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Iraq gives biological weapons statement to U.N.

Iraq biological weapons graphic September 11, 1997
Web posted at: 6:48 p.m. EDT (2248 GMT)

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The government of Iraq has handed over to the United Nations what it is describing as full disclosure of the details of its past biological weapons program.

The U.N. Special Commission on Iraq confirmed Thursday that a U.N. biological weapons expert in Baghdad, John Spertzel, had been given the 639-page report Wednesday. The new Iraqi disclosures came after a meeting Tuesday between Richard Butler, chairman of the commission, and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz.

A U.N. commission spokesman in New York said it will take months for U.N. experts to go over all of the documents and verify the data.

In the past, Iraq has made numerous promises to the United Nations regarding disclosure of its biological weapons program, only to come up short in the eyes of many diplomats.

U.N. Security Council resolutions passed in 1991 in the wake of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait called for presentation of a biological weapons history within 15 days -- a time limit long passed. Iraqi officials have said previously that they had nothing left to hide, but U.N. officials have insisted Iraq hadn't divulged all of the details of its program.

"We have been waiting six years" for this information, the U.N. spokesman said.

Iraq has previously provided data about its chemical weapons and missile programs, which is still being analyzed.

The commission must certify that Iraq no longer has any biological weapons, or any other weapons of mass destruction, before economic sanctions against Iraq can be lifted.

However, Iraq is allowed to sell a limited amount of oil to raise money to meet food and other humanitarian needs. The Security Council met Thursday to consider an extension of that program.

U.N. spokesperson Jo Lomas said four U.N. inspection teams are still in Iraq, trying to determine if the Iraqis were concealing any prohibited weapons, including biological, chemical or ballistic weapons.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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