Who were Iraq's suppliers?

October 03, 1991|By Newsday

NOW THAT its nuclear-arms inspection team is safely out of Iraq, the United Nations has a duty to follow up aggressively on the information the plucky inspectors risked their lives to obtain. The first task: Make public the list of companies and countries that supplied Iraq with the equipment and raw materials to build nuclear weapons. The best way to neutralize the covert traffic is to expose those involved.

Public exposure will be very embarrassing to the nations and companies involved. China, for one, was already identified by U.N. sources as the chief supplier of low-grade uranium feedstock, which simplifies the process of making weapons-grade uranium. Swiss and German companies have also been identified as likely suppliers of technology necessary to make nuclear bombs. These suppliers are known to form a loose international network serving the not always legitimate nuclear needs of Libya, Iran, India and Pakistan.

It is not inconceivable that some of the suppliers are American companies. If so, the American public -- and the companies' stockholders -- need to know it. Right now, the United Nations intends to pass this information privately to the government of each supplier's country of origin. That is not good enough. The companies' traffic in outlawed nuclear components is just as proscribed by international law as the sale of narcotics. The list of their names ought to be spread at least as freely as their products.

Cracking down on this shadowy network of nuclear profiteers will have positive repercussions well beyond Iraq. It starts with taking names and kicking butt.

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