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Iraq Can Become Source Of WMD If US-Led Forces Fail To End Insurgency.

*** A US-Sponsored Survey Of Oct. 9 Voters In Afghanistan Says H. Karzai Won As President; The Figures Were Released After Yunus Qanooni & Other Prominent Candidates Dropped Out Of A Boycott; The Seeds Of Democracy Have Been Sown In That Country

*** Most Respondents Said The Sit. In Afghanistan Was Improving; About 50% Said The Top Priority Was Disarming The Warlords

*** Some Iraqis In The Sunni Triangle Are So Afraid Of The Insurgents That They Don't Dare Talk About The Elections; Others Are So Suspicious Of The American Enterprise That They Won't Vote; But The Shiites, The Kurds & The Christians Will

NICOSIA - There are indications that Iraq could become a source of weapons of mass destruction if the US-led multinational force (MNF) fails to end the insurgency soon. Following a report by the US weapons inspector Charles Duelfer that insurgents in Iraq have tried to develop chemical weapons, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned that nuclear-related equipment and materials have "vanished" from the country. A dirty nuclear bomb, or chemical weapons, could threaten any part of the world.

However, the US authorities on Oct. 12 said all nuclear-related materials, equipment and buildings in Iraq were secure and under control. But this was hardly re-assuring as it was the US which disclosed that insurgents in Iraq were trying to develop WMD.

Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as a safe haven for the world's most dangerous terrorists. But even when Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda before 9/11, it was less dangerous than what Iraq could become if the MNF fail to end all the sources of insurgency before long. Alone the US cannot do that but, as things now stand in Iraq, none of the other MNF members have the capability to provide the Americans with the help required to secure this country.

There is, on the other hand, the possibility of France providing effective diplomatic assistance in collaboration with Egypt (see overleaf). The US and France are partners in efforts to get Syria to pull its forces out of Lebanon (see a FAP survey of Syria in this week's Diplomat Package).

In his report on the work of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), its chief Duelfer found evidence that Iraqi insurgents tried to develop WMD. Duelfer said several rebel groups were trying to make chemical weapons to use against the MNF.

The problem is that several of the insurgent groups are non-Iraqi. Each one of them, as well as the Iraqi insurgents, has carved for itself an enclave within the Sunni Triangle in which it has imposed a Taliban-like rule. The strongest and most organised among these groups are Wahhabi volunteers having infiltrated from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Iran. The most notorious is Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad led by a Jordanian Wahhabi of Palestinian origin, known as Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi.

In a letter to the UN Security Council highlighted on Oct. 12 by the Western press, IAEA's Director Mohamed ElBaradei warned that nuclear-related equipment and materials which had disappeared from Iraq may be of "proliferation significance". He appealed for more help in tracking the missing items.

ElBaradei expressed concern at the "widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement" of sites previously relevant to Iraq's nuclear programme and subject to IAEA monitoring. The news came days after the US's ISG found Iraq's capacity to reconstitute a nuclear weapons programme had significantly deteriorated after 1991. ElBaradei's letter says IAEA analysis revealed "in many instances the dismantlement of entire buildings that housed high precision equipment" such as milling machines and electron beam welders that had previously been tagged and monitored. Equipment and materials had been removed from open storage areas.

The IAEA said it had been able to identify "quantities of industrial items, some radioactively contaminated" that had been transferred from Iraq, but warned that "none of the high quality dual use equipment" had been found. "The disappearance of such equipment and materials may be of proliferation significance", the IAEA noted. Concerns remain that terrorists are trying to acquire material to make a nuclear bomb, or a radioactive "dirty bomb".

The IAEA said it had been unable to monitor or investigate in Iraq since March 17, 2003, three days before the US-led invasion began. It said its information was acquired through open sources and commercial satellite imagery.

However, the IAEA's mandate to investigate inside Iraq still exists. The UN weapons inspection body, the UNMOVIC, still has the mandate to investigate all aspects of the WMD in Iraq and to check on the work of the American ISG and verify Duelfer's report, which he issued on Oct. 6. (Duelfer used to be part of the UNMOVIC team before the war in Iraq).

The IAEA has regularly complained of a lack of co-operation by the US, Iraq and other states in investigating the disappearance of nuclear material. Its letter said Iraq was obliged to declare twice a year, through the UNMOVIC, any actual or predicted changes at relevant sites.

The IAEA also noted that countries were bound to report the import or export of a list of sensitive items, saying: "The agency has received no such notifications or declarations from any state since the inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in March 2003". Any state which knew where the missing items were should give the information now, the IAEA added.

Washington informed the IAEA last July of the removal of 1.8 tons of enriched uranium, and its transfer to the US. In August the IAEA checked a remaining 550 tons of nuclear material and verified "the presence of material subject to safeguards". The agency said it was assessing an Iraqi government request for help in the sale of remaining nuclear material at Tuwaitha.

Duelfer's WMD Warning: In his report of almost 1,000 pages on ISG's work, Duelfer said several insurgent groups in Iraq were trying to make chemical weapons to use against the MNF. The most advanced in this quest was a group called Al-Abud, his report said, which made several attempts to produce the deadly nerve agent Tabun as well as mustard gas. They failed, because the chemists they hired lacked expertise or because they could not get all the chemical precursors.

However, the chemists did produce simple poisons such as ricin and continued to try to make weapons that could inflict much wider casualties. According to coalition prisoners, Al-Abud was to have put the chemical agents in mortar rounds provided by another insurgent group called, Jaysh Muhammad, which would have targeted coalition forces. The prospect radical Wahhabi insurgent groups at least geographically near the Tawhid Wal-Jihad network could get hold of chemical weapons.

Duelfer wrote: "The most alarming aspect of the Al-Abud network is how quickly and effectively the group was able to mobilize key resources and tap relevant expertise to develop a program for weaponizing [chemical] agents". If the insurgents had managed to get the right materials, fine tune their production techniques and better understand how to disperse the agent, he wrote, the consequences "could have been devastating to coalition forces".

Franco-Egyptian Role For Iraqi Opposition Talks: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Gheit rules out the participation of Iraqi opposition groups in the international conference on Iraq to be held in Cairo in late November, as proposed by France. But he says the ministerial-level meeting could lead to subsequent talks with the opposition, excluding the non-Iraqi insurgent groups.

France has softened initial demands for inclusion of the Iraqi opposition in the ministerial conference and accepted the Egyptian proposal. After consultative talks with the French, Abul Gheit said the conference could recommend that the interim Iraqi government hold a reconciliation meeting with Iraqi groups opposed to the US military presence. The Cairo conference, to include the foreign ministers of Iran, Syria and Iraq's other neighbours, is intended to send a message of support for Iraqi legislative elections expected by Jan. 31 (see survey of Iraq in OOD 4).

Opponents of the US presence in Iraq are hailing the new proposal as the first step towards a genuine political solution. Egyptian President Mubarak's spokesman Maged Abdel Fattah Abdel Aziz said the success of the ministerial conference depended on the ability to bridge the wide gaps between participants who want elections held on time and those insisting that a credible poll can only take place after the US presents a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. On Oct. 12 the FT quoted Abdel Aziz as saying: "If there's no agreement [on this] before, there will be no conference. But we feel we can bridge the gaps".

Shaikh Mohammed Bashar Al-Faydhi, of the Council of Islamic Ulema which speaks for the insurgency in the Sunni Triangle, said his group would delay the decision on participating in the polls until after the conference was held. Rebel Shiite mullah Muqtada Al-Sadr, whose Jaysh Al-Mahdi last week surrendered its heavy and medium-sized weapons in Sadr City to the interim government (see RIM 4 in last week's Diplomat), told Lebanon's Shiite TV Al-Manar: "The French proposal... was good. The participants would include the Iraqi resistance, which is one of the colours of the Iraq spectrum".

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who will take part in the ministerial talks, said: "Iraq needs a reconciliation approach... Iraqis [should] be assured that there is no exclusion of any group". The League might oversee the proposed meeting between the interim government and opposition groups. France has said it would welcome all groups at the conference which have put down their weapons.
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Publication:APS Diplomat News Service
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Oct 18, 2004
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