KGB lifts lid on the world's dirty weapons: Patrick Cockburn in Washington on the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological arms

Click to follow
WHY DID Pakistan increase its purchases of arsenic from 2.5 tons in 1987 to 31.4 tons in 1991, but at the same time remove all mention of the arsenic imports from customs figures? No private company bought the arsenic and the only reason the government would need such quantities is for the manufacture of chemical weapons.

At about the same time, the Iraqi government developed the capacity to produce 12 million doses of foot-and-mouth disease antidote a year. The excessive production of the vaccine led to the suspicion that Iraq was secretly developing a foot-and-mouth toxin for use against its enemy's livestock; the government in Baghdad wanted the antidote available in large quantities in case the disease spread back across Iraq's borders.

The information about Pakistan's arsenic imports and Iraq's enthusiasm to combat foot-and-mouth arrives courtesy of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, formerly known as the KGB. It is accompanied by a wealth of data on arms developments from Chile to Korea, in what some US specialists say is the most comprehensive report on the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons ever issued.

In many instances, Russian intelligence is far more detailed than its Western counterparts on what is being manufactured. It says, for example, that Pakistan has already produced between four and seven nuclear weapons, and Iran possesses two types of chemical weapons - sarin and mustard gas - which it can deliver either through 155mm artillery shells fired from howitzers, 120mm mines or aerial bombs.

The report confirms claims by journalists about Israel's nuclear arsenal - on which the US government refuses to comment - which, it says, probably totals 100 to 200 nuclear devices. The report maintains that the amount of uranium stored in Israel is 'sufficient for its own needs, and even for exports for roughly 200 years'. Israeli research and development at present is aimed at improving the design of nuclear weapons, 'specifically the creation of modifications with increased radiation and accelerated nuclear reaction'.

According to the report, Israel has possessed intermediate-range missiles capable of delivering these warheads since 1989, and 'the Jericho 2B latest modification, which has been successfully tested, is capable of hitting targets at distances of up to 1,300km. As a result, Israel's missile potential fully covers the boundaries of the Near and Middle East'. In addition, since 1990 Israel has stepped up its programme to develop sea-launched cruise missiles modelled on the US Tomahawk.

The overall level of knowledge in the report is praised by arms specialists in and outside the US government. Senator John Glenn last week criticised the Pentagon's Defence Intelligence Agency for ignoring requests for similar information about weapons proliferation, saying: 'I hope the American people will not have to rely on the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service for interpretations of the foreign threat.'

The report surfaced after a staffer on the Senate Committee on Government Affairs, chaired by Mr Glenn, read a skimpy story carried by a Russian news agency that had been been issued in Moscow by Yevgeny Primakov, the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. There was little information about its contents, but a copy of the 118-page report was obtained by the committee and quickly translated by FBIS, a branch of the Central Intelligence Agency.

If Senator Glenn had hoped that greater Russian openness would lead to fresh disclosures by the new director of the CIA, James Woolsey, he was swiftly disillusioned. Asked, during testimony before Mr Glenn's committee, about Israel's nuclear programme, Mr Woolsey gave the traditional CIA response that he did not want to discuss the matter in open session.

The report furnishes detailed information on developments in a number of countries:

Iraq has started to repair some missile plants and will soon retool them.

Libya has 70 to 80 tons of chemical weapons, and until recently produced limited quantities of sarin, mustard gas and phosgene. It has approached other Arab countries about joint production of biological weapons, 'provided they are not undertaken on Libyan territory'.

North Korea is studying the development of anthrax, cholera, bubonic plague and smallpox. Tests are being carried out on offshore islands. Russian intelligence says the North Koreans have no nuclear device.

Egypt has research centres focusing on 'pathogenic micro-organisms and dangerous disease-bearing agents'.

Chile produced chemical weapons under General Pinochet, and has special storage facilities. There is no evidence that the stocks have been destroyed.

Iran does not have an advanced nuclear programme, but has developed plant producing sarin and mustard gas.

India is classified as having nuclear weapons, but otherwise gets off lightly as an old Soviet ally and customer for Russian arms. Indian chemical weapons specialists have been trained in Russia and by Nato.

Overall, the report is dismissive of efforts by the International Atomic Energy Commission to monitor nuclear developments. It says that chemical and biological weapons can be found only by intelligence operations and not by satellite surveillance.