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Iraq PortalBack to Focus on Iraq homepage
Iraq's most senior defector

Andrew Gilligan
Had Iraq got rid of all its weapons of mass destruction by 1995? That, this programme has learned, was the claim made by the most important defector ever to leave the country - General Hussein Kamel, who fled Iraq in August of that year. Andrew Gilligan reports.

The leaked report featuring the interview

Hussein Kamel, defector and Saddam Hussein's son-in-law
Until now, Kamel has generally been considered the key witness for the prosecution against Iraq. Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, he was in charge of all Iraq's weapons programmes. He knew everything there was to know about Baghdad's dirtiest secrets. His defection was a shattering blow to the regime's campaign of lies and deceit about its banned nuclear, chemical and biological weapons past. It prompted immediate disclosures about those programmes, as panic-stricken Iraqi officials tried to anticipate what he was telling the inspectors from his Jordanian safe house.

Now this programme, together with Newsweek magazine, has been leaked the official UN filenote of what Hussein Kamel actually did tell the inspectors in 1995. In some respects he was a good prosecution witness. He said that Iraq HAD tried - and come perilously close to - making a nuclear weapon before the Gulf War; had weaponised biological agents at the same time; and had experimented with VX nerve agent.

But Kamel also said that all this effort had now stopped, and that by 1995 all Iraq's stockpiles of weapons had been destroyed. That part of his statement was not revealed to the public - until now.

If true, it would support what the Iraqi government continues to insist to this day - and weaken the Anglo-American case for a war. But is it true?

Rolf Ekeus, the chief UN weapons inspector in 1995, was one of those who debriefed Kamel. He told us he didn't believe that Iraq had destroyed all its stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and he didn't believe Kamel.

Ekeus points out that Iraq never proved that it had destroyed many biological and some chemical weapons, and says that stocks of biological growth medium remain unaccounted for. He also says the UN document we've been leaked provides clear evidence that - even if it did destroy its old weapons - Iraq still had the ambition, and perhaps the capability, to make new ones.

The former British defence minister, Nicholas Soames, who was in Amman at the time Kamel defected, also said British intelligence found Kamel an unreliable witness. Dan Plesch, of the Royal United Services Institute, says why, in that case, was his evidence used to support the case against Iraq when it suited the United States and Britain?

Both Washington and Whitehall appear to be sensitive about the new disclosures. Both furiously denied this week that Kamel said Iraq had destroyed all its weapons. Our leaked document shows quite clearly (on page 13) that he did say this.

Kamel, unfortunately, is no longer around to clear up the dispute. Apparently homesick, he returned to Iraq in 1996, and was almost immediately murdered by the regime.

Look at the document and decide for yourself by clicking on the link to the right (PDF format.)

Some key passages:

Page 2: Kamel talks about the policy of deception over nuclear sites.

Page 3: Nuclear equipment was destroyed, but blueprints remained.

Page 7: Biological weapons and agents were destroyed, "nothing remained."

Page 8: "Not a single missile was left," but Iraq kept launchers, blueprints and moulds so it could return to production in the future.

Page 13: "All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear - were destroyed."

Andrew Gilligan's analysis of the document


BBC News Online report of defection, Setpember 2001

Unscom version of the report

Faxed copy of the report

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