has germ warfare arsenal, says defecting
By Jessica Berry in Beirut
SADDAM HUSSEIN has directed his
top scientists to work exclusively on expanding
his chemical and biological weapons arsenal, one
of the regime's former senior scientists has
told The Telegraph.
He said Saddam has ordered the
nuclear weapons programme to be shelved because
it had proved too expensive. The disclosures by
the nuclear physicist, a recent Iraqi defector,
will add to the alarm of Western leaders who
last week issued a warning of the prospect of
chemical attacks on European and American
Military experts said Saddam's
decision could have been linked to the attacks
on New York's World Trade Centre and the
Pentagon, which investigators believe were
planned years in advance.
Over the past six months about
3,000 physicists and chemists have been working
flat out on secret programmes to develop both
toxins and the means to deploy them to lethal
effect, according to Dr al Sabiri (not his real
The scientist formerly worked
at the Atomic Energy Organisation in Baghdad,
but defected because of his growing horror of
the regime. "I created death in Iraq. I had to
get out," he said. Details of Dr al Sabiri's
defection cannot be revealed because of fears
for his safety.
"I was asked to examine
hundreds of complicated and dangerous toxins,"
he said. "They were very easy to use to create
germs. You could put them in water or steam,
throw them in the air or use them in the soil.
We developed nerve gas, botulism and anthrax.
"One day a light green yellow
substance, which was crystallised and packed in
tins, arrived. Suddenly intelligence men came in
and rushed it away. I later found out they were
working on some secret project."
All these substances were
tested on Iraqi prisoners, mainly Kurds and
Shi'ites in Radwania jail, in west Baghdad. The
projects are headed by Prof Shaher Mahmoud al
Jibouri, a chemist and secret service agent.
Senior Western intelligence officers confirmed
the experimentation on prisoners.
"Between April and May this
year, 30 prisoners died after being used in
experiments," said one. Earlier this month The
Telegraph revealed that at least 20 Iraqi
soldiers had died and about 200 were injured
after a chemical weapons training exercise had
Dr al Sabiri spent five years
in the organisation's Neutron Analysis and
Activation Department. Scientists, paid about
£10 a month, worked exclusively on analysing
substances, mostly imported, in order to copy
and produce more. Using a small nuclear reactor,
they are able to establish the exact composition
of a substance.
There was a shortage of
material, which was why he was told to copy the
samples that he was given. At one stage he was
asked to reproduce a wax, crucial for use in
firing ballistic missiles. This he did with the
help of several Bulgarian scientists. "Ballistic
missiles," he said, "is just one method they
want to use to spread the poisons."
More importantly, he said, the
regime is currently working on adapting 12
pilotless aircraft, last used in the Iran-Iraq
war during the 1980s. "Engineers are now working
on developing their range. So far they have
managed a range of 700 miles," he said.
"The planes could easily reach
Israel, Iran, Turkey or Saudi Arabia. The idea
is to use them to deploy the toxins." Most of
the parts, he added, were imported.
A senior Western intelligence
officer said last night that at least 30 front
companies, mainly pharmaceutical firms, are
under investigation for supplying Iraq. They are
based in Italy, Thailand, the Philippines and
the United Arab Emirates. The companies cannot
be named for legal reasons.
The defector's disclosures
refute comments by Tariq Aziz, Iraqi deputy
prime minister, who last week denied that the
regime had any biological weapons. Last week
Paul Wolfowitz, the United States deputy defence
secretary, told Nato colleagues of "the alarming
coincidence between states that harbour
international terrorists and those states that
have active, maturing programmes of WMD [weapons
of mass destruction]."
American hardliners are said to
be keen to attack Iraq as soon as possible, and
believe that aerial bombardment is sufficient.
British defence advisers, however, have warned
Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, against this.
It is unwise, they say, while
there is no suitable successor to Saddam. One
intelligence official added: "The other problem
is, we have no idea where Saddam is."