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February 19, 2003

Hussein a 'Grave Danger,' Iraqi Scientist Says

Fox News reports
MANILA, Philippines — With or without weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein is a “grave danger,” particularly to his own people, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist said Tuesday.

Hussain Al-Shahristani, former chief adviser to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, said he believes Iraq’s nuclear program has been dismantled, but Saddam still has chemical and biological weapons.

He said such weapons are relatively easy to make and that Saddam has "mobile" laboratories that roam the countryside, making it hard for U.N. weapons inspectors to find them.

He said stockpiles of those weapons are also located underground and in tunnels.

“Saddam has mastered his concealment tactics,” Al-Shahristani said in a TV interview in the Philippines. “He has appointed thousands of security officers and trained them well in hiding these weapons."

Despite this, Al-Shahristani said, Saddam does not have the technological capability to use biological or chemical weapons in attacks on other countries -- unless he gives his weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups who can smuggle them into other nations.

“The only way he can spread this outside Iraq's boundaries is using terrorist cells that he trained specifically for this purpose, and he does have a number of terrorist cells that he has used in the past. But I don't think that danger is as imminent as the danger to the Iraqi people themselves....

He added Iraqis had suffered human rights abuses for 30 years under Saddam, losing about one million people -- about half killed in the suppression of resistance and opposition and the other half in wars against Iran and Kuwait.

“These weapons have been used against the Iraqis in the past. In the 80s and also in suppressing the uprising of 1991,” he said. “And Saddam might use them again against the Iraqi people in the event of military confrontation because he knows that his real opponents are the Iraqi people.”

Al-Shahristani says he was arrested, tortured and kept in solitary confinement for over 11 years for refusing to work on Iraq's military nuclear program.

“However, I was more fortunate than many of my fellow political prisoners in the country,” he said during a briefing on Iraqi human rights abuses in London in December.

“I did not have my eyes gouged out,” he said. “Women of my family were not brought in and raped in front of me, as happened to many of my colleagues.... I was not among the hundreds of political prisoners who were taken from prison as guinea-pigs to be used for chemical and biological tests.”

Another former Iraqi scientist, Khidhir Hamza, who headed Saddam's nuclear program in the late 1980s, told Fox News in August that Saddam could have nuclear weapons in just a few years.

“Many intelligence estimates say that Saddam is within two to three years," he said. "The Americans say at least a year... the Germans say in 2005, he should have three nuclear weapons.”

Hamza, who defected in 1994 and is the author of Saddam's Bomb Maker, also said Saddam has a stockpile of chemical weapons. “That's a worry because although the U.S. forces would be able to take care of that… the population is not," he said. "So the idea is to take [the chemical repositories] out ahead of time…”