Iraqi drone, 12.03.2003

Associated Press:

A remotely piloted aircraft that the United States has warned could spread chemical weapons appears to be made of balsa wood and duct tape, with two small propellers attached to what look like the engines of a weed whacker.

Iraqi officials took journalists to the Ibn Firnas State Company just north of Baghdad on Wednesday, where the drone’s project director Brigadier Imad Abdul Latif accused US Secretary of State Colin Powell of misleading the UN Security Council and the public.

In Washington’s search for a „smoking gun“ that would prove Iraq is not disarming, Powell has insisted the drone, which has a wingspan of 7.4 metres (24.5 feet), could be fitted to dispense chemical and biological weapons.

He has said it „should be of concern to everybody“.

The drone’s white fuselage was emblazoned on Wednesday with the words „God is great“ and the code „Quds-10.“

Its balsa wood wings were held together with duct tape. Officials said they referred to the remotely piloted vehicle as the RPV-30A.

Latif said the plane is controlled by the naked eye from the ground, and couldn’t be controlled from more than eight kilometres (five miles). The limit imposed by the United Nations is 150-kilometres (93-miles). He added that the range will be determined when the drone passes to the next testing stage, but insisted it would never exceed the UN limit.

Speaking to media at the Ibin Fernaz Military Aviation Training facility, about 60kms south west of Baghdad, a spokesperson for the monitoring directorate said the RPV on show was only for „air-defence purposes, reconnaissance and jamming“.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, complained this weekend that chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix didn’t mention the drone in his oral presentation to the Security Council on Friday.

Blix mentioned the drone in a 173-page written list of outstanding questions about Iraq’s weapons programs last week. While small, Blix said, drones can be used to spray biological warfare agents such as anthrax. He said the drone hadn’t been declared by Iraq to inspectors.

But Iraq insisted it declared the drone in a report in January – and Hussein held up its declaration to prove it. The confusion, he said, was the result of a typo: The declaration said the wingspan was 4.4 meters (39.6 feet) instead of 7.4 meters (24.4 feet).

Hiro Ueki, spokesman for the UN weapons inspectors, said the United Nations was investigating the drone’s capabilities, and said he was unsure whether Iraq reported the drone before inspectors found it on an airfield or after.

Meantime, UN arms experts continued their inspections with a visit to the That Al Sawari chemical company at Al Taji.

At the time I had relatives who avoided travel into downtown Philadelphia for fear that drones of this nature launched from Iraqi fishing trawlers lurking off the Atlantic coast might fly over Philadelphia and release anthrax spores. I was astounded by the gullibility of Americans who could believe what to me — and millions of others around the world — were so obviously government lies. In cities around the globe we turned out in millions to protest the imminent US/UK invasion.

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