UK anger over Iraq poisoning

Britain plans to use the poisoning of opposition activists by the Saddam Hussein regime to strengthen the argument against any relaxation of United Nations sanctions against Iraq. A 31-year-old former Iraqi special forces officer is receiving treatment at a Cardiff hospital for thallium poison. He developed symptoms after drinking a beverage laced with the chemical in northern Iraq.

At least one other dissident is expected to be flown from the Middle East for medical attention within the next week. Two other opponents of the Iraqi dictator are said to have died.

Thallium, an insidious, tasteless and colourless poison, was first used by Iraqi intelligence in the late Seventies. Victims suspect nothing until the delayed symptoms appear.

British officials see the poisonings as renewed proof of President Saddam's ruthless determination to do away with opponents. "We consider this as an act of terrorism," an official said yesterday. Britain may argue the poisonings are in breach of UN resolution 687, which regulates Iraqi behaviour.