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Cicciomessere Roberto - 8 febbraio 1991
Western suppliers of unconventional weapons and technologies to Iraq and Libya

A Special Report Commisioned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Prepared by Kenneth R. Timmerman


Iraq first sought to acquire CW agents and technologies abroad in the mid-1970's. Initial attempts were made to purchase precursor chemicals in the United States, but these were blocked by tough on-site inspection requirements by the Carter Administration and by safety considerations brought up by the companies themselves. (12) "At that time," noted Washington Post journalist David Ignatius, "Iraq's main enemy wasn't Iran, but Israel. And it may be Israel, in the long run, that has the most to fear from Iraq's chemical-weapons arsenal."

Iraq intensified its world-wide search for chemical weapons in 1981, when a raid by Israeli Air Force F-16s smashed Iraq's French-built nuclear reactor, and with it, Saddam Hussein's dream of making Iraq the first Arab nation to possess the Islamic Bomb - at least, temporarily. Iraqi agents scoured the world for the materials needed to produce rudimentary chemical weapons such as mustard gas (yperite). This blistering agent, British researcher Julian Perry-Robinson has commented, "is about the easiest CW agent to make once you've got hold of a few common ingredients." (13)

Iraq's first mustard gas plant was completed and in operation by 1983, and appears to have been built with the help of Italian chemical giant Montedison, which was also involved in the shipments of CW precursors to Iraq from KBS and Melchimie in Holland, and Atochemin France. (14) Engineering expertise was provided by Technipetrol, an Italian subsidiary of the French oil company Technip, itself part of the Elf-Erap group. (15) This plant is located in the Western desert at Akashat, near the border with Saudi Arabia, some 16 km from the town of Rutbah and 370 km West of Baghdad. It is now believed capable of nerve gas production as well.

But there were problems with the procurement scheme. Shipments of phosphorous oxychloride (a Tabun nerve gas precursor) organized by Montedison were blocked in Italy and in Holland, suppliers became skittish and called back deliveries. Iraq was soon forced to turn its sights elsewhere.

It turned principally to the Federal Republic of Germany.

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