Chemical weapons reports anger Iraq

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BAGHDAD - Iraq yesterday described a senior UN official as a toy in the hands of venomous snakes, after he said arms inspectors would investigate reports that Baghdad used chemical weapons on Shia Muslims.

Rolf Ekeus, head of the UN Special Commission in charge of scrapping Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, said on Wednesday that he had no evidence yet that Iraq had used chemical weapons to drive Shias from the marshes in southern Iraq, but added: 'We will investigate to the degree it is technically and practically possible.'

'Despite his 'formal neutrality', Mr Ekeus is like someone who has lost touch with the ground, turning into a toy in the hands of venomous snakes in the East and West,' Iraq's state newspaper al-Jumhuriyah said. 'He rushes to any hiss saying Iraq did this or that.'

Human rights groups have quoted Shia refugees fleeing from Iraq to Iran as saying Baghdad used chemical weapons in the marshes region during September and October. Mr Ekeus said his commission was gleaning information from these groups to pinpoint areas where the weapons might have been used. Reuter