By Joe LauriaVancouver Sun
October 22, 2001
Iraq purchased eight strains of anthrax from a U.S. company and admitted turning them into weapons.
David Kelly, a former British Foreign Office expert who led 37 UN biological weapons inspections of Iraq in the '90s, said the Virginia-based American Type Culture Collection company admitted selling the anthrax strains to Saddam Hussein's government in 1985.
The company confirmed to the UN that it sold the anthrax to Iraq through a mail order, Kelly said in a telephone interview from London. Anthrax is now being sent through the mail in a series of terrorist attacks, though U.S. investigators have not yet linked these to any group.
In 1985, there were no U.S. sanctions against Iraq, which was an American ally at the time in Baghdad's war against Iran.
Kelly said he did not believe the strain tentatively identified in the Florida, New York and Washington cases was among the eight Iraq purchased.
"But you have to remember that this is what Iraq admitted to obtaining," said Kelly. "It is quite possible that they bought anthrax from any number of other sources."
Iraq made several declarations to the UN inspectors about how it turned anthrax into weapons. It first admitted that it had fitted the deadly bacteria into first 10 and, later, 16 warheads on ballistic missiles. The Iraqis also told the UN they had constructed special nozzles that could spray liquefied anthrax in a fine mist over populations from drop tanks on fighter aircraft.
Fears have grown in the U.S. that the hijackers of the jets that attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were lanning to use crop dusters in a chemical or biological attack.
Baghdad officially declared that it had amassed 8.25 metric tonnes of anthrax, but Kelly says the UN believes there could have been much more. Iraq claims it destroyed these stocks but this was never independently verified by the UN.
UN weapons inspectors worked in Iraq from 1990 to December 1998, when they left ahead of U.S. British air strikes, which were designed to force the inspectors back in.
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