Iraqi 'WMD' trailer was for balloons

An inquiry into the two trailers found in northern Iraq has found they are not the mobile germ warfare labs prized by pro-war governments as evidence of WMD at all, the British Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.

    Occupation continues, despite no
    WMD justification

    A British scientist and biological weapons expert who examined the trailers has concluded they were in fact for the production of hydrogen to fill artillery balloons.


    “You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons," he said.


    The London-based weekly newspaper said the conclusion by the biological weapons expert was an embarrassment for Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has claimed the discovery of the labs proved that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction and justified the case for going to war against Saddam Hussein.


    UK inquiry


    Blair has for weeks been forced to defend himself against allegations by the media that his office embellished intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to beef up the case for war.


    Last week, Blair said he would not appear before a public parliamentary foreign affairs committee probing the claims.


    However, the prime minister confirmed he would cooperate with a separate inquiry by parliament's Joint Intelligence and Security Committee - which meets behind closed doors and whose reports are subject to censorship by Downing Street.


    The revelation that the mobile labs were to produce hydrogen for artillery balloons will also cause discomfort for the British authorities because the Iraqi army's original system was sold to it by the British company, Marconi Command & Control – according to the British Guardian newspaper.

    Low intelligence


    Mr Blix said on Thursday that he had been disappointed with the tip-offs provided by British and US intelligence while his inspectors were still in Iraq.


    Blix: Is this the best evidence
    they have and we find nothing?

    In a BBC television interview, he commented on the poor level of intelligence, especially tip-offs, that was used to justify invasion.


    "Only in three of those cases [when a tip-off was given] did we find anything at all, and in none of these cases were there any weapons of mass destruction, and that shook me a bit, I must say. I thought - my God, if this is the best intelligence they have and we find nothing, what about the rest?"


    Another former UN inspector, Bernd Birkicht, said he believed the CIA had made up intelligence on WMD to provide a legal basis for the war.


    "We received information about a site, giving the exact geographical co-ordinates, and when we got there we found nothing," said Birkicht. "Nothing on the ground. Nothing under the ground. Just desert."


    He added that a "decontamination truck" in satellite photographs presented by Mr Powell to the Security Council was a fire engine.


    Even worse damage was done by the publication last Wednesday of parts of a classified report in September by the Defence Intelligence Agency in the US, which said there was "no reliable evidence" to prove that Saddam Hussein had developed chemical weapons.


    Dr Blix, reminding the interviewer that the US and Britain "did not have patience" for prolonged UN weapons inspections before the war in Iraq, observed “that when the American inspectors do not find anything, then it is suggested we should have patience."


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