Saddam is shopping for arms in East Europe

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The Independent Online
SADDAM HUSSEIN is buying missile parts - including components of dismantled nuclear weapons - in Eastern Europe, through an illegal trade which United Nations investigators fear could allow Iraq to re-arm.

Investigators with the UN Special Commission (Unscom) have obtained evidence that the Iraqi leader was shopping for long-range ballistic missile guidance systems in Romania just six months ago, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. They also have proof that Saddam has successfully exported gyroscopes from Russia's crumbling nuclear arsenal to Iraq within the last three years.

The revelations, made independently by two retired Unscom investigators, will increase fears that Iraq is acquiring increasingly sophisticated weapons technology. Government sources said the British intelligence agency MI6 was aware of the problem and monitoring developments.

According to Scott Ritter, who resigned from Unscom in the summer, a team of Iraqi missile engineers attempted to buy long-range technology from a Romanian company in May this year. The team was tracked by Western intelligence agents and the deal was scuppered. However, Unscom officials believe that there is a long-standing, vigorous trade in components from the former Eastern bloc countries to Iraq.

A second retired Unscom investigator, Timothy McCarthy, says the Iraqis are targeting Eastern Europe, and Russia in particular, because corrupt army officers are willing to make illegal deals.

"Saddam Hussein has sought multiple routes to the acquisition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons," he said before the latest air strikes. "They have sought to exploit weaknesses in the international arms control system. They found the former Soviet Union a hospitable climate in terms of the acquisition of both technical know-how and materials."