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Cohen Alerts Europeans to Chemical Threat

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Dec. 4, 1997 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen is alerting Europe to the growing threat of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

Cohen spoke to the growing threat from Iran and Irag in late November when he announced the results of a DoD report titled "Proliferation: Threat and Response." He issued the same warning during annual meetings at NATO headquarters here Dec. 1.

"Iran is working aggressively to develop the capability to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the means to deliver these weapons," Cohen told NATO officials.

"Iraq has produced large quantities of VX, a nerve gas so deadly that just one drop will actually kill a person within minutes," Cohen said. "It has also produced large amounts of deadly biological agents -- anthrax and botulism toxin."

U.N. inspectors fear Iraq may be stockpiling chemical and biological weapons and retaining the means of producing the deadly substances, Cohen said. "That is why it is so important that U.N. inspectors receive unfettered access to all Iraqi facilities."

The threat from these weapons is global. "This proliferation worries all nations who are devoted to peace and the security of their people," he told the 16-nation alliance.

"These are not distant concerns. Both countries have shown a determination to develop long-range missiles that could reach Europe," he said.

Cohen also stressed these threats are real today, not some time in the future. He cited terrorist attacks in Tokyo where Sarin gas was used and at the World Trade Center in New York where terrorists planned to use cyanide gas. "This is here and now and we need to be prepared for it."

American military leaders have added $1 billion to the $3.5 billion already in the Defense Department's five-year budget for chemical protective equipment and training programs to alert major American cities to the threat, Cohen said.

Cohen called on European defense leaders to support U.N. efforts to prevent the spread of these weapons of mass destruction. He said their moral support and backing are needed when resolutions regarding lifting sanctions against Iraq, for example, are up for debate.

"The answer should be a resounding 'no,'" Cohen said. "Not until there is full compliance ... the NATO members ought to speak with one voice saying, 'This is important. This is serious.'"

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