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Russia spots a gas leak.

ISRAEL HAS BEEN producing chemical weapons since the mid-1960s and now has a large stockpile, according to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (RFIS). The disclosure is bound to embarrass Israel, which has been pressing Arab states to abandon their chemical weapons programmes and which in January signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty barring the production, stockpiling and use of poison gases.

A report by the RFIS entitled The Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, was released earlier this year. It flatly declares: "Israel has a store of chemical weapons of its own manufacture." the report goes on to explain: "The development of chemical weapons in Israel began in the mid-1960s |and~ at the present time Israel is capable of producing toxic substances of all types including nerve-paralysing, blister-producing and temporarily incapacitating substances." The RFIS report also notes that "large scale research |in the interests of military departments~ is unceasing in Israel in the sphere of the synthesis of new physiologically active substances."

Israel is one of 142 states which have signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. Most Arab states have declined to sign, arguing that they should not be expected to limit their military options so long as Israel has atomic weapons and refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention are grouped into a series of regional caucuses. Israel is now pressing to join the Western European grouping. Western diplomatic sources say that there is considerable resistance by group members. In part, this is because Israel is in the Middle East, and not Europe. Also, however, it reflects concern about the sincerity of Israel's renunciation of chemical weapons.

The RFIS report confirms the open secret that Israel has a large nuclear stockpile of "from 100 to 200 weapons". The production facilities were developed mainly with help from France, although some equipment and materials were obtained illicitly in the United States, Britain, France and Germany, says the report. It notes that efforts are under way to create improved nuclear weapons incorporating "modifications with increased radiation and accelerated nuclear reaction." The report adds: "Tel Aviv's interest in the development of thermonuclear weapons cannot be ruled out."

The RFIS also stresses that the Israelis would have no difficulty in delivering non-conventional warheads over long distances. "Israel has stockpiled the most modern missile potential in the Near and Middle East region," says the report. They include the 480-kilometre Jericho 1, which was first deployed about 20 years ago, and the 750-kilometre range Jericho 2, of which over 100 were deployed in the 1977-1981 period. The 1,300-kilometre Jericho 2B has been successfully tested and "as a result Israel's missile potential fully covers the |regional~ boundaries."

The report describes Israel's successful launches of satellites in 1989-1992 by its own Shavit rocket as "a qualitative leap forward." The Shavit "could serve to deliver a small nuclear warhead a distance of over 4,500kms," says the RFIS, adding: "The parameters determined in the original design permit the development of the Shavit, increasing its range to 7,000kms."

Israel is also developing its own sea-launched cruise missiles, says the report. "The American Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles, which could enable the Israeli navy in the East Mediterranean to approach the level of armament of certain NATO members (Turkey, Greece), have been taken as the model."

The RFIS says that it has "no direct evidence" of an Israeli biological weapons programme. It notes, however, the existence of "a programme of biological research of a general nature in which elements of a military-applied purpose are present...Specifically, Israeli research centres are co-operating closely with top American military laboratories within the framework of the US Defense Department programme for protection against biological weapons."
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Title Annotation:Russian disclosure of Israel's chemical weapons production capability
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Previous Article:Sorting out the issues.
Next Article:In line for succession.

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