U.S. says Iraq is withholding weapons data Disclosure to U.N. omits biological, nuclear programs

April 20, 1991|By Mark Matthews and Peter Honey | Mark Matthews and Peter Honey,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The United States accused Iraq yesterday of withholding information on its biological and nuclear weapons programs that is required as part of the United Nations-mandated Persian Gulf cease-fire.

Iraq submitted a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar this week listing its weapons of mass destruction, including remaining stocks of Scud missiles and its chemical weapons.

The letter reported 30 chemical warheads, confirming that Iraq had the capability of arming Scud missiles with chemicals.

Iraq sent a separate letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency on nuclear facilities and materials.

The letters represented the first step toward the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and capability of producing them as required by the U.N. cease-fire resolution adopted April 3.

But Iraq did not mention possession of biological weapons, which the United States believes it has, and reported that its nuclear material was limited to that safeguarded by the IAEA. It claimed to have no nuclear weapons material or facilities.

"In many respects, we believe that these declarations fall far short of reality," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Officials said Iraq's declarations and alleged omissions would be analyzed in light of U.S. intelligence information about Iraq's capabilities.

The cease-fire resolution provides for a commission to inspect Iraq's weaponry and ensure its destruction. The inspections are not limited to the sites, weapons and other materials that Iraq voluntarily disclosed.

Mr. Boucher declined, when asked, to say that Iraq was trying to evade the cease-fire resolution with the aim of maintaining some potential for weapons of mass destruction.

"The major next step is the establishment of the commission and the on-site inspections that will be done. And those sorts of firmer information will come out of that process," he said.

In a related development yesterday, U.S. officials expressed hope that the refugee camps in northern Iraq being erected by U.S., British and French forces might be ready to be turned over to the United Nations in 30 to 45 days.

Allied military authorities who met with their Iraqi counterparts yesterday told them firmly not to move forces near the campsites.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that the agreement between the United Nations and Baghdad on Thursday to establish a "humanitarian presence" in Iraq effectively permitted the United States, Britain and France to send in troops to build refugee camps.

Other officials said Iraq had made no attempt to interfere in the effort.

The agreement states: "Iraq agrees to cooperate with the U.N. to have any humanitarian presence in Iraq wherever such presence may be needed. Centers will be staffed by U.N. civilian personnel, which, in addition to the regular staff members of the relevant U.N. agencies, may also include staff co-opted from the non-governmental organizations," notably the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.

Mr. Fitzwater said that the agreement "appears to provide a basis for the U.N. to take over the operation we will establish."

He said that the U.N.-Iraqi agreement "essentially . . . lets them [Iraqi officials] know that they [United Nations officials] are setting up these camps; that U.S., British and French personnel and military forces will be involved in helping to run them and get them established."

Still unresolved was the question of how the camps would be protected once the United Nations took over. The Bush administration wants to withdraw forces as soon as possible and is exploring both a U.N. peacekeeping force and contributions by more countries to forces now there.

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