- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - United Nations inspectors in Iraq found evidence
of a 1995 agreement by the Russian government to sell Iraq sophisticated
equipment that could be used to develop biological weapons, the Washington
Post reported Thursday.
- The newspaper, quoting unnamed sources,
said the inspectors in the autumn of 1997 seized a confidential document
prepared by Iraqi officials that described lengthy negotiations leading
to a deal worth millions of dollars.
- Moscow has not replied to a U.N. request
made six weeks ago for information about the deal, which included a 5,000-liter
fermentation vessel that would ostensibly be used to make protein for animal
feed, according to the report. The newspaper said inspectors were uncertain
if Iraq received the equipment.
- Iraq is permitted to import some so-called
dual-use equipment connected with food and medicine, providing the item
is approved by the Security Council's sanctions committee. The United States,
a member of the committee, has delayed or blocked more contracts than any
- The sources also told the newspaper that
U.S. intelligence agencies had privately warned U.N. officials that Russian
intelligence operatives were spying on the United Nations Special Commission
on Iraq and its personnel in New York and overseas.
- The agencies told the U.N. officials
that the Russian spy agency may have passed some of the information directly
to Iraq, the newspaper said.
- The Post said several U.S. officials
confirmed that the FBI was aware of the Russian intelligence operation,
the Post said. A spokesman for the Russian mission to the United Nations
declined comment, the Post reported.
- The U.N.'s discovery of the document
provoked concern that Russia's recent diplomatic drive to help diffuse
the latest crisis over U.N. weapons inspections may be motivated more by
self-interest than a desire to avert a military strike.
- ``People are suspicious that there really
is some reason they (the Iraqis) don't want us to find stuff out,'' one
diplomat told the Post, but asked not to be identified.
- The 5,000-liter fermentation vessel that
Moscow agreed to sell Iraq in 1995 for use in making single-cell animal
protein was 10 times larger than the biggest vessel Iraq has admitted to
using to brew an arsenal of deadly germs. ``It's dual-purpose equipment.
That's exactly what you would need for a large-scale biological plant,''
the newspaper quoted one source as saying.