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CIA: Iraq's mobile labs were functioning in early 2003

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, May 29, 2003

A new report by the CIA estimates Iraq continued to produce mobile biological weapons laboratories until the eve of the war with the United States.

An intelligence report released on Wednesday said an examination of two trailers deemed mobile BW laboratories determined that the facilities were built over the last few months. The report said this suggests that the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein might have been producing BW facilities during the early part of 2003.

Two trailers believed to have been BW laboratories were discovered over the last month. One was found by Kurdish forces near Kirkuk and the other by the U.S. Army earlier this month near Mosul, Middle East Newsline reported.

The report by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency said the trailers were believed to be second- or third-generation designs of the plants described by an Iraqi source. The source, one of several people who over the last three years reported on Iraq's WMD programs, said that in 1995 Iraq launched a program to design and build seven sets of mobile BW labs.

Six were to be installed in semi-trailers and the seventh in a railroad car.

"The newer version includes system improvements, such as cooling units, apparently engineered to solve production problems described by the source that were encountered with the older design," the report said. "The manufacturer's plates on the fermenters list production dates of 2002 and 2003 suggesting Iraq continued to produce these units as late as this year."

Iraq's mobile BW program was said to have begun in the mid-1990s. The report said Iraq manufactured mobile trailers and railcars to produce biological agents as part of an effort to conceal the weapons of mass destruction program from United Nations weapons inspectors.

"Agent production reportedly occurred Thursday night through Friday when the UN did not conduct inspections in observance of the Muslim holy day," the report said. "An accident occurred in 1998 during a production run which killed 12 technicians an indication that Iraq was producing a BW agent at that time."

The report, which dismissed the prospect that the mobile units were required for the production of pesticides, said that in 1997 Iraq was already producing BW agents from mobile labs. In 1998, a smaller truck was used for the labs.

The semi-trailers found over the last month contained a fermentor capable of producing biological agents as well as support equipment such as water supply tanks, an air compressor, a water chiller, and a system for collecting exhaust gases, the report said. The report said coalition forces failed to find a missing trailer that would have been equipped with mixing tanks, centrifuges, and spray dryers for the preparation, sterilization and drying of biological agents before introduction into a delivery system.

"These other units that we have not yet found would be needed to prepare and sterilize the media and to concentrate and possibly dry the agent, before the agent is ready for introduction into a delivery system, such as bulk-filled munitions," the report said. "Before the Gulf war, Iraq bulk filled missile and rocket warheads, aerial bombs, artillery shells, and spray tanks."

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