UNITED NATIONS – Twenty engines from banned Iraqi missiles were found in a Jordanian scrap yard along with other equipment that could be used for weapons of mass destruction, a U.N. official said, raising new security questions about Iraq’s scrap metal sales since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Acting chief United Nations inspector Demetrius Perricos revealed the discoveries to the U.N. Security Council in a closed-door briefing Wednesday. A text of his briefing was obtained by The Associated Press.
The U.N. team that found the 20 engines was following up on an earlier discovery of a similar Al Samoud 2 engine in a scrap yard in the Dutch port of Rotterdam. Perricos said inspectors also want to check in Turkey, which has also received scrap metal from Iraq.
Perricos suggested that the interim Iraqi government, which will assume sovereignty when the U.S. and British occupation of the country ends on June 30, may want to reconsider policies for exporting scrap metal that apparently began in mid-2003. The sales are 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 missile engines and some other equipment discovered in the scrap yards had been tagged by U.N. weapons monitors because of their potential dual use in both legitimate civilian activities and banned weapons production.
In his briefing to the Security Council, Perricos said U.N. inspectors do not how much material has been removed from Iraq that they had been monitoring. But he later told reporters that up to a thousand tons of scrap metal was leaving Iraq every day.
“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.
The discoveries raise questions about the fate of material and equipment that could be used to produce biological and chemical weapons as well as banned long-range missiles.
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 told the council that the 20 SA-2 missile engines were discovered when U.N. experts visited “relevant scrap yards” in a visit to Jordan last week.
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, 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 scrap yard in Rotterdam.