UNITED NATIONS – U.N. weapons experts have found 20 engines used in banned Iraqi missiles in a Jordan scrapyard along with other equipment that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction, an official said Wednesday.
The discoveries were revealed to the U.N. Security Council (search) by acting chief U.N. inspector Demetrius Perricos during in a closed-door briefing. The text was obtained by The Associated Press.
The U.N. team was following up on an earlier discovery of a similar Al Samoud 2 (search) engine in a scrapyard in the Dutch port of Rotterdam. Perricos said inspectors also want to check in Turkey, which has also received scrap metal from Iraq.
Perricos told the Security Council said U.N. inspectors do not know how much material that they had monitored orginated in Iraq.
U.N. inspectors were pulled out of Iraq just before the war began in March 2003, and the United States has refused to allow them to return, instead deploying its own teams to search for weapons of mass destruction.
Perricos suggested that the interim Iraqi government (search), which will assume sovereignty when the U.S. and British occupation of the country ends on June 30, may want to reconsider "the whole policy for the continued export of metal scrap" which apparently started in mid-2003 and is regulated by the U.S.-led coalition.
"The removal of these materials from Iraq raises concerns with regard to proliferation risks ... thereby also rendering the task of the disarmament of Iraq and its eventual confirmation, more difficult," Perricos said.
"The only controls at the borders are for the weight of the scrap metal, and to check whether there are any explosive or radioactive materials within the scrap," he said, according to the text of his briefing.
Afterwards, he told reporters that up to a thousand tons of scrap metal was leaving Iraq every day.
"It's being exported. It's being traded out, and there is a large variety of scrap metal from very new to very old, and slowly, it seems the country is depleted of metal," he said.
During last week's visit to Jordan, Perricos told the council that U.N. experts visited "relevant scrapyards" with the full cooperation of Jordanian authorities and discovered 20 SA-2 missile engines.
The U.N. team also discovered some processing equipment with U.N. tags — which show it was being monitored — including heat exchangers, and a solid propellant mixer bowl to make missile fuel, he said. It also discovered "a large number of other processing equipment without tags, in very good condition."
"These visits provide just a snapshot of the whole picture since the scrap metal has a short residence time and is re-exported to various countries," Perricos told the council.
In its quarterly report to the council on Monday, the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission which Perricos heads, said a number of sites in Iraq known to have contained equipment and material that could be used to produce banned weapons and long-range missiles have been cleaned out or destroyed.
The inspectors said they didn't know whether the items, which had been monitored by the United Nations, were at the sites during the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The commission, known as UNMOVIC (search), said it was possible some material was taken by looters and sold as scrap.
UNMOVIC said its experts and a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. body responsible for dismantling Iraq's nuclear program, were jointly investigating items from Iraq discovered in a scrapyard in Rotterdam.