Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Hussain Al Shahristani: "These materials are hidden deep underground or in a tunnel system."



Shahristani, a former chief scientific advisor to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, was jailed for 11 years by Saddam's regime for refusing to develop banned weapons but that he escaped from Iraq in 1991. He now lives in London.

"My understanding is that the nuclear program has been, for all practical purposes, dismantled," he said. "But the program to produce chemical and biological weapons continued even during the years when the inspectors were in Iraq in the 1990s."

"There has even been discussion within his circle to set up what they call a chemical belt around Baghdad using his chemical weapons to entrap the residents of Baghdad inside," he said.

Shahrastani quoted his informants as saying Saddam was banking on 50,000 to 100,000 soldiers to defend the city, but the scientist doubted they would fight to the last man.

"Based on contacts that we are having with the people inside Iraq, who are talking with the military all the time, the general understanding of the population now is that the army is not going to fight," he said. "The army is not going to defend Saddam."

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