Allies hushed up weapons'
DEPUTY FOREIGN EDITOR
defector ever to turn informant on Saddam Hussein’s government
told United Nations weapons inspectors in 1995 that Iraq had
destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks after
the Gulf war.
But UN inspectors hushed up that part of
Hussein Kamel’s story - which he also told to debriefers from
British and United States intelligence - because they wanted
to keep the pressure on Iraq to tell more.
revelation, reported in the US magazine Newsweek, raises new
questions over claims by the US and Britain that Iraq has
failed to account for vast stores of chemical and biological
Of the thousands of chemical bombs and
thousands of litres of deadly anthrax said to have gone
mysteriously missing inside Iraq, most date back to before
Iraq has long claimed to have destroyed the
weapons "unilaterally", but a regime hardly famous for its
honesty and openness is accused of failing to provide hard
However "the defector’s tale raises
questions about whether the WMD [weapons of mass destruction]
stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist" Newsweek reported.
Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law, defected to Jordan with
his wife and family in 1995. His sensational departure, in a
convoy of black Mercedes, was received as evidence that
Saddam’s regime was soon to fall.
He was shot to death
after he returned to Iraq six months later in the hope of
leniency from Saddam, along with his brother, also married to
one of Saddam’s daughters. If nothing else, the report sheds
new light on one of the most bizarre episodes in the history
of the regime and its leader.
Kamel’s value as an
informant, however, was huge; for ten years he had run Iraq’s
nuclear, chemical, biological and missile weapons programmes,
as well as Iraqi efforts to keep the weapons secret.
Kamel talked to both the then UN chief inspector, Rolf
Ekeus, and agents from the CIA and MI6 in Jordan. Among other
revelations, he provided the first report that Iraq was
developing mobile biological weapons factories - a subject on
which Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, dwelt long and
hard in his recent damning presentation to the UN Security
But Kamel’s story that Iraq had indeed - as
it has long claimed - destroyed chemical and biological stocks
back in 1991 was never reported.
While UN inspection
teams have been trying to investigate what weapons Iraq may
have built since the Gulf war, the mystery of what happened to
older munitions remains vital.
Iraq’s chief liaison
officer to the UN inspection teams, General Hossam Amin, said
yesterday that Iraq had begun to dig trenches in the areas it
claims the weapons were destroyed.
A UN team was due
in Baghdad on 2 March to examine the sites and carry out soil
tests, he said. Gen Amin also said Iraq had made no decision
on a UN order that it destroy its Al Samoud 2 missile
programme. But "we are serious about solving this", he said.
In his 27 January report to the UN Security Council,
Hans Blix, the chief UN arms inspector, bolstered the case for
war when he accused Iraq of co-operating on process, but not
Early in his report, Mr Blix noted that
"one of three important questions before us today is how much
might remain undeclared and intact from before 1991; and,
The second question, he said,
was what if anything was illegally produced or procured after
1998, when inspectors left the country, and the third was how
the production of weapons of mass destruction could be
prevented in the future. Mr Blix singled out the issue of
6,500 chemical bombs that were unaccounted for, containing in
total up to 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents.
missing bombs date back to before 1991, with Iraq claiming
they were used in the Iran-Iraq war, which ended in 1988.
Mr Blix also raised questions over about 8,500 litres
of anthrax, which Iraq "states it unilaterally destroyed in
the summer of 1991. Iraq has provided little evidence for this
production and no convincing evidence for its destruction," he
Iraq also has claimed that a small quantity of
the deadly poison VX, which it produced, was unilaterally
destroyed in the summer of 1991.
When Mr Blix returned
to the UN with his much more favourable report on 14 February,
he noted that Iraq had provided a list of 83 people involved
in the unilateral destruction of chemicals, which "appears
useful". Newsweek said it had obtained the notes of Kamel’s
debriefing by the UN team, and that he told the same story to
MI6 and the CIA.
But his revelations were hushed up
for two reasons, the magazine said. Saddam did not know how
much Kamel had revealed, and inspectors hoped to call his
bluff; in addition, there was no corroborating evidence that
the weapons were destroyed.
Kamel did not give Iraq a
clean bill of health. He said the stocks were destroyed to
hide the programmes, rather than end them, with Iraq secretly
holding on to blueprints, computer disks, and other
engineering details, in order to resume productions after
Kamel’s defection in August 1995
was an international sensation. He drove out of Iraq in a
convoy of black Mercedes with his wife, Raghad, his brother,
Saddam, sister-in-law, Rina, and several of Saddam Hussein’s
grandchildren. A family feud with Uday Hussein, Saddam’s son,
The Iraqi government, badly rattled,
immediately admitted for the first time to having a biological
weapons programme - though it stuck to the story that the
weapons were destroyed.
Kamel told the inspectors
about Iraq’s attempt to develop a home-grown missile, Project
1728, and of the secret committee, set up by Saddam himself,
expressly to keep secrets from the inspectors.
by the Iraqi opposition, and complaining that the Western
officials sent to talk to him were too junior, he made the
bizarre decision to return to Iraq. The two brothers were
forced to divorce their wives and were killed in a gun battle
with the presidential guard soon after.
ceasefire resolution that ended the Gulf war on 3 April, 1991,
laid down the ground rules for the work now continuing today.
It called for the destruction, removal or rendering
harmless of all chemical and biological weapons, and all
stocks of agents and components. The same rules applied for
ballistic missiles with a range greater than 93 miles.
The UN inspection teams’ strategy in Iraq, said one
expert, is "all about accounting. It has always been to try
and force the Iraqis to account, and documentarily prove, all
their claims and positions".
Gen Amin yesterday told
journalists that Iraq was studying a letter from Mr Blix
ordering destruction of all Al Samoud 2 missiles, warheads,
fuel, engines and other components. Iraq has declared 76 Al
Samouds, but the UN estimates it has up to
Timetable for action
TODAY: Meeting of European Union foreign ministers in
TOMORROW: Mohamed El Baradei, the UN’s nuclear weapons
inspector, will visit Iran to investigate US claims that it is
developing nuclear weapons.
28 FEBRUARY: Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector,
is due to submit a written report to the Security Council.
1 MARCH: Deadline for Saddam to start destroying the
illegal al-Samoud missiles.
3 MARCH: The US 101st Airborne Division due to arrive in
the Gulf, bringing its heavy equipment.
11 MARCH: OPEC, the Arab-dominated group of oil price
fixers, meets in Vienna.
14 MARCH: The French-proposed deadline for Saddam to
comply with all UN demands. This is also the "crunch date"
understood to be favoured by Mr Blair.