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U.N. Claims Iraq Pursuing Germ Warfare

In a blow to Iraq’s campaign to ease crippling economic sanctions, the top U.N. weapons inspector reports that Baghdad seems to be pursuing germ warfare capability.

The report by Rolf Ekeus was distributed to members of the Security Council on Monday.

Russia and France, seeking to resume business with Iraq, have pressed the council to ease sanctions against Iraq. But first, U.N. inspectors must report that Iraq has helped destroy its long-range missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.

That’s one of the conditions in the Security Council’s resolution ending the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Economic sanctions were imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Ekeus already has said Iraq failed to account for 17 tons of material that can be used to breed bacteria.

Iraq denies making biological weapons, and officials told Ekeus last month that the material was for medical use. But Ekeus said only about 200 pounds a year would be enough for Iraq’s scientific and medical requirements.

According to a diplomat who read the document, Ekeus’ report said his inspection team “has come to the conclusion that Iraq has not provided the full and comprehensive disclosure of its past military biological program nor accounted for items and materials acquired for this program.”

“With Iraq’s failure to account for the use of these items and materials for legitimate purposes, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is a high risk that they have been purchased and used for a proscribed purpose - acquisition of biological warfare agents,” the report said.