BAGHDAD, Iraq – Polish troops discovered French-made anti-aircraft missiles in Iraq, a U.S. military source said Saturday. France swiftly denied selling any weapons to Iraq in violation of a U.N. arms embargo (search).
The allegations "are as false today as they were yesterday," French President Jacques Chirac (search) said, speaking in Rome at a meeting of European Union leaders.
The U.S. source, who asked not to be identified, said the Iraqi report was impossible to confirm because a Polish weapons team had destroyed the missiles after it discovered them days ago. The source also said it was difficult to contact the Poles because of communications problems.
The French Foreign Ministry emphasized that France has not authorized the sale of weapons, or even spare parts, to Iraq since after July 1990. The United Nations imposed sanctions on weapons sales to Iraq after Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Also, France stopped making Roland 2s in 1988 and Roland 3s in 1993, the ministry said.
"There can be no 2003 missiles since these missiles have not been made for 15 years," Chirac said. "Polish soldiers confused things. I told Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller so frankly — friendly but firmly."
Officials at the Polish Defense Ministry declined to comment Saturday. But a statement on a ministry Web site said: "Soldiers of a Polish patrol of sappers found four modern anti-aircraft short-distance Roland-type rockets near Hilla in Iraq."
The statement did not identify the country or date of manufacture and said Polish military engineers destroyed them on Wednesday.
It said Polish troops seized about a dozen missiles in total near Hilla on Tuesday, including Soviet-made Malutka, French Hot and French-German Milan missiles.
The coalition official said the Roland missiles are about 25 feet long, radar-guided and launched from the back of a truck.
The U.S. military found 35 Roland missiles when it captured Baghdad International Airport in April. Roland missiles also were found when Australian troops captured an airfield in western Iraq.
The Web site GlobalSecurity.org says the Roland weapon system is intended for anti-aircraft defense of armored and mechanized the units to counter aircraft flying to nearly at 1 times the speed of sound or hovering helicopters.
The United States stopped producing the Roland-type weapon in 1981.