MEDIA RELEASE

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ALEXANDER DOWNER


FA14

15 February 1998

Why Iraq's Horrific Arsenal Must be Destroyed

15 February 1998

I have today released a briefing paper prepared by my department outlining the potentially horrific human and political consequences if Iraq is permitted to retain and develop its program of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The paper shows clearly that, due to systematic concealment activities by Iraq since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) has been unable to complete its job of eliminating Iraq's WMD.

For example, the paper, based on UNSCOM reports, shows that:

4000 tonnes of chemical weapons raw materials and 31,000 chemical weapons munitions are unaccounted for.

About 600 tonnes of raw materials for the deadly VX nerve gas are not accounted for. This would provide a capability of making 200 tonnes of VX nerve gas - enough to wipe out the entire global population.

17 tonnes of growth media for biological weapons are unaccounted for. This could produce at least three times more anthrax than Iraq has admitted it has produced. One ounce of anthrax in the air conditioning system of a sports stadium could infect 70,000 people.

Iraq's actions point to its intention to retain and develop WMD capabilities: there is no other conclusion to draw from Iraq's repeated obstruction of UNSCOM's efforts to carry out the job the United Nations set for it.

Iraq's behaviour is not just a diplomatic issue confined to the Middle East. It is an extremely serious international issue which poses a threat to global peace and therefore must not be allowed to continue unchecked.

Nor is Iraq's refusal to renounce its WMD capability a new development. For the past seven years the international community has been engaged in strenuous diplomatic efforts to resolve the problem of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The implications of not acting against Iraq are enormous.

President Saddam Hussein has a history of using the horrific weaponry he has developed: he has used chemical weapons against his own people and in Iraq's war with Iran.

The international community faces a clear choice when dealing with President Hussein. It can stand by, if diplomacy fails, and do nothing - which would allow him to continue developing his weapons of mass destruction - or it can act to stop him.

Australia still hopes and is working for a diplomatic solution, but remains willing to act with other nations if Iraq continues to flout the will of the international community.

Further information: Innes Willox

 

Attachments:

Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Capabilities

Chronology of UN Security Council and other efforts made to persuade Iraq to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions concerning UNSCOM.

For more information:

 

Innes Willox on (02) 6277 7500


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