Sunday, November 25, 2001
"Iraq's unsuccessful attempt to secure the Ames bacteria from Britain represented a minor setback in its largely successful campaign in the mid-1980s to acquire ingredients for a massive covert biological weapons program.
Iraq sought materials from government and commercial labs in the United States, Europe and Africa.
"The Iraqis had set up this very secret and very sophisticated procurement system so that there would be no chance that outsiders could figure out what they were doing," said Raymond Zalinskas,a former U.N. inspector who is now senior scientist in residence at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
In 1988, Iraqi scientists obtained from a private British business, Oxoid Ltd., and other suppliers, nearly 40 tons of medium to grow anthrax and botulinum bacterium for its biological weapons, according to former U.N. officials and a 1999 U.N. report.
Iraq also acquired at least two other forms of anthrax, the Sterne strain, commonly used in an animal vaccine, and the A-3 strain derived from Spanish sheep, from France's Institut Pasteur.
"There was absolutely no reason to refuse an order from Iraq in the 1980s," said Michael Haynes, a spokesman for Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant that owned Oxoid until 1997. Haynes noted that Iraq at that time was not considered hostile to the West and was under no economic sanctions. "As far as we knew the growth medium would be used for genuine medical, humanitarian purposes," he said.
U.N. inspectors got their first glimpse at Iraq's offensive biological weapons program during an August 1991 U.N. inspection of Salman Pak, one of Iraq's premier biological weapons facilities.
Rihab Taha,the head of Iraq's germ warfare program, provided a team of U.N. biologists with several sealed glass vials containing freeze-dried anthrax spores. The vials included two variants of the Vollumstrain, which had been used in U.S. and British biological weapons programs.
The Iraqi scientist initially claimed that some of the anthrax spores were used in research but had never been weaponized. Baghdad also acknowledged that it had received the two Vollum strains and five other strains of anthrax bacterium from the American Type Culture Collection, a commercial germ bank now located near Manassas, Va.
Iraqi documents later obtained by the United Nations indicated that Baghdad subsequently filled more than 50 bombs and missile warheads with a liquid form of Vollum anthrax."