was hiding the components of a biological warfare program. In northern Iraq, two truck trailers have been discovered that were equipped to process biological material into agents capable of killing large numbers of people. These are precisely the sort of mobile laboratories that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell warned the United Nations Security Council about in February.

For years, the Saddam Hussein regime denied that it had any programs to produce weapons of mass destruction, including biological weapons. But as White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, these claims are now being shown to be false:

“Iraq had, contrary to their protestations to the United Nations, trucks for the purpose of producing biological weapons. They said they didn’t have them [but] they got caught -- proof perfect that they had them. The only use for those trucks is to produce biological weapons.”

An examination of the truck trailers shows, as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency put it, “that all of the equipment is permanently installed and interconnected, creating an ingeniously simple, self-contained bio-processing system.” The C-I-A said that these mobile laboratories, along with others not yet found, could have been used to prepare biological agents to put in bulk-filled munitions, including missiles, rockets, aerial bombs, artillery shells, and spray tanks. Before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq had put poisonous agents in all of these kinds of delivery systems.

While only two mobile laboratories have been found in Iraq so far, said White House spokesman Fleischer, “it doesn’t take a lot to produce a lot of deaths”:

“Biological weapons can be small in quantity and large in death. And that’s why the American people had a lot to fear about Saddam Hussein developing these weapons.”

There will be much more to learn in Iraq, said Mr. Fleischer, “as different people are talked to, as different documents are looked at [and] as additional forces arrive for the sole purpose of looking for the weapons of mass destruction.”