Iraq war chemicals found stored in UN office

The United Nations found small amounts of a potentially lethal chemical warfare agent, removed from Iraq a decade ago, in offices near its New York headquarters but officials said there was no danger.

Iraq war chemicals found stored in UN office

The FBI and New York police were called and they had removed the substances by late afternoon on Thursday," said Marie Okabe, a UN spokeswoman.
"The material was identified as phosgene, an older generation chemical warfare agent, which could have been lethal if it had evaporated," the officials said. Phosgene was used extensively during World War One as a choking agent that attacks the lungs. The phosgene was recovered in 1996 from a former Iraqi chemical weapons facility, al-Muthanna, north of Baghdad.

"It should not have come here," said Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC, in whose offices the substance was found. Normally, such materials would be taken to a secure laboratory.

R.P. Eddy, executive director of the Manhattan Institute's Center for Policing Terrorism and a former UN adviser, agreed. "Did someone there make a stupid mistake that could have actually been catastrophic? Yes. Does that mean the UN is a flawed organization? No. This is one goofball error," he said. In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Snow said, "I'm sure that there are going to be a lot of red-faced people over at the UN trying to just figure out how they got there."

The inspectors, searching for weapons of mass destruction, were thrown out of Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1998 and came back in early 2002. The United States ordered them to leave shortly before the March 2003 invasion. The Security Council on June 29 disbanded UNMOVIC. The inspectors were cleaning out their offices.

"They discovered two small plastic packages with metal and glass containers, ranging in size from small vials to tubes the length of a pen with liquid substances," Buchanan said. The vials were in a small sealed metal box, thought to contain papers. The container was discovered last Friday but only on Wednesday did the inspectors find a list of what the items were.

REUTERS

Last Mod: 01 Eylül 2007, 09:48
Add Comment