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Britain presents new Iraq charges

From David Ensor
CNN Washington Bureau

Blair said Iraq's weapons programs are funded by an estimated $3 billion it collects in violation of U.N. sanctions.
Blair said Iraq's weapons programs are funded by an estimated $3 billion it collects in violation of U.N. sanctions.

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CNN's David Ensor says the British dossier claims Iraq has some biological and chemical weapons ready for use (September 24)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Mobile biological weapons laboratories and longer-range missiles are among the new allegations against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein outlined in the British intelligence report released Tuesday.

The 50-page dossier that British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented to a special session of Britain's House of Commons said that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and that they were "deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them" by either Saddam Hussein, or his son Qusay.

It said Iraq is trying to increase the size of its chemical and biological arsenal.

"His WMD program is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working," Blair told the special session.

The report also said that Iraq has built mobile biological weapons laboratories that can be moved to evade United Nations weapons inspectors.

"This is a very interesting element of the British presentation," former inspector Charles Duelfer told CNN's American Morning Tuesday. "It was on the basis of that kind of information we had from defectors as far back as 1997 that we conducted some of our most controversial inspections."

The report also contains an aerial surveillance photograph that Britain claims supports U.S. and Israeli claims that Iraq is working secretly to expand the reach of its missiles beyond the 93 mile (150 km) limit set by the United Nations.

It said the photograph shows the Iraqis are building a new engine test stand.

"Such a facility would not be needed for systems that fall within the U.N. permitted range," the report said. "The Iraqis have recently taken measures to conceal activities at this site."

Britain said it would take longer for Iraq to build a nuclear weapon than the United States has predicted.

Vice President Dick Cheney has said that Iraq was "very close" and a White House document said that Saddam Hussein's scientists could make a bomb in two months if they could get the fissile material.

The British report said it would take at least five years for Iraq to produce an indigenous nuclear weapon, but one could be ready in one or two years if Iraq could get fissile material from outside the country.

Iraqi officials said Blair's presentation was "simply not true."

"His allegations are long, his evidence is short," Lt. Gen. Amir Sadi, an adviser to Saddam, said.

He promised U.N. weapons inspectors would have "unfettered access ... whatever they want to do," and called the prime minister's presentation "a hodgepodge of half-truths, lies and naive allegations."

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said Tuesday that U.N. inspectors need to investigate the British allegations and report their findings to the Security Council.

"I don't quarrel with what Blair has said to the House of Commons, but this has to be channeled through the inspectors. The inspectors will take it and see exactly what is going on in Iraq," he said.

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