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Now THAT'S just great............

  1. Yak

    13,672 Posts.

    TUE SEPT 17 2002 11:13:02 ET


    TWO hundred nuclear warheads have gone missing in a country suspected of selling high tech arms to Iraq, it emerged last night.

    The terrifying revelation will heighten fears that Saddam Hussein could be just one step away from having all the ingredients of an atomic bomb. He has threatened terrorist attacks if Britain and America confront him. The warheads, which have vanished in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, contain enough highly-radioactive plutonium to destroy every capital in Europe and North America several times over. An opposition leader in Ukraine, which has a long history of selling radioactive materials, said that allegations of missing warheads had been confirmed in an investigation by the chaotic country's parliament.

    Both Iraq and Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network are known to have tried to obtain atomic bomb components from Ukraine.

    Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko said: "Out of 2,400 nuclear warheads which were on Ukrainian territory, the withdrawal of only 2,200 warheads has been verified. The fate of the remaining 200 warheads is unknown."

    Ukraine was supposed to hand over to Russia all nuclear weapons that were stationed on its territory when the USSR collapsed. This should have been completed by 1997.

    But Serhiy Sinchenko, head of the parliamentary investigation, admitted that some of the missiles had been "lost".

    Ukraine's government said yesterday that the allegations were "unfounded" but their statement failed to answer why paperwork on the whereabouts of 200 missiles and warheads was missing.

    The country's security services said they were investigating the claims.

    The possibility that huge stocks of plutonium could be for sale comes as a secret tape is said to confirm Ukrainian politicians' involvement in selling high-tech weapons to Iraq.

    Washington is examining secret recordings of a conversation between Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma and the head of the country's military export service, Valeriy Malev.

    The tape, made by a bodyguard who has since fled Ukraine, is said to contain evidence of military sales to Iraq of Kalchuga radar equipment through shadowy Jordanian middle men. Malev cannot be questioned because he died in a mysterious road accident in March.

    It is not the first time that allegations have been made of exSoviet nuclear weapons going astray.

    The former head of Russia's security council, Alexander Lebed, claimed that nuclear "briefcase" bombs were also unaccounted for. Kuchma has recently boasted of his warm links with Iraq, even though his country is seeking Nato and European Union membership.

    Two weeks ago he said there were "good prospects for development of our relations" with Baghdad.

    Andy McClean, of Saferworld, a think tank that monitors the arms trade, said: "We have long seen former Soviet countries becoming suppliers of arms to conflict areas."

    Professor Gary Milhollin, of Iraq Watch, a US think tank tracking Baghdad's weapons development, said: "It's about time there was a clampdown on Saddam's procurement network and the means he employs to finance it."

    An Iraqi defector has claimed that Iraq has managed to "pirate" sophisticated German centrifuges needed to convert low quality uranium to weapons grade.

    Khidir Hamza said that Iraq has developed hundreds of the machines which may have been in use since late 1998. It would take around four years of continual refining before the uranium was suitable for weapons use, meaning that Saddam could be in possession of the bomb by this Christmas.

    Hamza said: "The amount of uranium Iraq already has, conservatively estimated in a German intelligence report at 10 tons of natural uranium and 1.3 tons of low-enriched uranium, is enough for three nuclear weapons.

    "It's a relatively simple process once you have the plans and some experience operating one or two centrifuges."

    Washington announced earlier this month the interception of a shipment to Iraq of highly refined aluminum tubes suitable for making centrifuges.

    A Daily Express investigation today reveals how Saddam has used smuggled oil to pay for an illicit worldwide weapons network, breaking UN resolutions to import everything from helicopters to missile guidance systems.

    Iraq is believed to have made at least £1.3billion in unaccounted funds from smuggling last year alone. Fleets of trucks cross the Jordanian and Turkish border every day, returning unchecked by UN monitors with some carrying banned arms.

    Neighbour Syria has also reopened a disused pipeline in direct contravention of the UN embargo.

    Israeli intelligence sources say the two former enemies have been working together on building up Saddam's Scud missile capability, possibly allowing him to strike Israel using weapons of mass destruction.

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