- LONDON (Reuters) - The United States helped Iraq develop its chemical and biological
weapons programs in the 1980s while Britain sold Baghdad the antidote to
nerve gas as late as March 1992, Britain's Channel Four television news
- The program said it had found U.S. intelligence
documents which showed 14 consignments of biological materials were exported
from the United States to Iraq between 1985 and 1989. These included 19
batches of anthrax bacteria and 15 batches of botulinum, the organism that
causes botulism. The exports, backed by the State Department, were licensed
by the Department of Commerce, it said.
- The program said Iraq had bought other
toxins from the United States while the atomic energy commission in Baghdad
acquired human genetic material and E. coli bacteria for use as a culture
- No less than 29 batches of material were
sent after Iraq had used gas in an attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja
in 1988, killing 5,000 people, it said.
- Stephen Bryen, a former senior Pentagon
official in the 1980s, said he and a few colleagues had tried hard to stop
the exports of sensitive materials.
- ``They just were stupid, utterly stupid,
and the people who did it I don't think had even a slight grasp of what
they were doing,'' he told Channel Four.
- He said he had managed to stop a 1988
order from Iraq for 1.5 million doses of atropine, which is used to protect
troops from nerve gas.
- Channel Four news quoted from a classified
U.S. Department of Defense document which it said showed Iraq had bought
pralidoxine -- an antidote to nerve gas -- from Britain in March 1992,
after the Gulf War.
- ``This (sale) took place, as I understand
it, long before we came into government,'' British Defense Secretary George
Robertson told the program.
- ``We'll investigate it, but I understand
it probably was exported on the grounds that it was medication and medications
are allowable exports to Iraq today.''
- Channel Four also said it had uncovered
U.S. intelligence documents which showed London and Washington knew as
long ago as August 1990 of the existence of Agent 15, a deadly nerve gas.
- Robertson, releasing what he said was
new information about Iraq's 1991 weapon stocks, on Monday said Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein may have possessed large quantities of Agent 15.
- ``There may well have been some knowledge
of the range of things Saddam might have had at that time but the concrete
information has only gradually come forward (in) recent times,'' Robertson
told Channel Four.