Saudis preparing for Iraqi WMD attack

Friday, April 4, 2003

ABU DHABI Saudi Arabia is preparing for the prospect of an Iraqi weapons of mass destruction attack.

Saudi officials said civil defense and other units have been training to respond to any Iraqi biological or chemical weapons attack. They said this could include a missile strike or the firing of CW artillery shells toward coalition forces near the Iraqi-Saudi border.

Last month, the Washington-based Saudi Information Agency, run by the Saudi opposition, released a document that detailed a Saudi plan to respond to any Iraqi nuclear attack. It was the first time the kingdom has drafted such plans, the agency said.

The kingdom has trained and equipped emergency personnel for the prospect of an Iraqi WMD attack around concentrations of U.S. troops, Middle East Newsline reported. About 15,000 U.S. troops are said to be in the areas of Araar and Tabouk, where they are training and coordinating border defense with Saudi troops.

"We don't expect any attack of biological or chemical terrorism," Amin Mishkhas, an official at the Saudi Health Ministry, said. "Even so, we have to be prepared for any emergency."

Mishkhas, director of infectious diseases at the ministry, told Saudi newspapers on Friday that authorities have recruited hospitals to treat victims of any WMD attack. The hospitals are located in Araar, Jouf and Hafr Baaten.

Hafr Baaten is the headquarters of Peninsula Shield, the regional force of the Gulf Cooperation Council. A GCC force, composed largely of Saudi nationals, has been sent to Kuwait from Iraqi attack.

The Saudi training includes the detection of a range of biological and chemical agents, officials said. They include anthrax, chlorine, cyanide, nerve gas, sarin and uranium.

Officials said the Saudi emergency plans also envision the massive evacuation of people from the Iraqi-Saudi border area. They said the national carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines has been ordered to increase its alert at airports in the northern kingdom.

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