UNITED NATIONS - Equipment and materials that could have been used to produce banned weapons have been emptied from Iraqi sites since the war started and shipped abroad, the head of the United Nations inspectors office told the Security Council yesterday.
Demetrius Perricos, deputy to former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and now the acting chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, told a closed session of the council that many of the items bear tags placed by U.N. inspectors as suspect dual-use materials having capabilities for creating harmless consumer products and unconventional weapons. Perricos accompanied his briefing with a report showing satellite photos of a missile site near Baghdad in May 2003 and the same site denuded in February 2004.
His spokesman, Ewen Buchanan, said that items removed from the site included fermenters, a freeze drier, distillation columns, parts of missiles and a reactor vessel - all tools suitable for making biological or chemical weapons. "It raises the question of what happened to the dual-use equipment, where is it now and what is it being used for?" Buchanan said.
"You can make all kinds of pharmaceutical and medicinal products with a fermenter," he said. "You can also use it to breed anthrax."
Another photo showed an engine from a banned SA-2 surface-to-air missile that had been tagged by the United Nations in Iraq in 1996 and recently discovered in a scrap yard in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The report said workers told U.N. inspectors that up to 12 engines may have passed through the yard in January and February, and that items made of stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys with the inscriptions "Iraq" and "Baghdad" had been seen since November.
Buchanan said inspectors found 20 more engines in scrap yards in Jordan last week in addition to tagged processing equipment such as chemical reactors and heat exchangers.