WASHINGTON -- Secret U.S. assistance to Iraq may have helped President Saddam Hussein use an undetected fleet of mobile launchers to fire dozens of Scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf war.
Many of these launchers may have been manufactured for Iraq by a U.S. company.
During the war, Iraq fired more than 80 Scuds, killing 28 Americans and at least one Israeli. After the war, U.S. intelligence officials estimated that Iraq had converted as many as 225 trucks into mobile launchers -- many times more than had been estimated before the war.
Just after the first wave of Scud attacks on Israel, an American named Richard C. Fuicz began telling U.S. government investigators about a visit he made in September 1987 to a truck manufacturing plant owned by Terex Corp., a subsidiary of KCS of Westport, Conn.
Mr. Fuicz, representing a Saudi family interested in purchasing a heavy-equipment company, was given a tour of the main Terex plant in Motherwell, Scotland.
In an affidavit taken for a congressional subcommittee, Mr. Fuicz said he had noticed two armor-plated vehicles painted in desert camouflage with specially attached steel backs. He said he asked the plant manager, Art Rowe, about them and was told that they were "missile launchers for the Iraqi military."
The special steel plating, Mr. Fuicz was told later, was built to Iraqi specifications so that Scud missiles could be installed.
The affidavit continued: "I then said that was really something" because "it was illegal. He [Mr. Rowe], in a boastful manner, stated, 'You just have to know the trick -- you modify portions of the serial number to make it appear as a civilian mining vehicle.' "
Randolph W. Lenz, president of Terex, was present during the exchange, Mr. Fuicz wrote, and said nothing at the time. Later, however, Mr. Fuicz said, Mr. Lenz told him "he was doing work for our government and was a hero but that he was not allowed to talk about it."
David J. Langevin, vice president of Terex, reportedly made a similar cryptic remark late last year.
"You have it all wrong about Terex and the Iraqi military," Mr. Fuicz quoted Mr. Langevin as saying.
" 'These shipments were all requested by the CIA with the cooperation of the British intelligence people.' I said I was surprised that the British were involved in this with our CIA. He said, 'You're naive.' "
Mr. Langevin denied having any such exchange with Mr. Fuicz. Asked about truck sales to Iraq, Mr. Langevin added, "I just don't have any guidance for you." But Marvin B. Rosenberg, a company attorney, said that Terex "has never manufactured any military equipment."
The operations subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture is investigating the allegations. In an interview last week, a subcommittee investigator said that he had interviewed a former Terex Corp. employee who confirmed that the firm's trucks had been sold to Iraq.
John J. Clements of Upper Saddle River, N.J., was named a Terex vice president in 1987.
Mr. Clements said in an interview that he had repeatedly heard Mr. Lenz tell potential investors: "We've got a purchase order from Iraq for 90 to 100 units. It's great business."
Mr. Lenz dismissed him in late 1988, Mr. Clements said, after he raised questions about the company's record-keeping practices.