CBSN

Missing Iraq Weapons Concern U.N.

WMD -- weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, United Nations,
CBS/AP
U.N. satellite imagery experts have determined that material that could be used to make biological or chemical weapons and banned long-range missiles has been removed from 109 sites in Iraq, U.N. weapons inspectors said in a report obtained Thursday.

U.N. inspectors have been blocked from returning to Iraq since the U.S.-led war in 2003 so they have been using satellite photos to see what happened to the sites that were subject to U.N. monitoring because their equipment had both civilian and military uses.

"Particularly because of the continued insurgency in Iraq, U.N. weapons experts are concerned about missing biological and chemical weapons," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk from the U.N. "Satellite imagery has its limits and inspection experts are hoping to be able to get back into Iraq to find out if the weapons are missing or were destroyed."

In the report to the U.N. Security Council, acting chief weapons inspector Demetrius Perricos said he's reached no conclusions about who removed the items or where they went. He said it could have been moved elsewhere in Iraq, sold as scrap, melted down or purchased.

He said the missing material can be used for legitimate purposes. "However, they can also be utilized for prohibited purposes if in a good state of repair."

He said imagery analysts have identified 109 sites that have been emptied of equipment to varying degrees, up from 90 reported in March.

The report also provided much more detail about the percentage of items no longer at the places where U.N. inspectors monitored them.

From the imagery analysis, Perricos said analysts at the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission which he heads have concluded that biological sites were less damaged than chemical and missile sites.

The commission, known as UNMOVIC, previously reported the discovery of some equipment and material from the sites in scrapyards in Jordan and the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Perricos said analysts found, for example, that 53 of the 98 vessels that could be used for a wide range of chemical reactions had disappeared. "Due to its characteristics, this equipment can be used for the production of both commercial chemicals and chemical warfare agents," he said.

The report said 3,380 valves, 107 pumps, and more than 7.8 miles of pipes were known to have been located at the 39 chemical sites.