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November 1998 
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MER - Washington - 15 Nov:

While the U.S./Israeli approach to bombing the Arab Middle Eastinto submission takes on new dimensions previously unthinkable, the level of hypocrisy and duplicity continues to rise in tandem.

In recent years credible reports not only about Israel's huge nuclear weapons program, including neutron people-killer bombs, but also about major chemical and biological weapons programs, have been coming into public view.

Now another major development is seeping out. To many it may at first sound like a hoax, but this shocking story is from today's THE SUNDAY TIMES, the same newspaper that in the 1980s broke into the open the details of Israel's nuclear weapons program:



by Uzi Mahnaimi and Marie Colvin

ISRAEL is working on a biological weapon that would harmArabs but not Jews, according to Israeli military and westernintelligence sources. The weapon, targeting victims by ethnicorigin, is seen as Israel's response to Iraq's threat of chemicaland biological attacks.

Yesterday Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, backed awayfrom the brink of war and agreed to resume co-operationwith the inspection teams seeking his suspected chemical andbiological weapons plants.

Kofi Annan, the United Nation secretary-general, said hebelieved Iraq had met UN requirements. As Britain andAmerica stood by to bomb Saddam, however, Tony Blair'soffice said compliance must be unconditional.

The White House, which is threatening Iraq with the biggestonslaught since the Gulf war, said President Bill Clinton'sadvisers were assessing whether Iraq's offer was adequate.The Pentagon is ready to bomb within days.

Last week Downing Street warned Labour MPs that Saddam could be only weeks away from completing the construction of offensive biological weapons mounted on Scud missiles. Israel was hit by Scuds during the Gulf war and fears it would be the prime target.

In developing their "ethno-bomb", Israeli scientists are tryingto exploit medical advances by identifying distinctive genescarried by some Arabs, then create a genetically modifiedbacterium or virus.

The intention is to use the ability of viruses and certainbacteria to alter the DNA inside their host's living cells. Thescientists are trying to engineer deadly micro-organisms thatattack only those bearing the distinctive genes.

The programme is based at the biological institute in NesTziyona, the main research facility for Israel's clandestinearsenal of chemical and biological weapons.

A scientist there said the task was hugely complicatedbecause both Arabs and Jews are of semitic origin. But headded: "They have, however, succeeded in pinpointing aparticular characteristic in the genetic profile of certain Arabcommunities, particularly the Iraqi people." The disease couldbe spread by spraying the organisms into the air or puttingthem in water supplies.

The research mirrors biological studies conducted by SouthAfrican scientists during the apartheid era and revealed intestimony before the truth and reconciliation commission.

The idea of a Jewish state conducting such research has already provoked outrage in some quarters because of parallels with the genetic experiments of Dr Josef Mengele, the Nazi scientist at Auschwitz.

Dedi Zucker, a member of knesset, the Israeli parliament,denounced the research yesterday. "Morally, based on ourhistory, and our tradition and our experience, such a weaponis monstrous and should be denied," he said.

Some experts said that although the concept of an ethnicallytargeted weapon was feasible, the practical aspects ofcreating one were enormous.

Dr Daan Goosen, head of a South African chemical andbiological warfare plant, said his team was ordered in the1980s to develop a "pigmentation weapon" to target onlyblack people. He said the team discussed spreading a diseasein beer, maize or even vaccinations but never managed todevelop one.

However, a confidential Pentagon report warned last yearthat biological agents could be genetically engineered toproduce new lethal weapons. William Cohen, the Americandefence secretary, revealed that he had received reports ofcountries working to create "certain types of pathogens thatwould be ethnic-specific". A senior western intelligencesource confirmed last week that Israel was one of thecountries Cohen had in mind.

The "ethno-bomb" claims have been given further credence inForeign Report, a Jane's publication that closely monitorssecurity and defence matters. It reports unnamed SouthAfrican sources as saying Israeli scientists have used some ofthe South African research in trying to develop an "ethnicbullet" against Arabs.

It also says Israelis discovered aspects of the Arab geneticmake-up by researching on "Jews of Arab origin, especiallyIraqis".

The British Medical Association has become so concernedabout the lethal potential of genetically based biologicalweapons that it has opened an investigation, which is due toreport in January.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, who organised the research, said:"With an ethnically targeted weapon, you could even hitgroups within a population. The history of warfare, in whichmany conflicts have an ethnic factor, shows us howdangerous this could be."

Porton Down, Britain's biological defence establishment, saidlast week that such weapons were theoretically possible. "Wehave reached a point now where there is an obvious need foran international convention to control biological weapons,"said a spokesman.

Additional reporting: Matthew Campbell and Hugh McManners




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