UN inspectors warned that insurgents in Iraq are using chlorine to kill and wound civilians and could, given the country's expertise in chemical arms in the past, develop other weapons-grade toxic agents.
Media reports have showed that insurgents are using toxic chemicals, such as chlorine, combined with explosives for dispersal, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) said in a report to the UN Security Council posted on its Web site on Tuesday.
"Such attacks have resulted in the killing of tens and injuring of hundreds of people throughout Iraq," UNMOVIC said.
There have been at least 10 attacks using chlorine, and several others were attempted and foiled by security forces, UNMOVIC said in its quarterly report.
"Given the current security situation in Iraq, it is possible that some non-state actors will continue to seek to acquire toxic agents or their chemical precursors in small quantities," the report said.
In addition, "non-state actors could also seek to acquire other, more toxic agents that are either indigenously produced or procured from abroad," it said.
The survey, prepared by UNMOVIC acting executive chairman Dimitri Perricos, pointed to the expertise Iraq had in producing chemical weapons "with hundreds of scientific and technical personnel having been involved in the past chemical weapons program."
Another danger was the availability and possible misuse of dual-use chemical production equipment, previously monitored by UN inspectors until they left Iraq shortly before the US-led invasion in 2003. Coalition forces have not allowed the monitors to return since then.
Through satellite imagery, UNMOVIC said, it identified a number of buildings and structures that had contained such equipment but had been demolished or damaged by 2004.
However, the fate of the equipment, even in buildings that remained intact, was unknown, UNMOVIC said.
The report also warned that during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the Iraqi military "received and used both conventional and chemical weapons."
After that war, many units were relocated, raising the possibility that "chemical munitions became inadvertently mixed with conventional weapons" with markings that did not differ from standard weapons.
With UNMOVIC no longer in Iraq, the UN Security Council faces the task of shutting down the commission, which the US has advocated for two years. In March, the US and the UK drew up a resolution to dissolve it.
But Russia has said that Iraq's disarmament has to be formally confirmed by UNMOVIC.
UNMOVIC was created late in 1999 as a successor to the UN Special Commission, which was known as UNSCOM. But former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's government barred it until shortly before the invasion.
Meanwhile, car bombings shook the streets leading to Baghdad's most revered Shiite Muslim shrine yesterday and police reported at least seven people killed and 27 others wounded.
The simultaneous blasts at two key intersections in the Kazimiyah district were the latest blows in an series of attacks by Sunni extremists bent on terrorizing Iraq's Shiite majority and inflaming hostilities between the two sects.
In several sections of the violence-wracked city of Baqubah, Iraqi troops and US helicopter gunships were reported attacking al-Qaeda Sunni militants.
A medical source said the bodies of eight gunmen were brought to the hospital.
The US military said it was looking into the report.
Elsewhere, assassins killed a police official and an aide to Iraq's pre-eminent Shiite cleric.
The new bloodshed came a day after followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr pushed through a resolution in Iraq's parliament requiring the Baghdad government to obtain parliament's approval for future extensions of the UN mandate for US-led forces in Iraq.
The present mandate doesn't expire until Dec. 31, but Tuesday's action added to the debate.
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