'We believe napalm was used; we believe phosphorus was used,' Ms Nicholson told a press conference yesterday. Although they are not identified as chemical weapons under the 1925 Geneva Convention, their use would be in breach of UN Gulf War ceasefire resolutions.
Ms Nicholson conceded that the evidence for napalm use was 'slender'. 'We don't yet have witnesses to napalm being used,' she said. Two Iraqi dissident groups, the Organisation of Human Rights in Iraq and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq have said that Republican Guard divisions last Friday started a heavy artillery barrage along two fronts in the marshes.
'One source said that napalm had been used which set fire to houses and reeds in many villages in Nasiriyah province,' according to the Organisation of Human Rights in Iraq. Iraqi dissidents say the offensive is being supervised by the most brutal army commander, Ali Hassan Al Majid.
Ms Nicholson also supported assertions by Kurdish spokesmen that Iraq is massing troops and militia along the frontlines with the Kurds who control the north of the country. The build-up of Iraqi army troops and artillery reportedly began earlier this week.