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Iraq Concealing Evidence of Deadly Weapons, says US Intelligence - 2002-10-02

U.S. intelligence officials say Iraq has begun a new effort to conceal evidence of its weapons of mass destruction program. The activity is being linked to the possible return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

Intelligence sources say they have detected fresh activity around suspected Iraqi weapons sites, including the removal of items believed linked to Baghdad's chemical and biological weapons programs.

One source, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, says there is "no doubt" about what Iraq is doing. He says the latest concealment effort duplicates past patterns of Iraqi activity aimed at deceiving the international community.

The source declines to be more specific. But Pentagon officials are planning a major news briefing designed to expose what they describe as Iraq's "deception and denial" efforts. That briefing could come this week.

The disclosure about the detection of new activity at suspected Iraqi weapons sites appears intended to buttress the Bush administration's argument that the existing U.N. weapons inspection regime for Iraq is inadequate.

Defense officials say that with a decade's experience in evading inspections, Iraq has developed better techniques for hiding and moving its weapons facilities and materials.

Last month, Pentagon officials disclosed Iraq is using mobile laboratory facilities for its chemical and biological weapons programs. A British government report on Iraqi weapons programs also disclosed Baghdad has developed mobile laboratories for military use.

The British report documented fresh instances in which it said sensitive equipment and papers were being concealed.

The report said trucks were used to move items at short notice. It also said most of the sites where these items were being hidden were adjacent to major roads and telecommunications centers. It said the Baghdad area was being particularly favored.