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Ex-inspector: Iraqi scientists fear coming forward

'Sit tight and wait for the Americans or British to find them'

Biologist Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash negotiated her surrender and was taken into custody Sunday in Baghdad, Pentagon officials said.
Biologist Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash negotiated her surrender and was taken into custody Sunday in Baghdad, Pentagon officials said.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Many Iraqi scientists and former officials in the country's weapons program are afraid to come forward and tell U.S. and British military officials what they know, a former weapons inspector said Tuesday.

Ex-inspector David Albright said he has been in contact with midlevel Iraqi scientists and officials and they have told him they are worried they will be imprisoned if they turn themselves in and fear that Baath Party members will harm them if they try to talk to coalition officials.

"I think between uncertainty about what the U.S. or Britain intend to do with them and fear about perhaps resurgence of Baath Party groups that may want to do them harm, most would rather just sit tight and wait for the Americans or British to find them," Albright said on CNN's "American Morning."

"That's not easy. The United States and Britain don't know where to find these people. There's no telephone book in Baghdad."

Albright also said he does not think Iraq has nearly as many chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as the United States assumed. What weapons exist, he said, probably have been disassembled and hidden underground.

"The inspection process forced the Iraqis to put whatever they had underground, and [they were] never able to reconstitute it into a deliverable force," he said.

"... The United States went in thinking they were going to find deliverable chemical weapons and things ready to be fired, and that may not be the case."

Albright said he does not think the United States or any future Iraqi government will be able to convict any former weapons program scientists or officials of war crimes.

"After all, Iraq never built a nuclear weapon, and they hadn't signed a biological weapons convention," he said.

Albright, president and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, worked with the International Atomic Energy Agency weapons inspectors from 1992 until 1997, analyzing Iraqi documents and past procurement activities.

In June 1996, he was the first nongovernmental inspector of the Iraqi nuclear program. At that time, he questioned members of Iraq's former uranium enrichment programs about their statements in Iraq's weapons declaration.

Albright's organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution focused on science and policy issues related to international security.


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