- WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 25 nations have developed or may be
- developing nuclear, biological and chemical
weapons and the means to
- deliver them, the Pentagon said today.
- ``The threat is neither far-fetched nor
far off, and the threat will only
- grow,'' said Defense Secretary William
Cohen as he released a report on
- such weapons of mass destruction.
- The report focused on nations in the
Middle East and North Africa and
- singled out Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria
as trouble spots. They ``are
- aggressively seeking NBC weapons and
increased missile capabilities'' and
- constitute ``the most pressing threats''
to stability, the study said.
- The Pentagon declined to list the 25
nations mentioned in the report,
- calling the information classified.
- If a conflict again breaks out in the
Persian Gulf, the study predicted,
- some form of the weapons is likely to
be used, ``particularly since
- several nations there have used them
in the past.''
- Cohen noted that headlines of the past
several weeks have focused on the
- United Nations struggle to verify what
weapons exist in Iraq but that the
- problem is much broader and could even
afflict Americans on the home
- ``The front lines are no longer overseas.
It can be in any American
- city,'' he said, pointing out that criminal
organizations or even
- religious cults have the capability of
using such weapons.
- The defense secretary said the Pentagon
has been working with the National
- Guard to prepare it to respond quickly
to domestic attacks from terrorists
- and has been training local police and
firef ighters to help as well.
- The threat of such weapons has grown
because it is no longer just
- state-sponsored, the report said, and
could come from terrorist
- organizations or organized crime.
- But the Pentagon welcomed ``a dramatic
reduction in the threat from the
- countries of the former Soviet Union.
Six nations that might have become
- nuclear powers -- Ukraine, Kazakstan,
Belarus, North Korea, South Africa
- and Iraq -- have been turned away from
- The study, the second on proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction,
- repeats to a large extent the report
last year on nations such as Iraq,
- Iran, North Korea and Libya.
- The new report includes a section on
Syria, noting its growing SCUD
- supplies, many received from Iran and
North Korea, as well as its ability
- to produce chemical weapons and its infrastructure
capable of supporting a
- biological warfare program.
- The Pentagon has had to beef up its detection,
- emergency response equipment to respond
to a potential attack by chemical
- and biological weapons and has requested
$1 billion pay for the
- Cohen said the latest crisis with Iraq
has done the world a favor by
- bringing attention to Iraq's attempts
to build biological and chemical
- weapons that could kill millions.