- GERMAN businessmen, their margins squeezed by a faltering economy, have
been boosting their profits by selling President Saddam Hussein the know-how
and materials needed for his nuclear, biological and chemical warfare programmes.
- Although many European countries - including
Britain - have been trading with Saddam, German know-how in biochemical
weaponry has given it an edge. Diplomats speak of "droves" of
German scientists and businessmen travelling to and from Baghdad over the
past few years. "The flight from Zurich was always chock-a-block,"
said one diplomat monitoring German contacts with Iraq.
- Much of the evidence - which has come
to light in recent trials - is related to the period before the Gulf War
or to the early 1990s, but it is clear that some projects, set up with
German help, are being continued. Eleven German companies have been investigated
for their role in building nuclear plants.
- Managers from one company, Havert, have
just been jailed for two to three-year terms. Anton Eyerte, the owner of
Rhein-Bayern-Fahrzügbau, was jailed for 5 1/2 years for participating
in Iraqi missile development. But the engineer described as the key figure
in Iraq's missile programme, Karl-Heinz Schaab, has fled to Brazil.
- It was, however, the switch of emphasis
from nuclear missiles - easily targeted by a Western force - to biological
weapons that has drawn most heavily on German skills. Executives of the
Hamburg-based Water Engineering Trading Company were arrested for supplying
technology to Iraq designed to produce poison gas. The company claimed
it was a plant for processing pesticide. Swiss experts backed the prosecution's
claim that the factory was suitable for making poison gas. But defence
witnesses, such as Professor Wolfgang Mozduk, argued that "even a
kitchen sink can be suitable for producing poison gas".
- This highlighted the problem of nailing
culprits in the biochemical weapons trade. Of 56 inquiries into German
firms, only six have ended with jail terms. At least 15 have had to be
dropped because of the difficulty of proving that Saddam was using the
plant for war purposes rather than for pesticides. "All I can say
is, judging by the flow of German exports, Saddam must have a huge insect
problem," the diplomat monitoring trade with Iraq said.
- The biological and chemical arsenal of
Saddam's is made up of substances that have been traditional specialities
of German scientists. Sarin nerve gas was developed by German (and Japanese)
scientists in the 1930s and 1940s; anthrax - perhaps the most feared biological
weapon - was developed in several European centres, but it was the Germans
who conducted the most thorough research. German expertise in biochemical
weapons was, however, not much in demand until the Iran-Iraq War. For the
Germans, it was the money that made it worth their while to continue their
involvement. From his hiding place Dr Schaab spoke frankly to Der Spiegel:
"I began because in difficult times my company needed a strong, rich
- If the worst comes to the worst, Saddam
can still take cover in his 19,260 sq ft bomb-proof underground bunker.
Designed by a Düsseldorf company and furnished by a Munich firm, it
has special air filters in case the war overground becomes too hot.