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105/2012 - MOD Experts to help Iraqis destroy legacy chemical weapons

Scientists from the Ministry of Defence are to provide training which will support the Iraqi Government’s efforts to dispose of remnants of the chemical weapons amassed during Saddam Hussein’s regime.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Under an agreement signed in Baghdad, experts from the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) will provide training to Iraqi personnel, which will help them to safely dispose of partially destroyed chemical munitions and agents, along with other contaminated materials.

The materials are contained in two sealed bunkers at the old Al Muthanna Chemicals Weapons Complex, a large site in the western desert some 80km north-west of Baghdad, which was the principal manufacturing plant for both chemical agents and munitions during Saddam Hussein’s rule.

Thousands of tonnes of chemical weapons were produced, stored and deployed by the Saddam Hussein regime. Iraq used these weapons during the Iran – Iraq war (1980 to 1988) and against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. Following the First Gulf War, most of Iraq’s chemical munitions were destroyed under supervision of UN inspectors (UNSCOM) and the partially destroyed contents of these two sealed bunkers are all that remain of those legacy weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, which Iraq joined in 2009, requires that although the material is unusable and does not pose a significant security risk, it must be disposed of. The nature of the material contained in the two bunkers will make the destruction process difficult and technically challenging.

The UK has therefore agreed to provide training to Iraqi personnel at Dstl’s site in Porton Down – a world-leading centre of excellence for chemical defence. The training will take place later this year and will teach technical personnel how to safely handle toxic chemicals. The team at Dstl will also offer training to Iraqi medical personnel on how to deal with the health risks associated with the material.

Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said:

We were glad to support Iraq when it joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2009. One of the key obligations of member states is to destroy any chemical weapons it possesses, so the UK is delighted to be able to help Iraq by providing world-leading expertise and high quality training to Iraqi personnel involved in this difficult and dangerous task.

Notes to editors

  1. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) obliges Iraq to destroy its chemical weapons as soon as possible. Due to the complex nature of the task faced by Iraq, the US, United Kingdom and Germany offered assistance to Iraq to help them achieve their obligations under the CWC.

  2. For more information, please contact MoD Press Office on 0207 218 7907.

Published 31 July 2012