Posted by Lilly from ? (220.127.116.11) on Tuesday, August 20, 2002 at 1:04PM :
The US government is eyeing Northern Iraqi targets now? When will they stop? & I really appreciate all these supposed anonymous sources. Makes the US government's claims much less believable.
Iraq counters report of bioweapons
Meanwhile, U.S. said to eye
Iraq weapons laboratory
MSNBC NEWS SERVICES
Aug. 20 — As Iraq sought Tuesday to repudiate a report that a building near Baghdad was being used to produce biological weapons, a U.S. official said that Arab terrorists with al-Qaida ties may have tested biological agents at a small facility in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.
ON TUESDAY, IRAQ showed reporters a warehouse stuffed with baby milk and sugar to counter a U.S. newspaper report that the building was being used to produce biological weapons.
Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh met international media at a warehouse in the Taji area northwest of Baghdad, which U.S. intelligence officials quoted in the Washington Times newspaper last week said was a biological weapons facility.
But instead of weapons and sophisticated labs, reporters on Tuesday found baby milk and sugar which had been bought under Iraq’s oil-for-food deal with the United Nations.
"They (Americans) are checking every movement in Iraq, but a satellite cannot tell real information," Saleh told reporters at the site. "This is rubbish information, actually rubbish information to convert baby milk and baby food and sugar to weapons of mass destruction."
Meanwhile, a U.S. official said Monday that American intelligence agencies had reason to suspect that a facility in a part of northern Iraq not controlled by President Saddam Hussein's government was a kind of laboratory for chemical and biological weapons activity that included testing on barnyard animals and at least one man.
U.S. officials believe the terrorists tested a biological toxin known as ricin, a deadly poison made from the castor bean plant, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Defense Department has reviewed possibly taking military action against the site in northern Iraq because any time there is intelligence about production of weapons of mass destruction all options are considered, including military, a U.S. counterterror official said in Washington.
The Bush administration considered a covert military operation against the facility, but President Bush did not approve military action, ABC News' "World News Tonight" reported Monday.
Citing unidentified intelligence officials, ABC said that as U.S. surveillance of the weapons facility intensified, Bush administration officials concluded it was too small and crude to be worth risking American lives and the outcry among allies that might follow any U.S. action inside Iraq.
At the White House, a spokesman for Bush's National Security Council refused comment.
"As a matter of policy, we don't discuss whether something was or was not briefed to the president," spokesman Michael Anton said in Washington. "We don't discuss military targeting — whether something is, was or might be a military target."
LINKS TO AL-QAIDA
The official who privately discussed U.S. knowledge of the facility said it was operated recently by a small number of people connected to terrorists in Ansar al-Islam, an Arab organization with links to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network. The official would not say whether the facility was still in operation.
U.S. intelligence agencies have no evidence that Saddam is linked to the operation, the official said.
The revelations put the Bush White House in an uncomfortable position, because the president has promised every audience he addresses that his administration will "hunt the killers down one by one" and prevent America's enemies from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq sought Tuesday to counter such claims by the administration and in the media. The Washington Times reported last week that a U.S. intelligence agency spy satellite had photographed a convoy of about 60 trucks at a building in north Baghdad earlier in the month.
The Trade Ministry warehouse, which consists of three halls, on Tuesday contained boxes of powdered milk from Yemen, Vietnam, Tunisia and Indonesia and sacks of sugar imported from Egypt and India under the U.N. oil-for-food program.
The warehouse, which was used to store meat before the 1991 Gulf War, was completely destroyed during the war. It was recently rebuilt by a French company, the Iraqis said.
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